The Expanse — Dispatch #2 from the Pilot

Maya C. James

The sound and color of space was gentle

but the supernova blinding.

Radiation shuddering across the fleet

a thousand nuclear blasts.

Those on Earth who looked through their telescopes

blind, scrambling. Autopilots are their dictators now.

No one had warned them that ever upwards

meant leaving some patriots behind.

But the pilot from Compton had not underestimated the

systemic coding of those leaders and closed his eyes

even after the autopilot urged him to survey the destruction.

Look at what your leaders did, it cooed. Look what we’ve become.

Unharmed, he emerged from the lake of dreams,

head knocking with the tick-tock of a dying planet.

Cashmere skin sunken from time, corneas dry as burnt milk

How softly did you sleep? The autopilot queried.

How many space ships passed you by,

With good dreaming and good luck?

Spaceships with prayer flags drifting to the unknown?

How many captains are left in your fleet, pilot?

The expanse is wide, he murmured

The expanse is wide, and my time is short.

But even his quartets of morse code

did not reach the nearest ship.

So the pilot gathered his bearings, counted to 3000

Then and set a course for Earth. The only place in the universe

where destruction was done by code,

and humans monitored their own downfall.

Maya C. James is a storyteller whose work focuses primarily on Afrofuturism and imagining sustainable futures for at-risk communities. Her work has appeared in Star*Line, Strange Horizons, and FIYAH, among others. She was a 2021 Rhysling Award nominee. You can find more of her work here, and follow her on Twitter: @mayawritesgood

Issue 4

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