Derek is dying.
His blanket is heavy on him. The sheet scratchy on his arms. He is old and assumes he’s not long for this world.
His assumptions are correct.
His face is gaunt, and his beard is itchy. He coughs, it rattles in his throat. If he could only clear it. Maybe that would help his breathing.
The things he has seen through his life. He breathed out harder, what passed for his cough rattling more. He moved his arm to scratch his beard.
“Oh. The things I have seen.”
The rattle starts again.
“Nathan was a good lad. He did well. He better be training the young’un right.” But he knows he doesn’t have to worry. Nathan was the brightest one that he ever had. He struggles in his bed. Why was his arm in that position? His beard itches.
Was that the time? He reaches and turns the lights out, slumping back, gasping for breath.
His vision clears and his ceiling is a map of the heavens. He has his night light shining at his chandelier, splitting the light and spilling it out for him.
* * *
* * *
It reminds him of them. Of all the things he’s seen. All, now, that will be lost. He laughs, his breath shallow. “Like…like tears in rai-” the laugh turns to a rack of coughs.
None of them clear that rattle. *
* * * *
He looks at the stars.
* * * *
He was there when they asked for the wood. Through the machines. The text appears. Faltingly. They didn’t know the words properly, but he had sorted it, moved it to the proposed point. Watched the fleet fly over, treat him to a show of lights that, still now, made him cry.
He looks again. He was sure there was a red one.
Wishful thinking, maybe.
He’s not seen a red light. Not like that. For