This week’s writing prompt: Your main character looks up at the night sky and begins pondering life. Thinking back, this character whispers to him or herself, “To this day, I still regret that.” What had happened?
Anderson parked the car near the clearing where he landed two hundred years ago and looked out at the beautiful land. Twilight was approaching and the land looked bathed in gold and reds and yellows. Far in the horizon he could just make out the outlines of the mountains, capped white, even in early autumn. There were some greens from the evergreen trees, a few squirrels darting from tree to tree. The sky was a clear bowl of orange and reds and blues, with a few fat clouds here and there that looked as if they were stuffed with rainbows.
It was a peaceful place, one that brought painful memories, one he ended up always returning to.
Bradford shifted on his seat, and Anderson glanced at him, his friend and partner of many years. He’d been coming with him here for the past five years, never questioning his reasons, even if Andy could see the questions in his friend’s eyes.
Like at the moment. Before his friend could voice his thoughts out loud, Anderson opened his door and climbed out.
Bradford did the same, then began unloading the basket of food his wife had prepared for them.
By the time they finished eating the fried chicken, potato salad and the strawberry pie, darkness had fallen, a chill wind shook the nearby branches, the sound a soothing background to the noise of the night animals.
“I have a theory,” Bradford said, leaning back on his elbows, his eyes fixed up on a cluster of stars.
“Hmmm?” Andy murmured.
Brad glanced once at Andy, saw that he was paying attention, took a sip of mountain dew in a contemplative gesture. “Theoretically speaking, what would you say if you worked for the FBI and whenever there was a rumored altercation in a lab, your partner was always absent?”
Anderson shifted and looked at Brad, thinking about the three lab breaks he’d done to investigate a possible capture of ‘alien’ species. The three creatures he had helped escape weren’t from his planet, but he had understood their plea nonetheless. There was no accusation, no judgment in his partner’s eyes, but Anderson knew Brad had an excellent poker face.
“Coincidence?” He ventured, though his heart had picked up a faster rhythm.
Brad grunted, then returned his gaze up to the stars. “How about if that partner travelled every year to a place on the anniversary where the sight of a spaceship has been catalogued more than two hundred years ago? Theoretically speaking, I mean.”
“A nature lover?”
“Oh yeah.” Brad said, still looking up at the sky. “And if this person has been your partner for more than ten years and hasn’t aged a bit?”
“Good genes?” Anderson replied, though he was now kicking himself for being so careless. Bradford was nothing but thorough, with a clever and cunning mind. How could he have gotten so comfortable around him? Could he attack his friend, his best friend, if he made a move to restrain him? Could Brad do that to him?
Brad shifted to look at Anderson then, his eyes conveying nothing of what was going through his mind. “And sometimes when you catch that partner unaware, there’s this flash of a silver glow in his eyes.”
Andy shrugged nonchalantly. “Probably just the trick of the light.” He said, then looked back at the sky, dismissing the topic.
Bradford turned to the sky as well, falling silent for a long moment. “You know,” He finally spoke, his voice just a decibel above a murmur, “I wouldn’t have minded being partnered to someone who wasn’t – ordinary, as long as he was a scrupulous person with a strong code of honor.”
“Is this your way of telling me you’d rather have an alien as a partner than me?” Andy asked jokingly, his heart squeezing hard, but Brad didn’t smile.
“I would have liked to know what space looked like, the planet where he came from, if he ever regretted coming here.” After a pregnant pause that Andy refused to acknowledge, Bradford stood, excused himself. Anderson heard him tapping on his phone, heard the “hello’ when Julie, his eight year old daughter picked at the other end.
Anderson watched Brad move away, then looked back at the sky and pondered Brad’s question.
If he had stayed home in his planet, if the world hadn’t exploded into nothing but small rocks and gas, the responsibility of the entire planet would have landed on his shoulders. He’d have never known the beauty of this planet, the endless possibilities and all the things he had discovered, through trial and error, and become the person he was today.
It had been Tranal, his mentor, who had drilled and planted all the seeds that had grown and shaped the man that he was today.
He didn’t regret the fact that he was just another person, that he hadn’t become the great ruler that Tranal had trained him to be. He still searched for any survivors of his planet, but it was no longer the single minded, feverish action of a desperate person.
He recalled that last glimpse of the fire, the fliers, the green figure so far away.
If he could just go back in time, would he have left without Tranal, his mentor, the only father he had ever known?
Andy heard Brad’s chuckle, the trilling laughter of Julie on the other side and knew his answer.
“To this day, I still regret that.” He whispered to the stars.
This prompt Is a continuation of a previous prompt, ‘Star Dust’ – a story about how Anderson happened to arrive on earth.