by Gabrielle Bleu
I came home to an empty house. My wife was gone. I found only a folded note with my name, “Tamsin,” on the outside, written in Milena’s neat letters. Inside, she had written “To Luna, my love,” and nothing else. I searched everywhere, called everyone. Finding no other clue, no other scrap of meaning, I bought a ticket for the next shuttle to the moon. What else was I to do?
At the spaceport, there was no sign of Milena. Wandering around the dock, I chewed my nails down to the quick, unsure where to go next. The other passengers disembarked with purpose, while I ambled up and down the boarding areas, looking, searching. The dock emptied out, and I spotted a hat, abandoned on a seat. A straw sun hat with a green ribbon. The one Milena had worn on our holiday in Marseilles where we’d played tag along the beaches. It was a trip I had wanted to take ever since I was a little girl – oh to walk along the beaches of Marseilles, to see the calanques – but never got around to. Milena had insisted we go, that I must do, and not simply dream.
“I can see limestone here. There are other beaches a few hours away,” I had insisted.
“But those are neither the limestone nor the beaches you want to see, my wife,” Milena had responded, laughing. She bought us tickets to travel.
As the sun had hit the calanque we were visiting, Milena had asked me leading questions about its geology and listened with a sly smile as I fell into a full lecture. I never would have gone, without her urging.
I approached the bench and reached for the hat. It was held down by a red stone striated in a way that I knew meant it could only have come from the surface of Mars.
I set off to Mars, and traversed the red planet; saw its squat, lumbering cities and high, cathedral cliffs. I did not find my wife, only hints that said elsewhere, elsewhere. So I left behind the Martian landscape, hopping from planet to planetoid to orbiting moon. Taking garbage scows, shipping barges, and pleasure liners between celestial bodies, always following the trail Milena had left me.
I would have left her alone if that were what Milena wanted. But my wife made no indication that it was over and left clues at each planet as to her next destination. Sweet taffy from Mercury, grey lilacs from Europa, honeyed perfume from Venus, always accompanied with a note in neat script. So I kept on, searching for answers, searching for my wife, through the storms of Jupiter and the seas of Neptune.
Out of clues, I rented a room in a boarding house on Laomedeia, unsure where to go next. I climbed the narrow stairs to my room. Waiting for me on the bed was a bottle of wine, the label a singular bunch of the translucent grapes grown on the lightless plains of Pluto. The clear Plutonian wine would have cost me a year’s salary to import to Earth. I wanted nothing more than to sit and drink a bottle with my Milena.
Beneath the bottle, there was another note, the same careful lettering as the one that started my mad dash across space. “Nearly there.”
At last, on orange and grey Pluto I caught up to her. The sun was a dim pinprick in the dark sky. Milena stood waiting for me, still at last, on the steps of the spaceport. We almost did not recognize one another under all our layers in the Plutonian cold. Bundles of furs under neon climber’s coats, like we were dancing bears made to scale Everest, on distant, long-ago Earth.
“Why are you running?” I asked, tired of chasing, my heart tender.
“We were playing tag, weren't we, Tamsin? Besides, we’ve seen the whole solar system now, like you dreamed,” Milena responded.
I did not know what to say. Instead, we went to a warm café overlooking the ice-plain beaches of the Heart, drank translucent Plutonian wine, and reveled in each other’s stories of our voyage. We laughed like we had on Earth, like nothing had changed. And nothing had changed, besides the whole solar system. I paid the bill and boarded a cruiser bound for the fringes of the Milky Way. And Milena chased after.
Gabrielle Bleu lifts mammoth tusks and triceratops frills for a living, all while holding a never-ending tide of ravenous silverfish at bay. Her work has appeared in the Story Seed Vault, the Arcanist, and the Crone Girls Press anthology Coppice & Brake. Follow her on twitter @BeteMonstrueuse for birdwatching photos and occasional thoughts on werewolves. More of her writing can be found at gabriellebleu.com.
Fiction by Gabrielle Bleu:
"You're It" June 2020