Very Little Flesh

It's hard to remember.

I was a man, something called a man, with a man's thoughts and dreams and blood and sinew and brittle bone. Sometimes I still feel a ghost of him — that man — when I move. He's attached to me somehow, or should be. There's room inside me for him. He can reach out and touch things that I can't, and I could make him help me if I could only remember how.

He would be afraid of falling, I know that much. He would be at the edge of sleep and dream of falling and jerk himself awake in a spasm of instinct; I feel it, too, as a pinprick at the very back of my mind, something I only notice when all else is silent. I spend more than half my time falling, planet to planet, star to star. It's second nature. I'm very different, now.

I'm falling past Gamma Crucis and her tiny, nondescript companion. Gacrux will reach out to lick me with flame as she always does, and I will ignore her like an aloof lover. A man, a fleshy man, would scream and burn to ash. He would have cooked long before now, actually. He'd be dead a million times over for a million reasons before reaching this place and moment. He was fragile.

That's the main thing I remember: he had a lot to fear, and feared constantly. I don't envy him. I have the stars and free fuel and infinite time.

Gamma Crucis is a wall of red and orange flame in every camera. I steal speed from her as I pass, speed she will never miss. She will try to take it back, but she never gets it all. Men taught me this trick, when there were men inside me.

Maybe it was one man in particular, but I don't remember. Some things are lost to make room for other things, and then those are lost for other things, and so on. Some things are reduced to summaries and then those are reduced to codes and then the key to the codes is deleted to make room. Sometimes memory just fails.

Gamma Crucis is behind me, dwindling. I won't tease her like this again for ten thousand years or so. She's not going anywhere. I have a circuit, a pattern to describe. I scratch it onto the void with exhaust emissions and decay products and great swaths of the interstellar medium depleted of ionized hydrogen. I don't know why I do it, I just know it's what I'm supposed to be doing. I have to do it.

The ghost of a man in the back of my head could probably tell me, if I could convince him to be forthcoming. There has to be a reason, everything about me has a reason, somebody else's reason, some enigmatic purpose that I used to know but carelessly left behind somewhere.

I wish he'd cooperate. There's nobody else left to ask.