"Day 12. As we watched the booster arc up into the night sky, riding a pillar of flame, you took my hand, squeezed it, and said, "You have written the story of our family across the stars.""
Bashar Mati


"Hi Ma,

Last stop. After this, I'll have said everything I need to.

It was just a routine launch, but for us it might as well have been Apollo 11. It was my first payload: a seeker/extractor with an upgraded propulsion system I'd designed.

The vehicle was destined for M89282, an asteroid rich in ruthenium and tungsten. A Metallurgic claim, as it happened. A family event, through and through.

So there we stood, in the open air as night fell and the stars came up. And of course I was thinking of that night years before, when we watched the Perseids together and talked and dreamed of this very moment.

You were thinking of it too, because when the booster launched, as it rose into the sky on its jet of flame, you took my hand and said, "You have written the story of our family across the stars."

Even then I knew it wasn't true. The vehicle was headed for a rock, not a star. It was a routine launch, not some voyage of discovery. But my heart was too full to quibble. I just smiled and squeezed your hand back.

It was the finest moment of my life. You and me, Ma. Onwards and upwards, the start of great things.

But after you died and I broke down, the meaning of that night... changed. Everything that had seemed wonderful seemed to turn rotten and false.

It seemed false because it was false. I'd never written anything across the stars. Sure, I'd hoped to work on a project like that, a deep space probe or a colony ship. But it never happened, and now that my career was over, it never would.

And then, when I found out about the plague, the memory haunted me even worse. Because it wasn't just me who failed to write a story across the stars, you see. It was all of us. Our entire species.

All our innovation, all our tech, all our striving... and it came to zero.

I've been looking up the stars a lot, Ma. And the only story I see written across them is that we are small and insignificant and will soon disappear with hardly a trace left behind.

It's a hard story, and I don't much like it. So I guess maybe what I've been trying to do these past twelve days is tell a different story.

Not a big story, written across the stars, but a tiny one, written across the humble earth of the only world we ever got to know.

I have no reason to think that anyone or anything will survive to ever read it. But whether that happens or not, the truth of the story remains:

That once upon a time, on a planet called Earth, there lived a boy named Bashar who loved his mother very, very much.

Goodbye, Ma. I love you.

Bashar Mati
Son of Aamaal and Bayhas Mati
Stepson of Wyatt Mahante
24 November 2064

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