The following piece of flash fiction was inspired by Run Away to Mars by TALK.
The sun set slowly as festivities came into full swing. The opulent garden party seemed almost too upscale for the guests dressed mostly in jeans, flannel, and light sweaters. Fall had just begun to set in, but it was even cooler in the mountains, especially as night fell. Edison bulb light strands seemed to hover above the guests’ heads. Following them to their edges, each strand blended into a towering trumpet vine, wrapping itself around a moss pole at least fifteen feet high. The dark green moss and bright orange flowers mixed with the gardenscape, a small set of well-designed winding paths flooded with flowers and plants leading to an open fire pit.
Guests filled the property, strolling the stone walkways, admiring the pond, and huddling near the fire pit. Some squeezing in the last of their picnic games—staying warm with locally crafted beer. There was a whole keg—plus a staffed bar, catered food, and even servers floating around with fancy hors d’oeuvres on rustic silver platters.
The clinking of a champagne glass quieted the crowd. It was held by the host’s brother or brother-in-law, depending on who you were talking to. The host couple stood beside him, laughing and clinking glasses. The couple kissed, an act wildly cheered at these kinds of events.
After the speeches, the couple began to make their rounds thanking everyone for attending and being proper hosts and all that. But they only began—as far as anyone could tell—because the happy couple disappeared soon after. Some joked that they needed to re-consummate their marriage. There were whispers of an argument.” You know they’ve been trying,” interrupted by a hush. Others, like dear, old Aunt Beatrice, simply wanted to say their thanks and goodbyes to be on their way. (Aunt Beatrice never liked to drive at night. Not that she really should be driving at all, if you asked some people.)
The party guests would be shocked to know that the couple couldn’t find each other at that particular moment either. Or rather, one half of the couple—Alan—slipped away, and the other half—Dani— noticed shortly thereafter, leaving the guests to fend for themselves amongst the charcuterie and prosecco.
And once Dani checked the usual places Alan escaped during their parties—the back patio and the bench by the pond—she knew only one place left to look.
When she found Alan, she first found Alan’s feet. He nearly kicked her in the head, swinging his legs off the shabby little balcony they had built into their treehouse. They wanted to put it higher, but they had dreams of expanding to a two-floor treehouse, so they left it as is. It was big enough to relax on and offered a stellar view of the night sky.
Dani climbed the rope ladder and took her seat next to Alan. He sighed. He had his grandfather’s old telescope out. Dani couldn’t blame him; it was a perfect night for stargazing.
“We’ll keep trying,” Dani said, placing her hand on his knee. He grasped her hand in his and looked her in the eye. His clear, bright eyes glistened; he collapsed into her shoulder and sobbed.
The treehouse was one of the first projects they took on when they moved in. Not because it needed doing. No, because it was the perfect tree for a treehouse, and both Dani and Alan had always wanted a real treehouse of their own.
Alan gathered himself, and they kissed again but to an audience of crickets and stars.
“What if I run away to mars?” he said.
“I would find you in the stars.”
He kissed her forehead.
They returned to the party hand-in-hand. The evening went perfectly as planned, which is all Alan wanted after fifteen years with Dani. Caterers and servers left, and guests slowly filtered out too. By midnight, they were alone.
By two a.m., they were asleep.
At eleven a.m., they woke up and resumed life as usual.
But a month later, Alan F. Davis did not wake up and resume life as usual.
The letter Dani discovered in a rush to find his legal documents divulged the diagnosis that came six months prior. His autopsy revealed the same: advanced stomach cancer. But it was too advanced; there was nothing treatment could’ve done, the doctors assured.
“How long could treatment have given him?”
“Maybe another year, if that.” The doctors promised that this is what Alan wanted—not to put her through months of suffering, worry, and disruption and himself through all the pain just to suffer the same fate.
On September 30, they buried Alan with his telescope.
On June 15, Orion was born with three dotted birthmarks across his stomach.