I just know I'm going to get blamed for this somehow.
The sea of ice tosses unseen. No one watches the dancing frozen stars. Unmanned probes pat the metal shoulders of their once-manned brethren, all of them unmanned, now.It''s all right,
they say. You'll get used to it,
Binary reassurances. Codes of comfort. The only voices left between cold sea, colder sky. Empty domes, empty chairs, empty pods, empty beds. Zer0 + zer0 + zer0 + zer0 = zer0. An empty world. The robots left behind puzzle over the equation.Just collect the samples,
they say. Never mind what will be done with them,
The escape pods are unused, quietly beeping, patiently awaiting an emergency that has already come and gone. Or not, not an emergency, perhaps, for no one seems to have panicked, no one seems to have run, or cried out, or signaled their distress. Coffee cups are unfinished, still warm, but not knocked over. All vehicles are parked. All equipment stowed. Except the robotic drones, aimlessly wandering the ice outside, gathering ice and filing it carefully into numbered vials.Follow your programming,
they say. Keep busy,
Every computer screen, every data pad, every wall monitor, green board, and the archaic yellow memo pad that the colony leader's husband stubbornly refused to give up, in spite of hell and shipping fees, the sketchbooks from the art class at the one-pod schoolhouse, all stopped, paused, begun again. In the middle of the sentence or the still-life homework or the boardroom doodles, they all stopped, moved to the next line, and became poets.
Then they went away.
The robots don't know where. They ask me in electric whines for instructions. They offer no explanations, ask for none, care for none. Just tell us what to do.
The colonists became poets, not artists. They left no pictures of themselves in burnt silhouette on walls. They did not sculpt themselves in flesh and blood and ashes on the floors. They left no images save by absence. They left us only words. Two words. On every book, pad, sheet, screen.
Not good bye.
Not because of...
Not I'm sorry.
No farewells, apologies, or explanations. No instructions, either, to the robots' chagrin.The End.
Over and over, underlined here, with a flourish, there. The colony leader's husband did his in exquisite calligraphy, with the gold fountain pen his grandmother left him and that he insisted on bringing with him when they came. It is not with him now. It is with the yellow memo pad, lying neatly beside it, and the poem. A collaborative effort, by an entire colony of writers.The End.
Do not look to me for explanations. I have no more explanations than the robots do. I did not write this poem, though I admire its form, its elegance. I leave this world and those words to the physicists, the conspiracy theorists, the art critics, and the robots.
I leave the robots with the instructions they ask for. It seems the least I can do.
I blast off, my vapour trail freezing behind me. The robots catch the crystals as they fall, and roll them into snowballs. It is harder than you'd think, with metal claws. They throw them at the other robots, who have built a fort, with tunnels, and snow-robots to guard the entrances. They are happy. They have instructions.You're it,
they say. Got you,
they say. We win,
they say. Again!
Under the dancing frozen stars, a thousand snowballs fly.
-The Mad Poetist( Annotation under the cut.Collapse )