On Interstellar Communication

She was nineteen when she joined Gliese Liberation Movement.

She didn't fight in the insurgency, of course. She lived at Earth, twenty light years away from the conflict. However, she did attend the protests and she did help with the distribution of leaflets. She had a poster of comandante Iñigo hung above her bed. Part Che Guevara, part Zorro the Avenger, the young daredevil with a wry smile and a submachine gun guarded her sleep.

Once, she sent him a letter. Maybe she was a little bit drunk. But the fact that by the time the letter would arrive the man may already be dead made it easier.

One day, many years later, she opened her mailbox and found a crumpled letter stamped by the central post office at Gliese 581.

"I've read about some cement workers who had, in year 1900, built a glass jar into a quay wall. The jar was discovered hundred years later when the quay was being repaired. There was an anarchist newspaper inside and a note. When I received your letter I have suddenly understood how the finders of the time capsule must have felt."

"I've searched my old papers (I haven't touched them for years) and found the photo taken on the day when the EGLM forces entered Gliesita. There are all of us. The core of the movement. We are sitting on a tank. It's summer and everyone's wearing sleeveless t-shirts. Everybody's smiling and el Bru is eating watermelon. He fell few months later, in one of the skirmishes near the Valentian pits. Juan Marron haven't lived till victory either. He was shot by his own men when he tried to limit the rations during the North-S siege. Others made it through. There's another photo of us, standing together on a tribune at Zócalo on May the 23rd. Everything seemed rosy back then. We've won. But then Gustavo Damrosch disappeared in '42. Ian Vilar, the one who was the most optimistic of us, was caught fleeing Gliese with gold bars in his hand luggage. It was found that he have been an agent of the ancien régime all along. He confessed and was eventually executed. Erbert Wayne died from a stroke few years later. Juan Muñoz got himself killed by a jealous husband, idiot. Juan T.C. was blown to pieces in his own house. It turned out he had his basement packed with explosives. General Augustín Martí and Adrián Santa Teresa are the only ones who are still alive. The general is retired and lives alone in one of those colored houses down at La Campana, tending the tobacco plants in the backyard. We haven't spoken each to another for fifteen years. Adrián, I am told, is conspiring with the young officers of the general staff to overthrow me."

"And I wouldn't care. It's a long time since I've lost any personal ambition. Every morning I wake up and in the state of half-dream, before the numbness in the toes subsides, I am resolved to abdicate that very day. It's a warm and fuzzy feeling. But all those youngsters are so dangerously naïve! None of them remembers the Macoute and the pits. For them, it's a fairy tale that they've heard from their nannies. They think that they can sow chaos and not reap the cost. And who should know about the cost better than I? Who else should know that there's no nanny to come and sort things out when you get scared of what you've done? And so, in the end, I am the last man standing, holding back the deluge…"

So read the letter.

She folded it and put it on the table.

Since she was nineteen she had become an elementary school teacher. Then, after working briefly for social services, she became the adjunct director of Reading Heights elementary school. When she retired she got an enormous bouquet and a card signed by every single pupil of the school. Even the clumsy signatures of the first-years were there, right at the bottom.

She was married twice and had three children. The daughters were now living in Europe. They made occasional calls to her on Sundays. The son, Michael, died in a car accident in '57. Four months ago she was diagnosed with bile duct cancer.

She took a sandwich from a tupperware box and ate.

The clock was ticking.

She felt tired. And as for the letter, she didn't care.

August 18th, 2018

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