So Far Away
Cameron Felton Seagraves
You would suppose something as tragic as the loss of a loved one would shake you to your core, especially as young as we were, but for her it just wasn’t like that. His funeral was an overhasty thing and I can’t recall whether or not she cried; the eulogist did a good job and I remember trying to remember where I had heard his voice before. There was a good deal of nose-blowing during the ceremony but once he was lowered into the ground and she dropped the first handful of dirt over him with the shovelmen skulking behind a tree the procession broke up rather quickly. I gave her a soft kiss on the cheek and told her if she ever needed to stay with me just to call and she smiled a small sad smile saying “alright Henry, thank you” but you could tell she wasn’t really listening and I got in my car and left shortly thereafter.
At home I dressed out of my formal clothes and took a long hot shower and cried a little bit for him but when it was over I felt better and dressed again. I got myself a beer from the refrigerator and sat down on my couch with it, the small couch from my first apartment where I lived with the both of them and I remembered many nights with the three of us sitting there watching some stupid show on television all laughing together. Her lying with her head on his chest and his arm around her shoulder and me on the other side of him, the two of us happy and she happy with him and him with her and the television blaring something stupid and we all laughed together. That made me want to cry again. I cracked the beer and flipped on the television and when the news was on every station again I flipped it back off and stared at the black screen. I stared for a long time.
* * *
She never did call to stay with me and when I saw her briefly through the window of a coffee shop she was sitting alone. I didn’t wave and neither did she. I wonder if she even noticed me.
At the office a few of my coworkers asked me what I thought of the news and I told them “I don’t think anything of it” because in truth the whole ordeal seemed to be the only thing on anybody’s mind. While I still couldn’t believe he was actually gone. The world watched in awe as satellite imagery depicted an ovoid object approximately the size of Times Square circle the Earth and I couldn’t stop thinking about how she didn’t cry at his funeral.
I tried to make out what the reporters were saying about the thing but none of it really made sense so after a while I stopped. Some hideous words garbled together in a vague facsimile of language, attempting to portray the nature of something that for all we know defies nature itself. They said it was alive.
* * *
A week passed and I still couldn’t shake the feeling of having lost something, of the world having lost something. I visited his grave again and the earth still smelled fresh and when I kneeled down to place his things I could feel how soft it was. I left a beercap and a handful of crushed walnut shells just below his plaque and as I walked away I squeezed my hands into fists and wished I had had something to say but I had not.
Walking back to the apartment I glanced at the sky.
* * *
I saw her again the day that the first satellite went offline. She was walking on the north side of town and I passed her and turned to say something but she was lost in the crowd, her dark hair appearing intermittently and then gone. Everyone moving so quickly, everything seeming to speed up until I realized I was standing still in the midst of it. I started walking south again but the feeling didn’t pass.
They said the thing intercepted the satellite. It was getting closer to the planet and we apparently knew more about it. Images of what looked like deformed, gaping mouths filled with pointed teeth. Drooping eyes placed nonchalantly across the entirety of it. No obvious up or down, no detectable protrusions indicative of limbs. They said it shifted and writhed, the mouths and eyes appearing and disappearing randomly. The satellite may have been absorbed into its body, much like an amoeba, they said. They said, “the scientific and religious implications of what has been cordially referred to as “Star Wormwood” are astounding. These next few days will change the history of the world as we know it.”
I watched this and kept thinking to myself, who decided to call it that? Remembering debates in college regarding the nature of things in the world. How death is a common process undergone by humans, trees, by mountains and the planet itself, by stars, even by atoms. I thought to myself, how could it be that we are face to face with something that as far as we know has nothing in common with the rest of the universe? How can we sit here and watch as something shunned by the rest of the universe orbits our home?
* * *
That night I lay awake and remembered a rock and roll concert the three of us had gone to, four years earlier. The headlining band had recently lost their drummer and while they played very well with the replacement, who was very good in his own right, the crowd could feel their sadness. A tribute song was played, and I looked over to the two of them, holding each other with wet eyes. I felt as if everybody in the crowd had wet eyes.
The three of us left shortly after that and I brought home a girl who was very drunk but she was nice and we split off in pairs to go to our rooms, all feeling good. The girl asked me what I liked to do in my spare time as she sat on my bed and took her shirt off. I told her I wrote poetry and her eyes flickered for a second and she smiled and said “that’s a good answer.” When she reached orgasm she called me by a name that wasn’t mine but I didn’t care and in the morning she kissed me and told me she had had a wonderful time. Then she left.
He came in to the kitchen where I was drinking coffee and asked if the girl had gone and when I said she had he smiled and wiggled his eyebrows at me. “She’s still sleeping” he said, and made himself a cup. We talked a little about my girl and how it was a pity she didn’t want to stay
* * *
The day that I first realized I could see the thing in the sky reporters all over the world were frantic but trying to tell the public not to panic. It would enter the atmosphere within several hours. The military was scrambling and international efforts were being made to ensure that no harm came to mankind. I watched this all with a sense of numbness. For three days people had stopped coming to work at the publishing firm and finally the company told everyone to take a vacation. I felt weird, watching the thing descend upon us. It was just a speck in the sky, one point of darkness out of a cloudless blue, but there. On television it looked like a nightmare.
I called his house that day, not sure of what I was hoping to accomplish by doing so. His parents still lived there from when we were kids and when his mother answered “Hello?” I had an urge to ask her if he was home and a great lump formed in my throat, choking off the words. Tears stung my eyes as I finally managed “Hello, Margaret, it’s Henry…” and she started in, “oh Henry it’s so nice to hear from you I hadn’t seen you since the funeral are you doing alright we of course are missing him so much and Simon has had such a hard time but we’re doing alright we’re going to be okay you are too Henry have you been taking care of yourself have you seen the news they say the Star is going to enter the atmosphere oh Henry Simon is worried and he’s gotten down his gun from the attic…” I pulled the receiver away from my ear slowly and told her yes, yes everything has been fine and I know I miss him too. The conversation lasted a little over a minute before I told her I needed to go. I hung up the phone and sat and looked at it. I don’t remember why I called in the first place.
* * *
I am sitting on his grave, watching as others pull up their dead from the ground, plunging shovels and spades into the soft earth and pile it up heedlessly. The police had stopped trying to stop them days ago. Star Wormwood had entered the atmosphere and you could see it, a little bigger than a button, circling. When it passed overhead it cast no shadow. Why everyone was digging up their loved ones is anyone’s guess. Something they heard on the news, I’m sure.
I decided that I would write from here because it is directly above him that I feel closest. Amidst the chaos and hysteria I finally feel at peace. Everything is moving so fast around me and I can still hold myself here above my friend and for some reason I can find comfort in that. I remember a time when just the two of us were sitting in his car looking straight over a cliff. Below us the sea raged and churned in the moonlight. We had been driving, looking for girls. We stopped here and he turned to me and said that nothing in this life could ever matter more than finding someone you love. He was smiling when he said it and I laughed and told him he should be the poet.