New Story Published: “A Witness to All That Was” in Analog

Scott William Carter   May 11, 2011  

I have a new story out, a far future science fiction tale called “A Witness to All That Was.”  It’s appeared in the July/August double issue of Analog.  The opening is below.  If you enjoy these types of stories, you should consider subscribing to the magazine.  If you have a Kindle, you can subscribe that way, or even buy single issues.

A Witness to All That Was

Scott William Carter

It was just another dead planet, as useless and wasted as their marriage.  That was what Marco thought when he saw the brown smudge of a world for the first time — and of course he felt an immediate pang of guilt for thinking it.

“Any signs of life?” he said.

He didn’t look at Kelsie when he said this.  He was afraid to look at her.  He was afraid that if she saw his eyes, she’d know what he’d been thinking.  She’d always been so good at that — reading him, knowing exactly what was on his mind.  After ten years together, most of it spent almost exclusively in each other’s company as they scoured the universe looking for treasures in the aftermath of a war that desolated ninety-eight percent of the colonized universe, you’d think he would have gotten good at reading her too.  But he hadn’t.  He’d never been.  And it had only gotten worse since they’d lost Trevor.  More and more, he didn’t think he knew her at all.

“No,” she said.

She sounded mildly irritated, and he thought maybe she was on to him, but of course she usually sounded mildly irritated.  Sometimes not so mildly.  Sometimes she sounded like she outright hated him.  And who could blame her?

He stole a glance at her.  In the cramped cockpit of the Buggywhip, wires dangling everywhere as he kept patching their poor ship to keep it running, and half the control panel circuitry exposed, Kelsie was almost invisible.  Gray uniform, gray skin, gray hollowed out eyes — even her hair looked more gray than blond these days.  All that gray blended into the circuit boards and the panel doors and the bulkheads.  God, she wasn’t even forty yet and she looked like a cadaver.

“Any energy signatures?” he asked.  The planet really did look awful — like a sweaty fingerprint on the thick glass of their cockpit window.

“No.”

“Well,” he said, “I guess we’ll start on that southern continent.  That’s likely where there was the most life, near the equator.”

She didn’t say anything.  She didn’t even bow her head — just went on staring ahead like some kind of zombie.  Or a ghost.  That’s what she’d become to him, really — a living, breathing ghost.  Suddenly he hated her for not looking at him.  He’d looked at her, hadn’t he?  He’d been able to do that much.

“Okay,” he said tersely, “I’ll set the coordinates–”

“Wait,” she said.

“What?”

“There is something,” she said, finally a little bit of life in her voice.  “It’s very faint — but yes, there’s something down there.  Something running on artificial power.”