Never Too Late
by Taria Karillion
The following piece is the flash fiction winner of F(r)iction’s Winter 2017 Literary Contest.
Ten. There are ten people at my bedside. Family, doctors, nurses, someone from The London-Tokyo Herald, and a smart fellow in a suit who keeps mentioning Guinness and records, but I don’t like stout, and aren’t records obsolete now?
Nine. Three nines. No… someone called 999. They said we had to leave. I’m sorry but I can’t, I said. I’m in the middle of something important. This letter to you!
Eight years it’s been since you emigrated. Good for you, I say. Travel the world while you’re young, my pet. It’s harder once little ones come along. My granddaughter, the adventurer… I’m so proud.
Seven shoeboxes, your letters have filled. So thoughtful. I’m delighted that you’re planning this amazing trip. Have courage and go!
Six letters on the chart on the wall—my name and three more: D.N.R., whatever that means… My life was once changed by a letter—no, a telegram. From the Queen of England! They do that here, you know, when you reach a hundred. Do you remember the party? All of the family came. Slow down now, they said. Take things easy. But not you, bless you. We only get one go on this ride, Gran, you said. Live life to the full. So I did! And so should you.
Five months, was it? Five months will pass like blossom in spring, and your handsome Hiroto will wait for you, kawaii. He is a good man. This trip is very important. Something you will always remember and be remembered for.
Four tubes are in my arms and face. I hope they don’t scare the little ones. I have so much to smile about, though—and I learned a new joke today, so they are giggling now.
Three generations of loved ones with me—I am very honoured.
Two last jobs to do—to send my love to you, and to urge you not to feel bad that the Mission Controller has kept you in quarantine. The last thing you need in space is an illness. I do hope this letter reaches you before launch. Letters are such beautiful records of love and history. Did I tell you about my telegram from the Queen of England? I still remember opening it…
…one evening, twenty years ago.
Taria Karillion grew up in a tiny cottage in the grounds of a castle, and is supposedly descended from an infamous pirate (much to the amusement of her fencing coach at the time). But despite her historical background, after an accident with a flight of stairs, a copy of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a nasty attack of gravity, she became hopelessly addicted to science-fiction. Her stories appear in a Hagrid-sized handful of anthologies, and have won enough literary prizes and awards to half-fill his other hand. Despite this, she has no need as yet for larger millinery.