Lisa Locascio

—for Kendra

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 Sørensen.

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 bangle.

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 flash.

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.

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