Evening Will Find Itself
They still walked backward, slow and stubborn, listening toward the north for the end of it because it takes an awful lot of character to quit anything when you are losing, and they had been walking backward slow for a year now so all they had left was not the will but just the ability, the grooved habit to endure.
— Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner
A creme-colored placard rests drearily in the center of the room. The table beneath it is a perfect circle of steel, it's singular central leg riveted to the space station's floor. Thrumming engines jostle an enameled lump of metal and ribbon in front of the placard with tinkling vibrations that ring hollow in the broad emptiness of the room. An award for a long-forgotten battle or action of merit now lacking both the context of its bestowal and the subject it honored. Faint tobacco odors stir in the air, tease the edges of sense memory, before dissolving back into the aether.
Still air awaits words. Waits for even the faintest stir to speak once more the universe into existence; to sing the songs that weave the wind. But for now there is only the fluorescent hum of sickly lights, the faraway hum of engines long thought stilled, and the jangle of the medal against riveted steel. So the room waits in silence, a stage with no play, for the void to be filled again with the voices that speak meaning into vacant places.
A creme-colored placard looms over a cast-off medal, bearing a single word scratched in rough lines of ashy ink: