“Do you have everything in order?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
“Did you follow the instructions on your introduction packet?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Good. Everything should be in place. Are those you want to share this moment with present?”
“Yes, is..is this ok? I’m not close to many people.”
“No, it is fine, if there was one or two people running late we could have waited for another moment or two. If you would like, you may say your goodbyes now.”
Frank nodded and turned to the two people there.
“Sharon, thank you for being there for me. I know we were never very close but I always held you in high regard. You were always so kind and patient with everyone.”
“Darren, thank you for coming, I know we have not been on the best terms since Elisa died, but it means the world to me that you came. I hope that this means that you will forgive me one day, even if it isn’t today.”
He stepped forward and hugged them both, feeling their warmth. He didn’t know if it would be warm where he was going. It was a poor turn out, but then he didn’t expect anyone to show at all. Of the twelve people he invited, Darren and Sharon were the only ones to respond. He had never been close with many people, but he had thought that more would come, if not because they cared for him, then because it was seen as poor form to refuse an invitation. He wasn’t surprised that so few turned up, he was more surprised by who did. He had tried to be a good person, kind and generous, but that wasn’t what people wanted these days. They wanted someone strong, someone who would have their back in a fight, who would charge in blindly rather than finding another way around. He had been born a few decades too late and a few decades too early. Perhaps he would fit in better, where he was going.
He had invited Darren as he was family, never truly expecting to hear a response. Darren had blamed him for Elisa’s death, though there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. Darren didn’t see it that way. Frank had so many regrets about that. If only he had told her not to come, if only he hadn’t made it sound so exciting, if only he hadn’t convinced Darren that they would be fine if they went with out him. In the end Elisa’s death was no ones fault but her own, she shouldn’t have wandered from the trail, she shouldn’t have talked to the whispering shadows. But she had and did. There was no saving her. He wondered if Darren ever visited her, the cold shade that she had become. Frank visited her once a year, each time dreading it. She wasn’t like herself, there was nothing there. She smiled but without joy, gesturing to passerby, trying to lure them from the trail where they would join her forever. He didn’t know why she did what she did, no one did, but she had still done it.
Frank took a deep breath, it was time.
“If you will please stand in the pod, everything will get underway in a moment.”
Frank nodded then smiled at them both. The pod was larger than he had expected. He thought it would be a tight fit, like a child in its mothers womb, desperate to be born. The pod sealed itself, he released one breath slowly, then it happened.
Darren and Sharon stood in silence. Drinks in hand. It was customary that you stay for one drink, neither wanted to be there but neither wanted to be the first to leave. Sharon had only come as she had felt bad for Frank. She knew there wouldn’t be many people there, she expected to be the only one. She only knew him in passing, they worked side by side, but rarely said much to one another. She had not realised he had held her in such high regard, if she had perhaps she would have made more of an effort to be friends. Not that it mattered now, there was no going back.
“Did you work together long?”
“A few years”
They both took a sip.
“Did you enjoy the work?”
“Yeah, as much as anyone can. What do you do?”
“I’m over in sector seventeen.”
“Ah. Do you enjoy it?”
“I guess. I mean I think so. I keep going back day after day.”
“I’d say the memory wipes get annoying.”
“You would think that, but I don’t mind. I know I’ll get it all back the next morning anyway. Besides, it’s only work related stuff.”
“Is it not weird if you run into someone from the same sector while you’re both wiped?”
“No, we’re polite and if we’re friends I assume we laugh about it the next day.”
They sipped again.
Sharon glanced at the wall, “Wow, would you look at that. I didn’t think the view would be so great.”
“Yeah, I suppose they want to make it nice, peaceful. Give everyone something to remember.”
“As if the ceremony isn’t memorable enough.”
Darren downed his drink, “Well, I better be going. Early start and all that.”
“Yes, of course. I’m the same.”
Sharon put her drink down on the bar. She wasn’t really that thirsty.
“It was nice meeting you.”
They shook hands briefly and Darren left, Sharon definitely got the family resemblance. It wasn’t really there until you started talking to them, then it was like pulling teeth. She wondered if perhaps that was just the nature of his job, after all secrecy suited him. it was always awful, going alone. At least she knew more people would be at her ceremony, that would be a mercy in and of itself. She couldn’t imagine stepping into the pod with only two people to see her off, to acknowledge that she did exist and that she had made an impact. She shuddered slightly. How could anyone be so insignificant. It wasn’t uncommon to have to narrow the list down from hundreds, after all you were only allowed fifty guests. She had heard of people using lottery systems, asking people to prove their love. Yet here was poor Frank, only ten people invited in the first place. The only decent thing would be to forget about it, let it pass by and not tell anyone about. That’s what she would have wanted, to be spared the horror of knowing that she could only get two attendants and that everyone would know too. She didn’t think anyone else in the office had been invited, so that gave the perfect cover. She could just say she went to a reading, maybe a bar afterwards. It sounded like a fun, relaxed evening that wouldn’t invite too many follow up questions. She looked around the empty room, she still felt as though she couldn’t leave. It didn’t seem right. She approached the pod, Darren had left without saying goodbye to Frank.
She stood for a moment, looking at him.
“I’m sorry Frank. I’m sorry I didn’t know you better, I’m sorry so few people came…I’m just sorry.” She laid on hand on the glass. “I hope wherever you are, you’re happy.” She sighed and took her hand away. The glass was colder than she expected. She started to leave, as she passed the bar she picked up her glass and downed it in one gulp, she set it down on the bar again, took one last look at him, then she left. As she closed the door the room fell into darkness.