It was a dark moonless night in the city of Avantis, the cold air stood still and silence reigned as snowflakes fell from the sky; Silence that penetrated the city hospital and permeated the space in room 703, and there, in that silent room, an old man held his gaze towards the outside and a young man sat in a chair next to him.
The sound of the young man’s heart and the heavy breathing of the old one accompanied each other, waiting for the sun to rise, or maybe waiting for the universe to end.
“What are you looking at grampa?”
“Oh Ian, I didn’t see you there… I was just… I’m trying to catch a glimpse of the sky, but it’s too cloudy… I was hoping it dissipated a little but it looks like it’s not gonna happen.” His eyes turned back towards the dimly lit room.
“Why do you wanna see the sky? It’s just gonna be black, there’s no moon out tonight.”
“I know… I know… That’s why I want to see it. It reminds me of the time I spent out there.” He paused a moment. “Did I tell you about the time I was trapped for four days on the Mars Orbiter 4?”
Ian had heard the story the day before at around the same time, he just didn’t have the heart to tell him that he did.
“No, what was that about?”
“We had been waiting for observation instructions, I think it it was the year 2611. They had told us to wait for instructions, and it was just me and your grandmother you know? That’s where we met. Anyway, the war with the Julians was going on strong in those days, and as we sat there, looking at our beautiful red world, one of those… umm… I don’t remember the name, but it was one of those big war cruisers, one of them passed right by us, and its electrical field sent my little orbiter back to the stone age.”
“Really? I didn’t think they had orbiters in the stone age.”
The old man chuckled. “You’re a smartass aren’t ya?”
“Yeah… I guess I am.”
“No. You’re a nice boy. Come here and get my bed closer to the window. I want see if the clouds cleared up a little.”
Ian complied and sat back down, and the old man directed his eyes again towards the dark clouds of the night.
“Anyway… We sat there playing card games for hours, we even made up some… some… We were bored out of our minds…” the old man’s speech began to slur as he fell prey to the inevitable cycle of sleep. “We talked about the future…”.
Ian watched his grandfather’s eyes close and he leaned over to see if he was in a comfortable position.
“You know something Ian?” The old man whispered.
“I know I already told you that story yesterday… I just like telling it… It reminds me of better days, and I want you to remember me like that. Not like this frail old man.” He opened his eyes briefly and smiled. “Now go on… I know you want to see your friends. Go have fun, I’ll be sleeping here.”
Each went their own separate way unaware of the other’s destination. While the old man thought Ian was going to visit friends, he instead left the hospital to take a long walk in a park nearby; And while Ian thought he was leaving his grandfather to sleep, the old man instead took the opportunity to die in peace, to embark on the lone man’s journey alone, gazing at the dissipating clouds of the night sky of the city of Avantis.