The Front Porch
Maggie stepped through the door and joined them on the Porch. Her dress swayed in the uncanny breeze of arrival and the others smiled without smiling.
They spoke without movement.
“You here to watch?”
“Love to. If that’s okay.”
“You’re welcome. Always nice to see a Neighbor join us on the Porch. Did you have to come far?”
“Earth. I mean, Terra.”
Again, the assembled smiled without smiling. “We know what you mean. The transit can be difficult for a first timer. You need anything?”
She frowned slightly and smoothed down her dress. “I hope I’m presentable. Grandpa told me how to get here, but his memories haven’t been the sharpest of late. I hope I did everything right.”
“You’re here, so you did fine. Just you? No one else?”
“I wanted my brother to come, but he couldn’t wrap his head around the Front Porch. Grandpa tried to help him, but he’s too much like my dad and mom. They’re more the Garage types.”
“Nothing wrong with that. A Neighborhood takes all types.”
“I guess. Grandpa wanted badly to come himself, but Grandma has been so sick and now they’re both close to leaving for good.”
She felt them reach out to her. “That’s the hardest transit.”
“Yes. But I understand it now. Knowing I can come here will make it easier when their time comes.”
“Good. That’s why we gather. It’s a comfort.”
“I can feel it.”
A wonderful longing, the almost, stilled the Porch. Maggie craned her neck. The others motionlessly waved her forward.
“Come to the steps, Maggie. The Neighborhood is afoot.”
Maggie inched closer and room was made. There was always room. The gathered stood shoulder to shoulder, though they would never touch, never physically occupy the same space. They were related but not relativistic. The Porch enabled them to congregate and communicate, though not cohabitate.
Now, the gathered sentients watched poised above a nameless nebula, fecundly iridescent, as portals opened. Front Porches from a thousand other galaxies waved without waving and greeted their Neighbors.
Unprompted, Maggie waved without waving. She knew how. Second nature that was really first nature. Why else would we build our homes to face outward? To welcome.
She had come far to remember this.
She would remember for her grandparents and parents and brother. For us all. She’d remind us of our first instinct, our best nature. A greeting, a gravity wave, from the Front Porch.