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By Jaclyn Costello

No one talked about the difficulty of the first transition because no one could talk at that time. We weren’t even apes. Barely sentient beings. Un-cognizant of our own evolution happening. A leaf pushed in the wind. Twigs swept on the stream. We simply became, suddenly.

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This time, the second time, the transition was faster, and we were conscious all the way through. Still no one warned us of the pain. The ache of letting go. The sadness when releasing our human selves in exchange for something more — astronomical. God-like. Alien. Flesh infused with radical machinery.

The day the microchips arrived it was “strongly suggested” we plant them into our brains. When smartphones and laptops became obsolete, the chips became mandatory.

Many of us refused. Turned wild and archaic like old National Geographic magazines. We retreated from the cities for a quarter century while the rest of the world kept evolving.

When we returned, we brought with us the wisdom we’d gathered from the trees, the sacred songs we harbored in our hearts, the feelings we believed to be more precious than all the downloads and programming.

We tried to tell the others of the value humans had, of their capacity to love so tenderly, but the others had progressed beyond their memories, so our pleas meant nothing to these new beings.

None of the technological angels could feel anything.

It was a Monday at 14:33. I looked up just in time to see his figure disappear in the snow upon the horizon.

Going for a run on a day like this? I sent him telepathically.

I meditated in the temple above the barn until early evening. When the moon rose, Azrael sent a message back to me.

Developing an idea — the un-trackable way — but I’m out of recording devices.

Should I bring you a paper and pen? I responded.

Paper and pen?

I have many ancient things.

I left the temple in the cold. Out to the tundra, remembering: the very beginning when humans first found each other and cuddled together to keep from freezing.

Watch out for the cougars, Azrael sent.

I trekked through the woods to the clearing beyond the row of painted prayer wheels. Azrael was laying on the ground in his hut, designing a space ship made entirely of water. He wanted us to blast off together once his ship was complete.

Almost everyone was leaving the planet, slowly but surely. Azrael did not want to wait. He sought ascension immediately.

When he’d finished his sketch, we lit up his wrist and watched a broadcast on ‘junk’ DNA.

“Are you going to activate yours tonight?” he asked.

“No. Maybe someday.”

“I’m doing mine tonight,” he nodded. Then — “Did you decide to come with me?”

“I won’t leave my husband.”

Azrael sighed. “What is love like?”

I looked into his eyes. “I feel it everywhere. In my bones and body. It’s the hardest thing to release. I’d like to take it with me.”

“How else does it make you feel?”

“Blessed.”

“What’s that?”

“Protected by something.”

“A fire-wall?” Azrael asked.

“No. It’s a feeling.”

Azrael nodded, but his attention did not release me. Every day after that for eleven weeks, I received a message from him.

You don’t have to wait around for your number to be pulled. We can leave as soon as my ship is complete. We’ll be among the first to ascend. We’ll be history.

My husband was playing the guitar and sipping a sugary drink.

“Love?” I tried one more time. “Would you like to leave the planet with me?”

“Nope,” he said. “I’ll be right here, dying with the old way of being.”

“Can I please enter a number for us in the lottery? When it’s called, we can leave together.”

“I’m a man of simplicity,” he said. “I’m staying in the world I know.”

That night, I watched him sleep. Heavy eyelids. Steady breath. I wanted to make love to him one more time, to feel the weight of his human body. I thought maybe his body would ground me, act as an anchor to stop me from floating into space where I might encounter the greatest of mysteries — that terrifying, beautiful, starlit collection of unknown energies.

I didn’t wake my husband. I entered his closet instead. I wrapped my arms around his clothes.

“I don’t want to go,” I wept. “I don’t want to leave.”

“But you have to go,” my inner-voice said to me.

What are you doing? I sent to Azrael. I caught glimpse of him in my mind. He stood at the edge of a nameless field. An abandoned war barrack beside him. He wore an alpaca-wool scarf.

Waiting for you, he sent. You should leave now. There’s a new moon tonight. It’s the perfect night to ascend.

I moved undetected in the snow. Silently through the trees. I’d activated the rest of my DNA. The ultimate technology. My internal gravity disappeared as my memory began fading. I was ready for the next evolution. Set to create a new mythology. Severed. Untethered. Unrecognizable as human. The warmth in my eyes, dissolving.

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About Jaclyn Costello

Jaclyn Costello received an MFA in Fiction & Poetry Writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she is now an Assistant Professor in the Honors College. Her fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have been published by Pochino Press, Crab Fat Magazine, Rivet Journal, Tiny Buddha and elsewhere. Jaclyn is currently seeking an agent for her first novel.

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