No Luck

Rem dreamed of a world that was green, that’d be lush and beautiful as the holodeck simulations aboard the ship. Rem dreamed of a world where there were flowers, and not just the red ones — some were yellow, like his hair, or blue like his eyes, and purple, and pink, and all colors he wasn’t sure could appear in nature.

Rem dreamed of a world carpeted in grass, where someone could lie back and stare up into a gentle blue sky.

She’d dreamed of a lot of things, but a sandblasted desert had never been one of them, not with its craggy edges and cliff faces, all stark and bare stone. She’d never dreamed of death by fire, or thirst, or of being forgotten.

“We’re the shepherds and heroes of these sleepers,” she’d said once, with her face shaded blue by the computer screen. “All of us here on the crew, whether or not we live beyond the landing, we’ll be their originators and their ancestry.”

(“You know,” Wolfwood says, as he fills their small tent with cigarette smoke, “they say we used to live on a planet so green that you could pick weeds and use ’em as good luck charms.”

Vash puts his chin on his folded hands, blinks the sting from his eyes. The sandstorm outside shows no sign of diminishing. They’ve got enough water for two more days, and he thinks it’ll be enough. “I’ve heard that too,” he says. “Sounds weird, doesn’t it?”

“Weird’s not the word, broomhead,” Wolfwood says, and stubs his cigarette out into the sand. It makes a soft hissing noise. Vash can see the scars on Wolfwood’s knuckles, souvenirs from a short brutal lifetime, even when he’s not fighting. His palm on Vash’s shoulder is rough and warm against the night-desert air. “Impossible’s a better one.”

“Impossible is sometimes closer to the truth than ordinary stuff,” Vash tells him, and sits up as well. His hair is tousled down, and full of sand. “Look at me.”

“Look at us,” Wolfwood returns, and outside, the wind howls louder.)

Once, shortly after the landing, he’d found a small, isolated area where one of his little sisters had taken root. In her great shadow, small patches of green had sprung up, lush as anything aboard the ship. Vash knelt there, and marveled at the feel of cool grass, which once upon a time, he’d taken for granted.

He leaned forward and placed his palms against the ground; his sister’s welcome crept through him like an old friend. For just a moment, her voice sounded like Rem’s, lifted in song. In spite of himself, he smiled, and let his fingers curl a little. They sank into rich dark earth, not dry, loose sand.

“Hey, there,” he whispered. “Do you mind if I take just one? I can’t stay, but …”

She laughed at him, her voice whispery. But she didn’t argue, and so he searched among the sprouted seedlings, her children (his children), and pinched one tender stem in two. For a moment, he paused to marvel at the faint green stains left on his fingertips, then tucked his souvenir carefully away.

The rest of the day, he slept in her shadow, and when he left, she sang farewell to speed him on his way.

(“I don’t know what I’d do with a world that was all green,” Wolfwood says. His back is a warm smooth expanse under Vash’s arm, rising and falling slowly, slowly, with his breath. “Be fucking confused, really.”

Vash is silent, and then he says, “It’s not so bad, really. You’d get used to it.”

“You can say that, broomhead,” Wolfwood snorts. “You adapt to everything. I’m a priest — my job is to change things so that they’re the way I like ’em, not change myself.”

“That’s not true –”

“Well, that, and help people. Go to sleep, broomhead. You’re keeping me awake, with your wondering.”

Vash doesn’t say anything more, but closes his eyes, and listens to Wolfwood breathe, the soft sounds almost drowned out by the sandstorm. He thinks about the blue sky and gentle sunlight on Rem’s hair, and the smell of cut grass, and the delicate stains on his fingers.

He doesn’t remember what happened to that weed, that one little present his little sister allowed him with laughing grace; he thinks he may have lost it sometime before July. He wonders if she’s been covered by the desert, swallowed whole by a sun that allowed no quarter.

Luck and the impossible exist in the extraordinary, he thinks. The plain, the everyday, the drying stalks with their tiny three leaves — they hold nothing but determination, the desperation to withstand old despairs and new memories.

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