Now then! On with the story!
Thousands were there. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps nearer to a million. There was no way to tell for certain. But the orange ocean of candle lights on the viewing platform of an interstellar space station made obvious the scale. Despite the mass of people, it was silent. Distant sobbing and the occasional cough were deafening in comparison. Broken families and lone travellers waded through, each with their own candle, remembering their loved ones out of the millions of others taken within a matter of hours only a few weeks ago.
Rogour didn’t understand the gesture. It was a Human-originating tradition. He instead was Tarrian. Taller, skinnier, and scaled. Several of his kind had adopted Human cultures, but not everyone. To hold up a flame, a symbol of destruction to some, was almost ironic.
‘Why did I come?’
Uncomfortable, Rogour ran his slender fingers over his set of short crests and down the back of his neck. He turned away. He didn’t have to travel far. Most of the crowds were ahead of him, on the lower levels of the platform and under the starlight.
Not everyone at the vigil was from the planet Emiros. Others were visitors to the desert world. Some simply had friends or relatives there, but they were associated with victims, or were victims themselves, so the remainders of the Emirossi government invited them.
‘This was a mistake…’ Rogour picked up the pace.
The alien strode with long steps. Taller than every human around him, he was quick to escape the crowds. The mourners eventually thinned out, and he had room to breathe.
But room to breathe came with room to think.
‘There’s… nothing. Nothing of her left…’
Rogour’s knees went weak. He put his hands out against the cold wall of the space station and breathed heavily. He made a fist, and banged against the wall. People looked. The Tarrian hit the wall again, harder each time until a dent was left in the metal.
Rogour clutched his wrist and cringed. He leaned against the dent and shut his eyes. The nearby mourners turned back towards the viewing platform.
A stranger tapped on Rogour’s shoulder.
“What?” Rogour asked, angry.
“Do you need guidance?”
Rogour opened his eyes and faced the stranger. Another Tarrian, with a human by his side and dressed in matching black outfits, waited for his answer.
“What guidance?” Rogour grumbled. “I know where the docks are.”
“Not that.” The other Tarrian handed him a flyer.
Rogour frowned as he read the paper. He shrugged with one hand and looked back at the strangers.
“What am I? Do I look like I’m spiritual?”
“There’s no dress code for Immortalism,” the Human said. “We only want to help people.”
“Then help someone else.” Rogour scrunched up the flyer and tossed it aside. “My wife is gone. She’s not alive. She hasn’t ascended some other plane of existence. Her mind hasn’t evolved to be bodyless, or whatever attitude it is you people have to life. She’s dead.”
“We understand how it can feel like everything has ended–”
“I said she’s dead!” Rogour barked, drawing the attention of others again.
He glanced at the other strangers, who quickly looked away, and charged through the two Immortalists.
“Go talk to someone else.” Rogour stormed away.
The ships of the space station’s docks came and went. Rogour stood on the end of a landing pad. After what felt like hours, he was finally near the front of the queue for a passenger ship. He dawdled a few steps further before the line ground to a halt again. He gazed out the airlock at the stars. The other Commonwealth systems carried on as normal. Emiros was only one of countless inhabited worlds.
Someone cut past him. The line had moved, and an impatient Tarrian skipped in front.
“Hey,” Rogour began to confront him, but resisted.
It was only the one person. Rogour followed him onto the ship. The passengers were unlike the mourners. They were just passing through, looking for their next ride across the border into Colonial Space, or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
Displeased with the vessel’s cramped design, he sat in the nearest empty seat. The next passenger along was barely three inches away from rubbing shoulders.
The last of the passengers boarded. The ship’s crewmembers shut the doors, and the noisy commotion of the space station ended.
“This is the captain speaking. We’ll be launching momentarily. In case of any unlikely technical issues, please remain seated until we jump.”
Rogour stared at the headrest of the seat in front. He moved his hand out to the right and gripped the air, as if to hold a hand. Nobody was there. Just the wide walkway at the centre of the cabin. The Tarrian looked at the empty space and clenched his still-throbbing fist, and retracted his arm.
The ship shook slightly as it launched and passed through the airlock. Another gentle jolt followed soon after. The ship had fully departed, and passengers got up to move about the vessel.
‘What now?’ Rogour asked himself.
The Tarrian remained seated.