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Sunil Patel’s work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Clockwork Phoenix 5, Flash Fiction Online, Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit Place, and elsewhere. This is his second appearance in Galaxy’s Edge.

THE TRAGEDY OF THE DEAD IS THAT
THEY CANNOT CRY

by
Sunil Patel

The tragedy of the dead is that they cannot cry. They may laugh, despite having no lungs. They may speak, despite having no vocal cords. They may do many things that should not be possible without physical bodies. But the creation, the excretion of tears is impossible in their non-corporeal form. Jonathan has been dead for fifteen years but he has never felt this dysfunction more acutely than at Rosita’s funeral.

The shades gather by her grave at midnight to mourn her passing. The scent of memorial flowers reaches only Rosita, the single living person in the cemetery. Only she feels the chill of the wind like a welcome home. It has been three days since she passed, and she returns to allow them to pay their respects. Jonathan whispers into Troy’s ear: “I don’t remember the last thing I said to her.”

“We were gonna go trick-or-treating next week,” says Troy. “Just watch the kids, ya know? Our one night out a year.”

“I guess she can go herself now,” says Jonathan. He only knew her in passing, but she was a part of this community, this family of spirits who accepted him more than his own family. Those he thought of as friends in life were only acquaintances in comparison. Even the one friend who died, and Jonathan was able to cry for him. That is, after all, what one does at a funeral. Troy, a young man but an old soul, has been around almost as long as Rosita and has attended many funerals. He needs no tears to mourn his friend because he knows his grief to be real. He will be giving the eulogy in a moment.

“Never gets easier. Life, death, life again. Transitions, right? Always leavin’ people behind.”

Jonathan is surrounded by those who loved Rosita more than he, and their grief emanates like a strong perfume. This invisible miasma contains every story from every shade, every connection they made with her that he did not. It seeps into him, artificial, and he suddenly cannot understand all the things he will never get to do with Rosita. She will never direct him to the wrong gravestone, either on purpose or because she simply isn’t paying attention. She will never describe to him in graphic detail the circumstances of her death, but with added puns. She will never say, “Hey, Jonathan, you know that star’s been dead longer than me?” That is something she once told Troy.

Now she stands by her gravestone, the moonlight illuminating her light brown skin rather than passing through it. New flesh for a new life. He should be happy for her Second Chance. She’s going to a better place, the others say, but deep down they fear a Second Chance of their own. To be pulled from one state of existence to another? Once is enough for a lifetime. Jonathan doesn’t want to return, not after only fifteen years. You can’t always get what you want, in life or in death.

Jonathan does not want this grief inside him. He has not earned it. But he cannot force it out through his tears, as he could when he was alive. He watched a movie whose name has faded from his memory, a movie that made him sob so strongly he couldn’t read the credits. It felt good, that release, those false emotions. False emotions plague him once again, and he wants them to be real, or get out.

Yet neither of these options will truly resolve his conflict. Although he does not comprehend how much Rosita mattered--matters--to him, he cannot appropriate others’ feelings. Nor can he be without his own. To have no feelings would be disrespectful to her.

Troy begins his eulogy, and he delivers it straight to Rosita, though she cannot hear him. Having crossed the border, she has severed their line of communication. She is no longer one of them, and even though it was not by her choice, Jonathan mildly resents her for it. For leaving them. The second chance he wants is to know her like Troy does. To have done the things he will never do. He misses most of what Troy is saying as he struggles to find a memory to induce impossible tears.

But then Rosita speaks in the middle of Troy’s eulogy. She cannot see or hear him so she has no idea.

“Guys, I think you can hear me. We could hear the living before, so if I…count now, hey.” She scans the graveyard, unwittingly locking gazes with so many shades, including Jonathan. “I’m going to miss you guys. Really miss you. I’ll come visit when I can, okay?” Rosita chokes on the last word, a feeling she has not experienced in over a hundred years.

Troy isn’t sure whether she’s finished. He wants to continue his remembrance, his futile praise of her that he should have given when she was dead.

“Troy, find me next week. I’ll find us some kids to follow, somehow.” Tears form in her eyes, and she wipes them away, looks at her damp fingers. “It shouldn’t have been me. I didn’t want this.”

Rosita breaks.

Her face shimmers as a century of loss pours out. She cried coming into the world and she cries now as she returns to it. This time, however, she knows what she is leaving behind. Each tear is for one of them, thinks Jonathan. He chooses one, watches it roll down her nose, past her newly reddened lips, and fall to the earth. That is his tear. He traces its path down his own face, forging a new connection between him and his friend.

One day, if he ever gets his Second Chance, he will cry for Rosita, as she cried for him.

Copyright © by 2017 Sunil Patel
 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

HOME

The Editor's Word

FICTION
BRAGGING RITES
by Samantha Murray

THE TRAGEDY OF THE DEAD
IS THAT THEY CANNOT CRY

by Sunil Patel

THE LOYAL ORDER OF BEASTS
by Kay Kenyon
YOU CAN ALWAYS
CHANGE THE PAST
by George Nikolopoulos
IT TAKES A SPECIAL-
SPECIAL PERSON

by Andrea G. Stewart

LOCKED ROOM
by Kevin J. Anderson

GOLF TO THE DEATH
by Alex Shvartsman

MY MONSTER CAN BEAT
UP YOUR MONSTER
by Brennan Harvey
THE OBSERVER
by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
YOUR GRIEF IS
IMPORTANT TO US
by Yaroslav Barsukov
DO NOT CALL ME BENTO
by Tina Gower

IN THE GROUP
by Robert Silverberg

INTERVIEW
Mike Resnick
by Joy Ward

SERIALIZATION
Double Star (Part 2)
Heinlein's First Hugo Winner
by Robert A. Heinlein

COLUMNS
From the Heart's Basement
by Barry N. Malzberg
Science Column
by Gregory Benford
Recommended Books
by Bill Fawcett & Jody Lynn Nye

 

 

 


 


 

 


 

 

 

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Copyright © Arc Manor LLC 2017. All Rights Reserved. Galaxy's Edge is an online magazine published every two months (January, March, May, July, September, November) by Phoenix Pick, the Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint of Arc Manor Publishers.