One For Sorrow
‘How do you picture it, when we live in space?’
‘Well, earth’s fucked, innit.’
We’d been driving for hours and I was bored shitless. Her weary query to my hypothetical was the most she’d said since we left London. I’d counted the coins in the empty coffee cup four times and arranged them in size order. For a few glorious moments, I squeezed the end and used it as a tambourine along to the radio. Then I got the side-eye and put the whole thing back in the holder.
‘Where are we?’ she asked.
‘You’re driving!’ Clearly the wrong answer. ‘Just past Nottingham, I think.’ Still wrong.
‘In space. Where are we? Are we living on the moon, or mars, or just floating around?’
‘It’s your picture,’ I couldn’t believe she was finally engaging me. ‘Where do you think we are?’
She screwed up her mouth in thought.
‘Floating, I think,’ she mused. ‘But indoors, in tunnels. Sliding doors that go ‘woosh’. All very silver but with big glass domes to look out from.’
‘Star Trek, then?’
She scowled for a second.
‘Yes,’ she sighed. ‘I imagined the exact thing I’d seen on television. Shit.’
‘Could be worse, could have been Total Recall,’ I tried to make it better. I waited a moment then saw her head drop. ‘What?’
‘Now I’m imagining Total Recall.’
‘What about food?’ This was selfish of me. I wanted a burger. She’d turned me down for the last four service stations, I needed to be more cunning. ‘You think we’ll have replicators?’
‘No,’ she was quick to dismiss. ‘Those are nonsense. You can’t just conjure up sausage and mash from thin air. Absolute crap.’
‘What would we eat then?’
‘Pills, mostly. Tubes of goo. That sort of thing.’
‘You’re just bitching because I won’t let you stop for a burger.’
‘You don’t think we’ll have burgers in space?’ I persevered.
‘Maybe, if they can grow them in labs.’
‘Why wouldn’t we just cut them from cows, like we do now?’
‘We’re in space.’
‘So there’s no cows in space?’
‘How would we get cows into space?’
‘Same way as we get up there.’
She paused, then shook her head. I let a snort of derision escape.
‘You haven’t pictured any animals, have you?’
She didn’t answer.
‘Nobody ever pictures animals in space. We’d only be going up there because we’ve killed everything down here. If we’re going to live in pressurised tunnels, in a fake atmosphere, with our blobs of food grown in a lab, never to step out into fresh air, with no pets, or real burgers, or magpies to salute. Then why would we bother going at all? We’d just live in tunnels here instead. It’s madness. I can’t believe nobody ever pictures animals when they imagine us living in space.’
I could see her thinking, I had her on the rails.
‘If we stop at the next service station do you promise not to ask everyone this after Dad’s funeral? Can you promise to just be normal for two days?’
There was no way I was going to ask about space animals at her dad’s funeral.
That was for finding out if people thought there’d be animals in the afterlife.