“Departing and Arriving”

by Sue Burke: short fiction

This story isn’t about departing, it’s about arriving. That’s not obvious at first, though.

As the story opens, a young woman gets into a car and drives off. She leaves people standing in front of her former home: her family, a crowd of friends, and a dog. They wave, the dog barks, everyone calls goodbye and grins madly – even the ones hiding tears.

The young woman had been direly ill, bedridden and convalescent for years, her survival not guaranteed. Early on, she started to think about travel, a dream that might or might not come true, but it was the only future she wanted to imagine.

Whenever she could, she sat in bed or on a sofa and talked to anyone, sometimes just to the dog, about travel. They shared stories, fantasies, wishes, Youtube videos, travelogs, books, souvenirs, and photos. Her friends even invited their friends just back from trips to come talk to her, since she was always delighted to hear every detail, and they always left feeling happy.

This went on for years. Once she even exchanged a few emails with an astronaut orbiting the Earth.

Slowly, her health improved. She remembered everything she’d been told, waited for relapses, planned carefully, stared hard into her future, and finally the day came when she took to the road, her dreams fulfilled – and the dreams of her family and friends. She had reached the end of the journey she really wanted to take, arriving at the best possible destination, health.

That’s the story. The only one sad at the end is the dog, who had always hoped to come along on the next journey with her.

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