We had a little funeral today in secret. We didn’t tell the Brogdonians. No one was in the mood to explain why we had decided to hold this human ritual they barely understand now. For this.
We didn’t tell the kids either. Or their kids. The generations born out here are so practical. They’d have laughed at our oldfashioned sentiment while they picked over the broken body one more time for anything that could be salvaged. As if we hadn’t already tried. Their pragmatism is necessary in this harsh and exhilarating way of life, but just this once I couldn’t stand to see it.
So, we held a funeral, just us Earthers. The few of us who are left remembering dirt under our fingernails even as a lifetime in weightless space has stretched our bones and minds to new proportions.
Those of us born in gravity gathered to say goodbye.
Srijana made dal, or what passes for dal here on a ship that hasn’t seen coriander seeds in more than a generation. We all remember vaguely that the dish is a pale shadow of its former self, but it’s still warm and comforting in the stomach. Edna made a sheetcake like my grandma used to. Julio played a tune I can’t remember the name of on his battered old guitar.
I brought the deceased: one small handheld fan. Earth-made and no one can say exactly how old. I’m a geneticist, not a historian or a mechanic to tell whence came the tiny screws or when this type of motor was used. All I know is that the little fan used to be blue, but the color has been rubbed out of the plastic in places. That and it has my Grandpa’s name painstakingly scratched into it.
Max H. Wayland
University of Arizona
“Where was Arizona again, Mags?” Srijana asked.
“Southwest. Between California and Texas.”
She nodded but I knew that meant as little to her as knowing her hometown was Southeast of Bombay means to me. So much of the specificity of Earth’s geography has already disappeared into the fog of memory and apathy.
In a way, that’s why we came to do something as silly as having a funeral for a fan. Why we commemorated this little mass-produced item that was unremarkable in any way except that it happened to be the last piece of Earth-made personal machinery to survive onboard this colony ship. I said the eulogy.
“It wasn’t a special machine, but my grandfather Max decided to grab it from his office and bring it with him. Grandma said he always ran hot. I guess he hoped this small piece of home would cool him off without putting them over their weight limit. Then my dad used it on long night shifts in the engine room. I used it nonstop when I was pregnant with Micah. As a baby he liked to play with it. Watching it kept him from crying during our days of drifting alone before the Brogdonians found us.
I don’t know why it, of all things, lasted so long. I’m sure its maker expected it to end up in a dumpster a few years after it was made, not on a starship lightyears away. So… uh. Thank you, little thing, for making it this far when you weren’t supposed to.” I swallowed and hoped that didn’t sound too corny or emotional for this insignificant event.
“I’m not sure why I lasted so long either, but I’m grateful,” Julio joked.
“Not sure anyone knows why this ship, even apart from the human fleet, lasted so long, but I’m grateful,” Edna muttered. We all nodded along with that, and I suppose if one of our children or one of our alien guides asked why we held a funeral for a fan, that’s what we would tell them. It was a chance to acknowledge the things that shouldn’t last but do. We are grateful.
Jessica Andrewartha writes fiction and plays from her home in Seattle. Her short fiction has twice been published in Utopia Science Fiction. Her plays include Choices People Make, winner of the inaugural Neukom Literary Award and Light Delay, which premiered in the UK. She has also had 13 short plays produced in 16 festivals in 6 U.S. states and two foreign countries. More information at jessicaandrewartha.com.