Yellow Brick Road: Chapter 14
"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever…Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone's eyes."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Note: Final chapter. I wrote it while listening to Mogwai's "Take Me Somewhere Nice"
David's chin was resting on her shoulder. He didn't sleep, but he was content to lay next to her. Content to wait.
They had been waiting for five days.
They talked. He recited all of The Wizard of Oz for her. In the silent spaces littered across the cabin she thought about her family. Her mother. Her father. Charlie. She daydreamed about that fantastical island of her childhood and heading inland, towards a distant jungle.
They made love twice more and he told her it was more pleasant than playing basketball or watching films. It made her laugh, though she knew he meant well and it was high praise.
They lay together and he touched her hair.
A buzzing noise made her shift and turn, frowning. David stood up and went towards the control panels, his hands pulling holographic displays down. He nodded.
"There's a ship approaching. I've hailed them."
They stared at each other. Elizabeth started putting on the black armor. David had pulled the shards sticking out of arm, but it wasn't mended properly. She supposed it didn't matter. He got dressed too and looked at the controls, characters floating in the air before his face.
"They are going to board us now," David said.
Elizabeth flexed her fingers and thought about putting on the gloves. But she wanted to touch him. He slid by her side, his hand brushing her own. With her free hand, Elizabeth touched her neck, felt the little cross at her throat.
The doors opened and three figures walked in. They wore long indigo robes and were as tall as the Engineer they had met before. There was a female, flanked by two males. Her head was bald like the males, but her features were more angular and delicate. All three of them had tattooed their faces and their heads in different patterns; spirals of blue and green.
"Identify," said one of the males.
David spoke. He was too fast and Elizabeth only caught snippets here and there: system, ship, accident. He walked towards a console and activated a star map, pointing to it. He said their names out loud: Elizabeth and David. The trio nodded their understanding.
"Salvage," said the other male and then a string of other words.
David's eyes narrowed. He felt his hand tightening slightly around hers, then releasing her.
"What?" she asked. "Can we go with them?"
"They'll take you."
"You mean they'll take us," she said, glancing up at him.
"What? Why?" she asked.
"They don't seem to like synthets."
Elizabeth looked at the three aliens. They were standing with their hands neatly folded before them, waiting.
"I don't understand," she said in their language, the syllables clumsy in her mouth.
"You will not make a machine in your image," one of the men told her, speaking slowly. "It…known."
"David's not a machine," she sputtered, shaking her head.
She felt David's hands heavy upon her shoulders. He turned her around, forcing Elizabeth to look at him, his face stiff and serious, but not afraid. He couldn't – wouldn't? – be afraid.
"Go with them. Logic dictates it: this is your best outcome."
"Logic?" she said, scoffing.
"Do not refuse them," David said, his voice low. "There will be no other chances."
He was right. They were damn lucky they had not been blown out of the sky yet, even more lucky that they were being offered "salvage," even if it was for a single passenger. Elizabeth should be running to their ship this very instant. After all, they were right: this was a machine. It was the equivalent of leaving your calculator behind.
Elizabeth brushed David's hands aside and took a few steps towards them, incredulous.
"Why can't he come?"
"No…life essence. Pattern…folds…life essence," the man told her and Elizabeth wished she understood better, but she didn't want David to translate. She wanted to speak on her own.
Life essence. What was that? Were they referring to the soul? She recalled Weyland's little speech aboard the Prometheus when he'd made a point about David's lack of soul.
Toaster's don't go to heaven. Microwaves don't feel. Androids can't have souls. She had agreed with this.
She hadn't known David.
"No, but you don't understand…David is a person," she said, pressing a hand against her chest. "He's like me. We aren't any different."
The three Engineers looked at her, impassive. She supposed a human's reaction would have been the same and she supposed as a human her only alternative was to bid him goodbye.
Elizabeth turned towards David and looked at him. His eyes were a calm blue. He did not seem greatly mortified. She imagined it would really make no difference to him if he remained there, alone in the darkness, thinking of his movies and his books.
She wrapped her arms around his neck.
"I'm not leaving," she said and turning her face to look at them she repeated it, louder. "I'm not leaving him."
David stared at her and there was a very human surprise in his eyes. And…sadness? His lips curved, bittersweet, a finger brushing her lips.
"What a curious sight," the woman said, speaking for the first time. Her tone was practical and self-assured. "I think Io might want to see it. Odd...Come then, if you'll come. Your ship is falling apart."
Elizabeth gripped David's hand and took a cautious step, following the woman. The others made no attempt to stop them and she let out a shivering sigh.
"Where we are headed…she calls it 'The Gate.' It might be a space station, I'm not sure," David said.
She was letting him translate now. Elizabeth's brain was simply too fried to attempt cohesive thoughts. They had just reached a connecting bridge which the Engineers had used to board their ship. It was very pale and fleshy looking, like the belly of a fish. Elizabeth could see a door which must led into their ship proper.
"We've called her kind 'Engineers.' Can you ask them what their name really is?"
David spoke. The woman was walking ahead and turned her face a fraction of an inch, giving them a small smile.
"'Messenger' would be more appropriate, she says."
There were other questions, of course, but they were reaching the door. It slid aside and they were inside the ship. It looked as organic as the vessel they had lived on, though the angles seemed different than what she'd grown used to. The ceiling was extremely high and as Elizabeth looked up, she thought of a cathedral. The cupule – should she call it that? – was made of glass and one could see the stars spreading above them.
Elizabeth paused, staring up.
Though there was no jungle and no beach, she thought this moment resembled the dreams of her childhood: the unknown, offering itself to her. This was the moment she had waited for her entire life.
David also stared at the sky. She'd seen him do this many times before, craning his neck up and admiring the maps with their myriads of galaxies and distant suns. He paused, glancing down at her.
"I love you," he said and he spoke very slowly, as if rehearsing the words; testing them. Then he nodded, apparently convinced they were the right ones. "I love you."
Elizabeth thought about all the impossibilities of this moment knotted inside her. She squeezed his hand.
"I know," she replied.
He smiled at her. The fathomless sky, like a sea with no shores, spread above their heads. And maybe this journey was faith, fate or folly, but she did not care. She did not care as long as he was with her.