“Come on, kids! Let’s go see Grandpa!”
The kids didn’t need any convincing, particularly little Billy, even though this would often seem a drudging request. Billy at the least liked the simple act of riding; riding through the stars.
The family tumbled into their jet-orb and took off. The soft silver sphere glided on steam, rising up and out of the family’s top-domed aperture garage, into the airlock and out to the starry night. The symbols of Space Station Alpha blinked behind: the waving projected flag echoed forever into the deep black night, the small houses with bubble backyards whirred into the distance behind them, toppling over each other like a gyroscope to simulate gravity. Each street was a bend in a protoplasm protein ever shifting. The whole city was a grand lullaby mobile, that Billy let fill his head with soft swimming thoughts each night as he lay in bed and gaze out his porthole window. Look up! There was his friend’s house, Steve, looking up-down, too, to him!
“Over the school system, they said a Grandpa is a dad’s dad. But you already have a dad!” Billy called over his sister’s head, to the front seat in his parent’s orb. They were not driving any longer, no one was, let alone could they navigate the interstellar winds by themselves, but the manufacturers still took the trouble to incorporate row seating to separate the mommies and daddies from their children. Suzie, only three, shifted in her seat, squirming for a better look out the window. An erupting star glistened like a golden bee in the distance, swirling around, orbiting another something greater.
“Right you are!” Cried his dad, shoulder around his mom with the silver sphere flying. They sighed into each other, without the need to strain eyes to drive. “This is my dad’s dad’s dad, and a few more.”
Suzie let out a brief hiccup, rumbling in her extra padded car seat, perched like an egg on all the more padding for the rest of them.
Their billiard ball ship slowed to a stall, though they couldn’t feel any difference, and laser systems recalibrated as it determined its path through the multiplying obstacles. They were now coming into view; brief slips and silhouettes of light, twirling and drifting at their own odd rates, like lint capsules caught in a sun beam. As random as they seemed, it was all eternal clockwork. “Ah, over there!” The dad cried, as if he needed to point the expert machine with a finger, like it was a hunting dog. On seeming command, it whirred into the dust drifting mesh, and darted through each of the particles expertly. They were floating now like sand specks in a sea, all of them, slowly, and the things finally could be seen.
Bodies. Hundreds and thousands, millions, of bodies, drifting up and over each other in a large ring of mist, bordering the space stations that hung together in orbs, like a raspberry, below. “You know,” the mother chimed in, looking formaldehyde-ly fine, plastinated perfect, “The grave yards used to be on the outskirts of the cities.”
“Huh,” the dad said, “Who would have known?”
Lastly the ship matched the slow moving funeral procession, and a plank of a man next to them drifted into plane view of the front domed spaceshield. He twisted on his y axis, running from the top of his cranium to the tips of his rigor mortis extended toes. His blue eyes glistened like frozen ice, like glass marbles, those star struck ones made eons ago to mimic the planets they now roamed among. Each vein and collapse of his nose was visible. It was indeed red as if in the cold for too long; for only a few minutes too long though, not the thousand years he had now been drifting.
“William Hinkley the Third,” the dad recited calmly. “The one that started it all, he first ancestor.”
“Wow,” the boy behind exclaimed, “And I’m…”
“The 57th,” the father reminded him, “Me, I’m the 56th.”
The machine whirred around, lurching to tilt the dome to its next side, “Here’s the 54th, the 53rd…”
“That’s right!” The dad was proud of his son. He would make his line proud.
And they were all there, staring at them, down at them every day, if through a window, if a thousand miles up, and if blindly.
“One day I’ll be up there?”
The mother shot a look to the father out the side of her pursed and shadowed eyes. He either did not notice, or proceeded regardless, “We all will be. Jettisoned out and right in place, in exactly the place we were always meant to be returned to, down the line. Father first, son after. And on and on and on.”
It was the first instant in their insect history that humans could have a sense of cosmic time. And even then, only by one one millionth.
They looked out the front porthole to where the bodies blended, shrinked to a shrine of specks, finally lost themselves in an undifferentiated silver Saturn-ring of satellite souls.
“When you die, they used to say you’d go up to heaven to watch over the rest of your family, down on Earth. They were right in a sense. It just hadn’t happened yet. But now it does.”
Watching, forever. Would you want to be?