This week on Terribleminds, Chuck told us to pick a song at random, and use said song as the title, and ideally the inspiration for the story.
I got One Republics – Counting Stars. Got to say that fate was kind to me this week, and so here is:
‘What’s your biggest regret?’
Dexter turned to Trudie, her eyes lit up like the stars above them, and ran his fingers through her jet black hair; stroking her face with the back of his hand.
‘I told you before; I don’t have regrets’ he cooed.
‘Everyone has regrets’ she said ‘even if it’s just buying a particular shirt’
He looked down at his shirt, checking he didn’t regret this particular one, and then looked up at the night sky. The stars were on display, as they always were outside the city.
He stared up at the sky for what felt like a minute, but the impatience in her voice when she spoke told him it must have been longer.
‘You see that star over there’ he pointed to a bright, but small, star far in the distance.
‘Which one, there are so many’
He pointed to the brightest star in the sky ‘you see that one, right?’
‘Count sixteen to the left, and then three up’
She pointed her finger to the sky and began counting stars. When she reached the end she said ‘that one?’
‘Yes’ he said ‘that is my regret’
‘What is?’ she looked perplexed
‘Leaving it, leaving home, that’s my biggest regret’
‘What was it like?’ she asked
She nodded slow, looking sad. Or was she simply responding to his sorrow.
‘It was the most beautiful place in the Universe, but it could, at times, be the ugliest’
He turned to look at her again, now that the two moons had surfaced from their blanket of clouds; they gave her hair a purple hue. He smiled.
‘People: we were why it got ugly’
‘Oh’ she said ‘is that why you left?’
He turned his attention back to the sky, focussing on the same small bright star.
‘We had no choice. We were running out of fuel, and we had all but killed the planet in pursuit of more’ the memories brought him deep waves of sadness, but he continued ‘I lead the first venture; to find new resources, and if necessary – a new planet’
She smiled at this, all innocent contentment ‘you did both’
He nodded. He had. He wasn’t alone, but one of the few people who had found new worlds; the five new worlds known as: The One Republic. But still, the achievement could not stave off his deep sense of loss.
‘But at what cost?’ he asked himself
‘You should be happy’ she said ‘if it wasn’t for you coming here, we never would have met’ she smiled at him; it should have been warming, but the light of the stars highlighted the tears in his eyes.
‘Oh Trudie’ he cupped her face in his hand ‘I miss you more than ever’
She looked taken aback, almost hurt, she said ‘but Dex, I’m right here’ she touched his chest. He felt it physically, but it was no more his wife than this was Earth.
‘I’m feeling tired’ she said. She laid her head down gently on the ground and closed her eyes.
Dexter watched her for a moment, lying there; peaceful, serene, lifeless. He sat up and looked around. He, like the other founding members, had designed the planet in the image of Earth. But it felt surreal, false, unconvincing; like a doppelganger trying to pass for the original.
He looked back up at the stars. The small dwindling light still pulled the strings of his heart. He tried hard to remember his wife Trudie, and his son Teejay, not as the chard, gnarled husks they were when he last saw them, but as they had been before. Before the sun scorched the Earth and ravaged humanity; no longer sustaining life within its protective bubble. The atmosphere gave way to the abuse man had subjected it to, and those that remained, waiting patient for the return of their loved ones, could do nothing but feel the flesh melt from their bones.
‘Mr Goldstein, sir’
Dexter turned to the voice; appearing out of the darkness like a spectre.
‘Has she powered down?’
‘I’ll have her collected and recharged, sir’
Dexter nodded, and as the silence filled the space between them, the professor took it as he cue to leave.
The professor paused.
‘The hair was a nice touch’ he said ‘that’s the sort of colour she would’ve dyed it’
The professor nodded, and walked back across the grass toward the house.
Dexter looked back up at the stars, and to stop himself remembering the bad times, he began to count.