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by Paul Alex Gray

When he first came home, his hair was red-tinged, like his grandmother’s. It rubbed off in his sleep, speckling the white linen sheets of his crib. You said he looked like a bald man at the pub.

Today, in the golden afternoon light, his hair seems as dark as yours. Walking along the hospital corridor, he clutches your hand tight, and you aren’t sure who is more nervous. The doctors smile reassuringly, showing you the ultrasound, explaining that everything is as it should be. They tell you to enjoy the summer and come back next year.

That night, you lay together in his bed after story time, counting glowing stars stuck on the ceiling. He yawns and places his head on your chest.

I can feel your heart beeping.

You can’t help but yawn in return. You run your fingers through his hair.

How many times does your heart beat in your whole life?

You think of the calculation, set an equation in your mind but the numbers float away.

I’m not sure. But it would be a lot.

A million?

Probably. Yes, a million.

Outside, the cicadas hum, an energy packed in tight.

If your heart beat forever would you live forever?

Sshh now, it’s late.

You hold his hand. It’s too big too fit in yours now. You watch him in the dim light until at last his eyes close. You stay, not quite ready to get up. You know you should. There are things to do, but your eyes are heavy. The summer night wraps around you, and the softness of his breathing lulls you away.

Once, the whole world fit into your cupped hands.

Paul Alex Gray enjoys writing linear and interactive fiction starring sentient black holes, wayward sea monsters, curious AIs and more. His work has been published in Nature Futures, Andromeda Spaceways, PodCastle and others. Paul grew up by the beaches of Australia, then traveled the world and now lives in Canada with his wife and two children. On his adventures, Paul has been a startup founder, game designer and mentor to technology entrepreneurs. Chat with him on Twitter @paulalexgray or visit www.paulalexgray.com.