The Secret of Secrets
The Stars Call Us Home
a novel about a family in the 32nd Century
T. Van Santana
Sometimes you have to stop everything. It’s not convenient. It’s not what you want. But you have to because the call’s so important.
So when my father went into emergency over his heart, I put my seventh book down, cleared my book of secrets, and rocketed with my wife and child to the Big Planet, that culturally bereft annex of the Ministry Homeworld.
My dad’s not the easiest person for me to talk with. There’s some longstanding pain between us. By the time his heart started to choke, we’d put a lot of that right, but there’s still the moment to moment of it, the difficulty in how to connect with another person who’s so similar to you but also so different.
If you’ve read any of my books, you already know how I feel about medicine and physicians. But I checked that shit at the gravity door to the hospital. I wasn’t bringing any weapons or baggage. I wasn’t there on a crusade to fuck people up over ideological differences in the care of human suffering. I was there to see my dad.
Security’s tight but not secretist tight. I see the fatigue in the doorman’s eyes. I see the newness in the guard’s step. I see the idleness of the kinnys watching the registers from their perches. If this were a Ministry set up, I’d be nervous. But it’s not. It’s a hospital. And even though I was sure important people—in that dubious political sense of the word—came through here, this was not a hot spot for terrorism or anything. So I relaxed and smiled at the pretty man behind the desk.
“How many adults?” he asked.
“Two,” I said.
He coded my broadcast, then Lila’s.
“He doesn’t need one?” Lila asked of Mason.
“No, he’s good,” the desk guard said. “Kids don’t need ‘em.”
I didn’t get into the sloppiness of letting kids wander through a health facility untagged ‘cause, again, that’s not why I’d come.
“Thanks,” I said.
“You all have a nice visit.”
Lila, carrying Mason, followed me down the sky-grabbing halls, her face showing me she’s feeling the expanse of the place, so quiet and cool, holding all this suffering together.
I let my eyes keep showing me things like that. They’re augmented and trained, so I could see all sorts of shit that others missed, including things like brainwaves and heart rates and breathing patterns. But it’s all seamlessly integrated through the kinesic register that’s welded to my fucking cerebral cortex. You know, figuratively speaking. They didn’t actually weld the motherfucker in there. It’s a sensitive piece of neurological firmware. And the they I mean is my former lover, Cobie. She’s an ophthalmologist, but she’d acted as my private physician for a while because I wanted to stay off the grid.
I’d talked with Cobie right after I’d gotten the news about Dad because she’s a doc.
“It sounds promising,” she said. “He’s young for this sort of procedure, so his chances for survival are better. His recovery time will probably be shorter too.”
My eyes were heavy and swollen. “Survive?”
I could see her loosen her manner some. “He’s gonna be all right, Teresa.”
“Yes. He’ll be fine. He’s in perfect health otherwise. I’ve looked up the operator, and she’s quite good. He’ll be fine.”
She, of course, could not actually promise me that. She’s not the one doing the surgery. But I appreciated the kindness.
“How’re the wedding plans coming along?”
Cobie bit her lip. “I’m not into it.”
I smirked. “No?”
“No. I’m letting her take the lead on everything. Because she is very into it.”
I shook my head. “Don’t do it, Cobes. You gotta get in there and make some choices. Show up.”
“I just don’t get it,” Cobie said.
“The whole wedding thing. It’s a big expensive stupid party.”
“It’s not,” I said. “It’s a symbol.”
She shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a literalist.”
“Yes, that’s very true.” I stood up and pawed at my eyes. “But you’ll feel it, Cobie. If you let yourself.”
The tears came into my eyes again.
She put her arm around me. “It’s going to be okay.”
“I know,” I said. “But grief’s the doorway to reality.”
I thought about that as I led my family up the stairs and through the smooth parting orifices of the hallways, to the family lobby, not even sure what I was grieving.
This is a book about family. Yeah, it’s about my family in particular, but I hope it means something to you and yours. Because it’s about family but still set against the science fiction-y turmoil of my life in the 32nd Century secrets trade, it’s a bit different from the others in the series.
I am going to be honest in this one. As honest as I can be. I’ve always done my best to be honest with you, but the recombination of fears and dalliance has proven difficult to resist over these seven books. See. I’m already doing it again. Let me back up and try to explain.
See I want to be a writer, and that’s not good. I am a writer, of course, and that’s fine. But trying to be a writer is a fool’s errand. Fuck. Did it again. Trying to be anything other than yourself is a bad idea. How’s that? That’s pretty honest. And I’m trying to be just me. And so—like I did in The Thieves of All That You Are—I’ll do my best to reveal some things to you.
The Secret of Secrets is my life in the blender, pureed and served cold. See? That’s writerly bullshit. I’m scared to let you know me, who I am, so I’ve done my best to show you from behind my own hands. That’s better. ‘S got some imagery to it, but it’s still honest. I’m not putting you on in any way. So I haven’t lied, exactly, because I’ve never told you it was all true, and we both know you’re reading fiction here, but I have been dishonest from time to time. I hope you can see in this introduction of sorts—and I fucking hate an introduction, no offense to anyone who doesn’t—that my intentions are honest.
So let’s try again, shall we, In The Stars Call Us Home. Thank you for your time, especially if it’s time you could be spending with your family. If you feel guilty about taking the time, don’t. We all need what we need if we’re gonna thrive and have anything to offer our families and our world. But I’m very aware that there is never as much time with anyone as we hope. This book’s about that, too. So thank you for your gift of time. Hope you enjoy the book.
T. Van Santana
City of Rivers, Ministry Homeworld