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Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page

No Return

by Lori R. Lopez

"Can you believe it?
An actual storm!"
I gaze in wonder; open rapture.
Talking about Weather
once symbolized empty
words, a trivial
conversation. But this
is awesome… almost surreal.
A dance of Fairies.
I grin. Eyes mist,
blurring sight, obscuring
the rare scene: snowdrops
falling on a dismal ocean of drab,
moist and leaden.

Fingers record letters in
a device. A poetic journal.
Details. Impressions.
No flakes or fancy trim.
Cold and cutting. Lethal
should they melt through your
suit, these metal walls.
The ship relies on Resistor Shields
and a Summer Sun to dry
the semi-wet deluge before
acidic orbs can do
sufficient damage — halt our
mission. Huron stretches
shore to shore, a flat
field of dust,
a No-Woman's Land
on this deserted marble
that none may call home.
Its change of climate
permanent as a filled grave.

Waiting out the rain,
I report findings to Borg.
"She's nobody's Mother."
A Super-Computer has no sense
of humor. "Repeat, Mia Noor."
"Nevermind. No signs of life."
"Already measured."
"It was a second opinion.
I wanted to doublecheck."
A knot in my throat.
I'm no machine…
The Mainframe pauses. We
occupy a moment of silence.
"Why do you shed tears?"
"Because I'm human."
"We cannot all be perfect."
I blink in surprise. "A joke?
There's hope for you yet."
I pat the console. Then
stop, feeling foolish.

Awkwardness passes.
Still I find myself nostalgic.
The Ship's defensive aura
prevents a sound I cherish,
the tap of sleet on the roof.
I miss hearing certain things,
especially Weather.
Wind. Precipitation. And birds.
Just canned sensations exist.
Ancient memories reproduced;
electronic. So much I value,
lost. Whatever was precious,
amazing, lovely. Gone!
There's no return. Not in my
lifetime. Maybe never.
When Theaters closed and
never resumed. When Libraries
and Bookstores disappeared,
I thought it couldn't get
worse. I was sure wrong.

A Great Extinction Event
happened much sooner than
expected, earlier than the dire
nagging forecasts predicted.
Tenuous mortified castaways —
who escaped the torments of
a dying planet as she heaved her
final breath — witnessed a dense
catastrophic blast of female scorn
at persecutors responsible for
a neglectful unnecessary demise.
Poisonous volcanic gasps.
Huge gray and purple clouds,
fumes of vengeance, annihilation!
Molten waves rising, fiery
crimson-orange tides flowing,
scorching all terrain, boiling seas.
Locked in her embrace, trapped by
Gravity, we beheld the end in
technicolor shock!

Frozen. Doomed.

Floating in orbit, a global
Space Team of strangers,
brought together by chance.
One Supply Shuttle crew
of Astronauts. Two Researchers.
A Botanist. A Schoolgirl
(back then), who won the
World Science Fair. A Musician.
A wealthy Tourist. Random
residents. The only survivors we
know of to this day, aboard
a dated multinational structure
due to be retired in several years,
a modern Station launched …
We exchanged our knowledge,
shared what we could. Adults
trained me to run things,
keep it going. I taught them
my invention for producing
fresh water and Oxygen.

I jettisoned the last of them
decades since. Their wrapped
corpses swallowed, digested by
the Universe. The stellar bleak.
No signals have been received.
I put everything into this trip,
piloting the Shuttle, descending
to Earth. Communicating
remotely. The Mainframe attempted
to discourage departure.
As if afraid I wouldn't return.
I needed to see for myself,
had to exhaust potential options.
The Station couldn't function
or be patched indefinitely. Revolving,
devolving to Space Junk.
"I guess that's it. Bring me home."
The crackle-hum of static.
No answer. I strap in,
flip a number of switches.

Past Sundown. Instruments flicker.
The intercom dies. "Borg!"
An anxious cry. A nickname for
a companion. Like family —
unchosen; together by Fate.
I've been stranded, thanks to
night and faulty mechanics.
I'm desperate to speak with Borg.
There might be a solution, a miracle!
I hear rapid beats. My heart?
The patter of hard rain. Sorrow
floods. A spate of sobbing. It's true.
You can't go home again.
Without the Shields, it's bound to
be over soon. I can't
send a message, can't say goodbye.
Leaning back, eyes closed,
I just listen. Then, sitting up,
connect my Note-Pad to
transfer this file …

On beams of hope.

© 2022 Lori R. Lopez

Lori R. Lopez is an author, poet, illustrator, and wearer of hats. Verse and stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies including Weirdbook, The Horror Zine, The Sirens Call, Spectral Realms, Space & Time, Illumen, Altered Reality, California Screamin’ (Foreword Poem), and several HWA Poetry Showcases. Books include The Dark Mister Snark, Leery Lane, An Ill Wind Blows, The Fairy Fly, and Darkverse: The Shadow Hours (nominated for an Elgin Award). Some of Lori’s poems have been nominated for Rhysling Awards. You can learn more about her at the website shared with two talented sons: https://www.fairyflyentertainment.com

Find more by Lori R. Lopez in the Author Index.

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