This had become his favourite place. She looked like she loved it too. She was always so full of smiles. Whenever he looked at his daughter she always seemed too perfect. The way her hair danced around her face, framing it better than when they had family portraits done. He would always treasure this place, this time.
Originally his wife had not wanted to move that far. For her anything that was extra Solaria was too far, too frontier and uncomfortable. He had convinced her of the riches to be made. They had made money for themselves. Shipping tonnes of ore across the void, selling it to be reconstituted into silica, bauxite and hydrogen. What had he read the old ones called it? That was it a ‘gold mine.’ He never understood the expression. Sure, it looked pretty, but it had no real uses. He continued to move on, his wife only there for a flicker of his mind. She was forgotten. She had left, gone back to her parents. They had not been happy for a while.
The twin rays coming from slightly different orbits revealed the age in his face. Even with his extended lifespan assured, he looked and felt old. Fortunately his wealth had bought privacy. It was just him and his daughter for at least four quadrants. If any others had witnessed this couple he would have been taken for a grandfather. Not that he would have cared, “it’s getting cold,” a comment, not a statement. For some reason it brought a pricking to his eyes. He knew she would not notice, he was good at hiding his emotions. “Come on Phi, it’s getting cold.” She did not even turn round, her gaze was held by the globe that she held in her hands. Turning it over and over. The tiny flakes of snow forming and reforming the galaxies smallest tundras.
By some artifice, a creature with four legs galloped through the fresh snowfall. Burying itself then bursting forth. With each eruption a tinkle of laughter fell from Phi’s mouth only for the sound to be whisked away on the breeze. It was getting colder. The weaker Sol Secundus was the only golden orb left in the sky, its rays stalking the night with crimson and bruise purple light. Soon the land would not look too different to Phi’s own snow globe. She always loved the snow.
“Phi, I have to go.” This is an odd thing for a father to say to a little girl. Especially when his little girl is so small. She was no more than five, so young and vital and innocent. Her moved into her eyeline just as she broke into an angelic grin, all oversized teeth and love. He just wanted to scoop her up and smell her hair. He knew better, with a heavy heart he knelt beside Phi and whispered something, something private. Something that will not be repeated here. Phi ran, not too far and sat down among the carved stones.
She hugged her knees, the way little girls do when they are content. She stared as the last few rays of the sun kissed the sky. Pregnant clouds began their laboured pains and the first few flakes of night fluttered, existing briefly then disappearing. The ground still slightly too warm to sustain them into the long night. As she looked up it as if the snow did not touch her.
He walked to the drone, a door clicked, warm air from the controlled interior spilling into the night. He swiftly clambered in. For a long time he had taken Helious, that had dulled the feeling. Now he wanted to feel so the environment was a standard oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide mix.
Motors sped up, nearly silently and he was whisked away just as he had been for over a century and a half. It never got any easier.
Phi stared into the sky, not really watching her father leave. She was still smiling. Naïve, she was left alone to the planets surface and the elements. She had nothing to worry about.
The next day, and the next, and the next was the same. Stretching on.
He got older, she did not. It became his pilgrimage. Close to the end, he was weak and haggard. Lined around the eyes and hands. Not even the cold cell regeneration would have worked, he had left it too long. He would not want it to work anyway. He knew it was time, his throat barely managed “Phi?”
She smiled. The facsimile of a smile. As he watched her, he wept, not because it was not real but because the illusion was too perfect. She kept tumbling the snow globe in her hands, caressing it. The gift was from his estranged wife, not that they were then. Shortly before she had been taken from them. Taken by means that their wealth could not prevent.
He forgot himself and reached out, like he had done at first, his hand passed right through Phi. He would not try that again.
The years trundled on. The world’s primary sun was processed for its gaseous wealth, leaving the planet barren and cold. Time passed, the point where people lost track of it and then they went the way of all species.
Still on this rock there stands a little girl, forever turning a snow globe and smiling. As the secondary sun approaches the horizon, sinking, a man holds out his hand and whispers something private. They both smile and sit, hugging their knees, looking up from where the snowflakes fall.