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
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