SF One More Day

Editor’s Foreword

Even hundreds of years from now, it will still be the smallest moments that count the most.

The Lost Nymph catches the enormous wave perfectly, allowing it to carry her one step closer to safety. Tiphys, her autopilot, is handling the storm like a man surviving an avalanche by leaping from one tumbling boulder to the next. It’s doing a remarkable job, but even so, a thirty-foot boat is a bad place to be when an F-6 hurricane catches you; Nymph’s two crew are enduring a bone-jarring ride. Maria isn’t sure precisely how many more times Nymph can be submerged or overturned before finally breaking apart, but she’s certain it’s a single-digit number.

Sitting next to her, Perrin is watching a pair of timers counting down to zero. They’re about thirty seconds or so apart.

The first is heading for a fourteen-second lull in Nymph’s violent heaving, prophesied by Tiphys. It’s a small window, but it should be enough. Perrin licks his lips in anticipation.

And as for the second…

About fifty years ago, American Dream had limped into this solar system nursing a blown reactor core. Five thousand self-exiled would-be colonists stopped hoping for a better life and prayed for continued life of any sort, prayed that the second planet would be as habitable as the long-range scans implied, that they would reach it before dying of starvation. Or suffocation. Or radiation.

Their destination was indeed habitable… and inhabited, by two alien colonies not eager to permit a third, no matter how small.

Perrin remembers the beautiful young biologist he fell in love with. He remembers their desperate affair, remembers how they clung to each other like terrified children in a thunderstorm. He remembers hoping, praying to any god who would listen that they would be granted just one more day together.

Fifty years ago, to the day, the aliens finally donated the desperate humans a storm-swept archipelago half a world away from Oasis’ only two continents, warning that additional immigrants would be turned sternly away.

Perrin and Maria were granted fifty years worth of just one more days. And counting, though perhaps not for much longer.

Perrin remembers all of them.

Three… two… one… zero.

He unbuckles his restraints and leaps out of his chair.

“What the–” is all Maria can get out before he kisses her deeply, savoring what may be his last taste of those beloved lips.

He sits down and hurriedly straps himself back in. He isn’t quite secure when the next wave hits, but it’s enough to keep him from getting thrown around the cabin. Another brief respite is all he needs to finish the job.

“Are you out of your mind?” she asks, alarmed.

And the second timer chimes its arrival at zero.

“Happy new year, baby,” he says.

She is silent for a stunned moment, and then howls laughter. Perrin can hear it perfectly over the roaring wind and crashing waves.

It is the most beautiful sound he knows.


About the Author

Pete Butler lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Melissa, where they try to keep up with their dog Katie, who can do a remarkable hurricane impression all by herself. To see more of Pete’s work, visit his web site.


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