In the Bright
Sunday, August 9, 2009

Parallels on dinnertime events in two very different places. Reflective. Set during the series.


The knife clinked against the fine bone china, scraping as a stubborn piece of roast refused to be cut. Two pairs of eyes looked up, startled, but not a soul said anything to break the silence.

It had been this way for nearly a year now. Two well-kept, well dressed strangers sitting at opposite ends of a mahogany table built for fourteen, both sipping rich soups and eating the finest game birds in the Core. As the man finally severed the sliver of meat from its whole, a deep sigh passed through his lips. It was louder than usual.

“Is there something wrong?” a thin voice asked, trilling like the song of fragile birds. There was a faraway look in the woman’s eyes, and the man knew that she was spending a king’s ransom to cover the tear-tracks and the gray hairs that appeared soon after the children had left.

He swallowed. “No. Nothing’s wrong.” He swallowed again. They both knew it was a lie.

The room felt cold. Vaulted ceilings, plush chairs, even the most expensive panel-flooring to be had on all of Osiris. The temp regulator read: 76 degrees.

There were nights he could hear them. Light, happy voices that would run eagerly to the table, sometimes still discussing the fallacy of a schoolbook theory or a pretend battle against the Independent forces or the latest examination or recital. He looked across the table, seeing her melancholy face staring light years into the past. The maid had said she had been in their rooms again, fingering old texts and the faces of a few porcelain dolls in ballet poses. What he himself wouldn’t give to hear those voices again.

She had been happy. He willed himself to believe that. She had been happy; she had wanted to go. When the boy tried to tell him otherwise…

Silence reigned. Cold, unflinching silence. He remembered his words in the station. His eyes closed in shame every time he recalled them, which was more often now of late.

“It’s been almost a year,” she said, her red hair falling in front of her worry-worn face. “A whole year…”

“Yes,” he replied. It wasn’t a subject he liked to talk about. People still spoke in hushed whispers around him in public. The dinner invitations had gotten fewer and farther between. Every morning at six he could still see their images plastered across the news banner just outside his office; the washed out and almost ghostly photographs of them culled from old ident cards, their names emblazoned in bold, dark letters large enough for the blind to see.

It was almost a year ago that those light voices had made their escape, vanishing into the vast unknowns of space. Every morning he half-expected to see a headline detailing their capture or untimely deaths. He knew the old saying about no news, but it still didn’t make any of this easier to bear.

Silently, the couple finished their dinners, leaving empty plates for the maids in the empty room that they habitually inhabited each night. Sitting by the fire, the man turned a roving eye towards the night sky, wondering what had become of his children.


The table was crowded. Hands of all sizes reached for what little food there was to be had, most of it made up of bright blocks of protein supplement and a few dried herbs kept by the resident chaplain. It was all the boy could do to keep a piece of bread for the young mechanic he often sat next to at dinner, who was at the moment tinkering with a ‘slight hiccup’ in the engine block of the Firefly the group was sailing on.

Words spewed forth as the conversations grew loud, even racous. Funny stories, tall tales, bits and pieces of histories from an abbey or flight school or even a battlefield, no matter how legitimate or small. Above, the distant stars in the infinite space twinkled like miniature night lights.

Looking next to him, the boy noticed his sister staring off into space, silent among the amiable chatter. “River? Is something…?”

“They miss us.”

The table grew quiet, though one person continued eating as though nothing had been said.


“Cannot forgive, Simon, but they wonder. Is there more bread?”

“Who wonders?” one of their tablemates asked, making a statement in a loud tropical-print shirt.

“I don’t…”

“Sent us away,” the girl called River said eerily, causing a few hairs on several people’s necks to turn up. “Think we’re dark. We’re in the bright.” Seconds later, the girl snatched the last roll out of a giant hand. “Got you!” she cried, holding up her prize. “Munch, munch.”

The sight of the girl, dressed in ill-fitting hand-me-downs nearly dancing in her chair over her ‘prize’ made the table break out into giggles. “She wants her shiny hat, captain.”

“What’s this? Don’t remember anythin’ about no shiny hat…”

“Proper attire for queens of Londinium. She has the prize. Now for her hat.”

Muffled giggles turned into uproarious laughter. The boy shook his head, thinking little on that which he had so long ago left behind.


Sunday, August 9, 2009 4:52 PM


Beautifully done in layers of imagery. I could almost smell the food and I could definitely feel the emotions - good AND bad. Loved the reference that only one person didn't stop eating (who would that be). But your last line was just perfect. You made me sorry for Mrs. Tam, but Mr. Tam seems unrepentant.

Sunday, August 9, 2009 7:24 PM


Very visceral and wonderfully written. I love the descriptions and the contrasts between the scenes.

Sunday, August 9, 2009 8:36 PM


Oh, my. Happy and sad at the same time. Or perhaps I should say sad and happy...
Very good stuff.

Monday, August 10, 2009 6:52 AM


That piece has a wonderful use of tone for all the characters involved. Well Done. It hit's the sorrow and the joy perfectly.

Monday, August 10, 2009 7:33 AM


Loved this! Lovely juxtaposition and humour at the end.

Monday, August 10, 2009 11:39 AM


I liked the stark contrast between Regan and Gabriel Tam's solemn empty meal taking and the boisterous warmth of their now free children in their new home on Serenity. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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