By: Evelyn Jin
When I think of Terra, I think of how Mama used to tell me tales of the stars. I was just a child, maybe seven or eight, when she’d clutch me tight to her chest with one hand and hold my head against hers with the other. Then, Mama would point to a constellation and whisper its story.
“All stars have a story. Most have faded through time thus we say they never had one,” she’d smile faintly at me. “It isn’t true. We all started from somewhere. We must not forget our origins.’
Her favorite constellation was the Argo Navis. Papa would come in by that time and remind her that it was split up into four constellations. The Carina, the Vela, the Puppis, and the Pyxis. Mama would fire back that the Pyxis, the magnetic compass, did not exist in Ancient Greek times. Papa would simply laugh and join us in star gazing as Mama told me the story of Jason and his Argonauts.
I’ve always assumed that Mama loved the Argo Navis because she was a scientist. An aerospace engineer. Not just any, but the granddaughter of the head engineer who launched Argo. The first spacecraft that brought a man to Mars.
That day marked the beginning of when mankind had started migrating to the planets.
Mama left for Mars on my sixteenth birthday. She had received an offer to be one of the first immigrants to the newly terraformed colony a couple of months ago. Papa nearly ripped the paper up later that night, after Mama told us she would leave, with or without us. The next morning, none of them spoke a word of it. I assumed Papa had settled it. He did, in a way.
The night before, when I got up for a glass of water, I noticed a ray of light shining through the crack of the door to Mama’s office. She was rummaging through clothes, throwing folders, and rushing past the pictures on the wall. Mama kneeled, zipping up the suitcase when she finished. It took a whole minute for Mama to notice I was standing behind her, clutching the boarding pass for her starflight to Mars.
“You’re coming back, right?”
Mama pursed her lips for a long time. “Send a hologram when you’ve changed your mind.”
“What about Papa?” My knuckles must have been white.
“He chose Terra.”
She left the next morning before I woke up. Two boarding tickets were left on her desk, along with our framed pictures of all of us under the stars. Papa shut himself away for the next month. The patio went forgotten. I never stopped blaming both of them for stealing those nights. After all, they only thought of their research. Of their world.
Mama was an adventurer. Papa was not. Mama always wanted to see more of the worlds. Papa said their world was right here. And me, I was their only bridge but even a bridge could not stop a traveler from turning around. I knew that Mama would never come back the moment she made up her mind. If anything, she’d leave again for another planet.
Tonight the night was clear, which was a rarity. Nuclear energy plants had been adopted too late for the skies to be saved but tonight, tonight I could see the stars from my glass-domed room. I could also Papa sitting on the rails of the patio, staring up at the only red twinkle from above, waiting. He was always waiting.
Mama once told me that you had to dig deep to find gold. I asked her how you would know where to dig. She said, “We somehow always know where to find water in a desert.”
I watched him for another moment before shutting off the lights for rest. Papa never understood that Mama had a desert within her.
The Asphodel Meadows
I imagine myself as one of the lost souls wandering in the Asphodel Meadows. It is a place overlooked in Ancient Greek Mythology, where the forgotten often drift through for eternity. It is a place of never-ending fields of flowers softly shimmering a delicate ghost white, tall stalks of them littered everywhere. These pretty flowers quickly become plain when you realize they are all you see. They become tasteless. They make you feel faceless.
It is said that the souls who spend the rest of their existence in these meadows merely wander. They lose their voice, their memory, and most of all, their identity. How cruel and immoral, you might say, but there are worse fates. Or at least, that’s what they say.
Tartarus is where the worst of them end up. It is a hell where convicts are staggered with eternal torture and pain as consequence for their actions. Those in the Asphodel Meadows, they, at least, do not feel nor remember. Not even an inkling of their memory. They no longer have the capacity to ache.
They are not chained down like the souls burning in hell.
Yet is it truly a better fate? Those damned in the abysmal depths of Tarturus are subjected to remember forever. They are subjected to remember their crimes so they never forget what they are paying for, why they deserve their punishment. But is it truly a better fate for those wandering in the Asphodel Meadows to simply exist? Or is it a better fate for those chained in hell to remember their crimes along with their memories, regrets, and hopes? Even despite the pain?
There is a better option, as there always subjectively is, and that is the Elysian fields. This is where the heroes go after their deaths. The ones who died for a purpose. The ones who left a mark. These lusterful fields are the paradise that allows these souls to live and to laugh and to be commended joyfully as a promise for a happy afterlife.
Often, these souls dance until they choose to rebirth for the chance of returning to the Elysian fields once again. Each and every single time, they go through a trial. The judges of the underworld must deem their contribution worthy enough each time to make it back to the plains. And those that do make it, they are the ones who have made a difference in the world and those who died a hero. Good. Meaning, they died better than worse, exceptional not mediocre.
It should be remarked that the Asphodel Meadows are the largest for good reason. And that most souls there still wander aimlessly.