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Two Point Five Megabytes Across A Quarter Million Miles

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5 April 2047

Dear Melody,

I visited your grandmother’s grave today. Do you remember to light candles to guide her spirit to you? To perfume the air, if you cannot burn incense, so she may have the strength to speak? To pour out water for all our thirsty dead? Will you ever come home, my daughter, and sit beneath the oak tree we planted when we buried her?

You are an Ó Gallchobhair at heart, as I am, as my mother was, and her mother, and hers. Remember what that means, Melody. You are a stranger in Tsukishi as much as any other there, yes, that’s true—but no, that does not relieve you of the obligation to help a stranger.

I can almost hear you say—one of the men who lives in Hotaru Block is the son of a friend of mine, and he told her and she told me that you’re looking well, and he should like to ask you on a date, if you would give up this sapphist sophistry—

I can almost hear you say that you work in hospitality, and oh, how modern use has watered down that word!

9 April 2047

Dear Melody,

I saw another ad that spoke of Tsukishi today. It seems the American Tau Ceti Company is seeking more people willing to pay a year’s earnings for passage to Lán Hǎi this June, and of course the good ship Kǎilíng shall leave from East Tsukishi Port.

I hope and pray that you shall not be aboard it. I do not care a bit how much money they will pay you to pour tea for the passengers who’ll stake claims to being duchesses and kings when they set foot on Lán Hǎi.

Your roots are here, my dear. The wisdom of your ancestors is resting rooted here.

Come home.

24 June 2047

Melody, my daughter,

I didn’t want to write this down until I could tell you face to face. My kidneys are failing fast; I may have only days to live—and why should they cover dialysis for someone who cannot pay for it herself, and who has no one here to mourn her? I do not dare to ask about a transplant, and after all, I am only an old woman; I know it’s more important to preserve the lives of those with long lives yet to live.

They say the moon’s a desert, though Her force of will can move the sea. My body’s now a desert; my only wish, to see.

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Mother, if you want to see why I set sail to the dark side of the moon, look in the mirror.

I will not take your guilt trips and I will not be chained down, and I will not treat my children the way you treated me.

If you truly are dying, and not just lying, you should know: Your granddaughter’s name is Miyako Carmen Gallagher. She’s four years old, she will finger-paint the clock round if I let her, and the only fish she’ll eat is salmon and that only if I remind her of the story of the Salmon of Wisdom. Miyako’s other mother is Ayane, the love of my life. I planned I’d never tell you, but you are dying, we are flying on the Kǎilíng from Tsukishi to Lán Hǎi, and you have no power now to hurt us.

Because I know it’s important to you, I will say I have lit candles to our ancestors every day, and I will do so till I die, to light their way to us. But know this, Mother: I will never light a candle to invite you.

The stars are calling.