Hi Mom. Hi Dad. This is Jackie. I'm calling from Kæreste, the
planet we were trying to find when you died.
The people here say that I can record a message and send it back, that
it will reach you, somehow. I believe them.
Dad, do you remember when you taught me the word Kæreste? You
were frustrated. I couldn't pronounce the Danish words. Elg, moose;
stør, sturgeon; brod, bread. All those Ds and Gs and
crossed-out Os. I was frustrated, too. My tongue felt stupid.
You were in the laboratory, Mom, wearing your silver-rimmed glasses and
your white lab coat of pima cotton. Peer Gynt Suite played at high
volume. The soothing smell of antiseptic floated through the ship.
(I found one arm of your glasses in the wreckage. I kept it. I'm
looking at it now.)
We were both upset, Dad, and then you gave me a new word by accident,
after I failed at "moose" and "sturgeon" and "bread."
"Oh, Jackie," you said. "We have plenty of time. You'll learn." Then
you called to Mom. "Kæreste?"
That word fit in my mouth like a new tooth: kæreste. You
didn't have to tell me what it meant. I understood. Sweetheart.
We didn't crash just then. Your deaths were not perfect. The crash came
nine hours later, during our initial descent.
From above, the planet was a glowing purple orb. "Amethyst,"
you said, Mom. I had two new words that day. Kæreste and
amethyst. Almost a rhyme.
Now I live with the android you built to help us run the ship. In my
earliest memories, his magnetized feet click across the hull. Do you
remember how he would come to the window and smile at us? The way his
red hair looked out there, against the inky black?
He has chosen a name: Charles. Charles is the only person who calls me
Jackie, here. Everyone else calls me by my full name, Jacqueline
On this planet I am famous, because Charles and I survived the crash
and walked for three weeks through the forests to find the city. On the
surface, the planet was not purple, but wet blue and dirty green, a
mucky place with too much rain and no sun.
The city is better but there is still no sun, only a weak silver light.
In my new life I am a musician. I play an instrument we could not have
imagined in our life together: a tall clear pane that moans when I
touch it. Androids and humans come to my recitals to see the woman who
named their planet, who walked for twenty-one days through the woods to
find them, whose left arm bears a purple keloid scar like an amethyst
Charles means "free man." You called me into being with the promise of
change: Jacqueline means "supplanter."
I am pregnant with Charles's child. I do not know what it will look
like when it emerges, whether it will have your faces, or mine, or the
face of the artificial man I love. The people on Kæreste say
that together we can make new life. Sometimes I believe them.
Today I sit in front of my window into the forest and stroke my
instrument. Can you hear it crying? I remember the last moments. Quiet
breaking into flame. Charles bending to shield me. A soft
Danish D caught in my throat. I knew I could say it, just before the
Lisa Locascio is an Endowed Fellow at USC this year. She has work in or coming from ASF, Fifth
Wednesday, Sou'wester, Grist and others.
Read more of her work in the archive.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of Gwendal Uguen.
W i g l e a f