1. After sending off the communique, he ran the diagnostics, which confirmed what he already knew. The thing was remaining on its new course. Returning to the big window, he watched as the nebula crawled over Earth like an animal swallowing a large round pill. Slowly…slowly…until…
2. Leaving the control room, he continued through the building, opening each door he came to. All of the offices were empty, but now that he was aware of them, he spotted the discarded clothing. A cell phone. A mug of coffee that had been dropped when the person who’d been holding it suddenly vanished. Or melted. Or whatever the hell had happened to them.
3. He started to refresh his drink when the wind picked up, sending the leaves on the trees into a tizzy. Aldyn glanced up at the moon in time to see one of those stars suddenly drop. It continued to fall a considerable distance before it snuffed itself out. He followed its descent, until he caught sight of the hazy white figure standing at the end of the yard.
4. Stopping the car, he got out and turned his face to the sky. “If you can hear me, Susannah, I’m sorry! I’m sorry I yelled at you! Please come back! Yeah, I’m mad, but I’m not mad at you! I know you didn’t have anything to do with the creation of that nebula! You’re not responsible for it getting away from you! You were stuck with a shitty job of cleaning up after it, and I…I took my anger out on you! And I’m sorry! Please come back!” He pointed to a subdivision just up the road. “Look! I’m going over to that part of town to see if they have electricity. If they do, just look for this SUV, okay?” He patted the hood. “I’ll leave it parked outside.”
5. For the next several nights, Susannah kept him company. Each time she appeared more solid and less ethereal as the moon also filled. She was able to hold things of a heavier weight, until finally, when one time she accidentally touched his arm, he’d felt it. So Aldyn adjusted his internal clock as he would if he worked a graveyard shift—sleeping during the day so he could be awake and alert when she came to be with him. He’d also covered his bedroom windows with aluminum foil to keep the sunlight from penetrating inside.
6. He pointed to Susannah. “She’s saved me in more ways than I can explain. We may not be able to have any children, but she’s made my life worth living. If she leaves, if you abandon me here to fend for myself, you will kill me as surely as if you aimed some kind of ray gun at me and pulled the trigger. And then you will become the instrument of my death. You will have broken your vow, or whatever oath you took, or whatever promise you made when you took on this mission.” Aldyn poked a thumb at his chest. “I’m the only survivor you’ve found after tagging behind that nebula for how long? And now you’re just going to go your merry way and pretend I never existed? Fine. Go. Get the hell off my planet. I’ll dig my own grave, thank you.”