Ash Wednesday by Joseph Young

Ash Wednesday

They’d landed on the Fourth Moon in time for the fireworks. The upper atmosphere mostly methane, they’d only have to shoot a flare above them to get flames of orange, red, and green in bloom across the sky.

He held her hand. The new gloves were touch-sensitive and he could feel the sweat of her palm and nervous wriggle in her fingers. Are you afraid? he wanted to ask her. He was.

After the show, they walked into the dark. The air was clogged with night and only 20 feet from the platform they could hardly see, but for the reflections from their suits.

I want to take my helmet off, she said. I want to kiss you again.

She’d been saying so for weeks, since they’d fled the solar system and any oxygen. She put her hands to the shoulder buckles and pulled them up a quarter inch.

Darling! he said. He grasped her wrists and yanked them toward him. Don’t be foolish.

Foolish, she answered, the dust of disgust in her throat. I’m always the foolish one in this opera. Always the girl.

His heart stopped, started, his veins contracting with the pressure. I only meant you wouldn’t get the chance. You’d be dead in the instant.

No kidding? She raised her hands and showed her palms to the excessive sky. She brought them to the buckles again. Apologize or I will.

I’m sorry!

If you hadn’t been such a coward we could have stayed and fought. We could have kissed before they shot us in the heart.

He made to spit on the ground, but of course he couldn’t. You’re just a girl, he said. And foolish.

She looked toward the platform and the bright lights flickering like dim stars. Her wastewater recycling had started in her suit and it swooshed in her ears.

I just want to kiss you, she said. And I hate you.

I’m sorry, he said again. He loved her and her heart was gone. She was the sun, the dandelion, they’d watched from the window vanish. Just one more day and we’ll do it. We’ll take them off.

You won’t, she said, and then you’ll be alone. Soot was blowing through the sky, remnants, perhaps, of their planets. You’ll have to give me up, she said. I’m your girl.


Ash Wednesday


Joseph Young writes and makes art in Baltimore. His book of microfiction, Easter Rabbit, was released in 2009 from Publishing Genius, and his chapbook, 5 drawings of the maryland sky, from Ink Press in 2012. Links to these books, as well as other writing and art, can be found at


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