Earth was finished. Everybody knew it.

We scanned the heavens. We found another habitable planet. We called it Eden. We built an arkship. A city's worth of people, plus enough equipment to start a civilisation. Pointed it at Eden. Set it going.

Some thought it was humanity's only hope. Some thought it was an exercise in futility. Some offered millions or billions of dollars to be one of those on board. Anything to avoid being left behind.

The situation deteriorated. The arkship receded into the distance. Four decades into its journey, we lost track of it.

The situation deteriorated. Millions died. Tens of millions. Hundreds.

Then a man named Calrus discovered how to travel faster than light.

*

Eden was finished. Everybody knew it.

We scanned the heavens. We found another habitable planet. We called it Earth. We built an arkship. A city's worth of people, plus enough equipment to start a civilisation. Pointed it at Earth. Set it going.

Some thought it was humanity's only hope. But then, four decades into its journey, it passed something in space...

Laika, the only soul, dog or otherwise,
to ever knowingly be sent on a one-way mission
spent 163 days in space, most of them dead,
which amounts to 2570 unremembered orbits.



the end is just so      dark

                                
we still know love, in the future
   we are not strung out,here,at the edge   of the  stars
                                
families and couples, grouped at the windows
                                
they hold hands, they wrap their arms around
  we are unlinked,disconnected,we,so-used-to-a-small-world
                                
each other's shoulders, just comfortable
                                
in the face of the darkness, the darkness

we can barely understand what we see out the windows
                                
the darkness

     the nothing
     
     
         we have not experienced
         
         
            this
            
            
            
       drift
       
       




As quantum foam cracked and bounced Two muons emerged by random chance. One fell, ever faster, to the the singularity's maw t'other flew relativistically outward, free, untangled.

Cold dark orbits 'round a red dwarf star Two icy rocks intersect, collide, No noise, no sound, yet momentum changes The pre-planetary swarm swirls on

Giant blue stars burn fierce and fast Brighter, stronger than all around Nuclear pressure will soon deflate. Mass-energy laws will bring all to an end

That dead muon was never known No mind to witness a mighty smash, Perhaps a nova's photon will reach us here. Are things forgotten, when never known?

We know our friends, we talk, we chat. But things stay hidden, we cannot know Where a photon hints, we might chance to guess Is forgetting possible, if never we knew?

Dear God we humbly pray for the safe return of our missing loved ones

It would have been far too heart-rending for the writers of Lost In Space to cut to planet earth, exposing the horror of family and friends who prayed for the safe return of the Robinson Family, Major Don West, Dr. Zachary Smith and their loveable robot.

That was not to be, no. Instead, we were with them on their journey. "Earth" seemed to be an unmentionable; ignored in an unsettlingly dysfunctional way. But wasn't that the way we handled all things unpleasant back in the 1960s?

A show could not be remembered well that ran (in black and white in '65-'66) for only three seasons and ended just before the "small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

Certainly eclipsed by the spectacle that is Star Trek, this small-screen sci-fi bagatelle came to mind immediately when I read the title of this node.
 

Not the Space One Needs a Rocket to Explore

It occurred to me that  the tiny (probably 14-inch) Philco black and white set I was glued to for every episode of "Lost in Space" isn't itself lost in space. In fact, I know just what space that television occupies. It's in the attic of my parents' former home in Connecticut.

Along with that television set are boxes containing pieces of our lives. Homework assignments; but which ones? Cards and letters and articles of clothing. And a beach ball, long deflated.

Did dad get rid of the box from his office in New York? Is it still there?

Is my box of stuffed toys still up there; and dare I go there to see them and perhaps bring them home. To my home. Could my heart stand re-visiting all the memories that go with them? Hell, yeah. I'm strong enough for that. I'll pop a couple of Prozac and see if, somehow, I can forget the many times I thought those stuffed toys were my only friends, the only ones I could talk to or who loved me unconditionally.

I didn't know it then but came to know all too recently that my father, too, loved me unconditionally. But now dad's in space or wherever we go when suddenly our souls become detached from our corporeal beings.
 

The Space Ship

Underneath what's probably now some sort of landscaping, underneath a Weeping Willow tree, there's a pile of wood. That wood pile used to be held together with nails; it had no roof, but a window and sides and a floor. It was our spaceship, our tank, our imagination run wild. That heap of wood, long collapsed and probably mostly mulch by now, will be lost in the space that was our back yard when I forget about it. It'll still occupy space, but will indeed be forgotten. I hope the time I forget that tiny structure will be a time long away from now. It's a place I remember fondly.

 

Where I'm going with this is that time seems to be flying by these days. Someday, the space which I describe in part one hereinabove will no longer belong to me; its contents will have been cleared out. The decision to be made, not immediately but in due time, is this: do I follow the instructions of my teacher and jettison these things? He already tells me I cling to too much "stuff."

There will be so much stuff moved someday from one space to another. Will I be able to forget?

Setting up for planetfall at M'slaidia was treacherous. The world was completely enshrouded in debris of all shapes and sizes, though most was on the smaller side. The least massive items tended to be farther from the atmosphere, of course, and there was a general increase in overall mass and density the lower one went.

Navigating the middle levels was made easier because most of the umbrellas came open on ascent, for some reason, and thus they tended to sweep out clear lanes amongst all the orbiting keys and watches and pens and such. Above those levels it was a mixed bag, as all the permission slips and receipts and work orders and memos were invisible to radar, but they were of such low mass that one could pretty much just plow through them. Any bits that snagged on antennas and docking apparatus would burn up on descent through the atmosphere anyway.

Eyeglasses, of which there were untold millions, occasionally caused problems with imaging systems and solar sails when they would align with the system's star just right and focus the light on sensitive surfaces. There had been studies on retrieved debris that resulted in formulae for determining how long an item had been in orbit by counting the surface scorches from passing glasses.

The apparel layer, which had an indistinct upper boundary with the umbrellas' domain, was clotted with hats and galoshes, raincoats and sweaters, windbreakers and scarfs, and a surprising quantity of undergarments. Individual articles had too little metal to reflect radar scans sufficiently, but since apparel tended to clump (static electricity) the aggregate reflections were easily discernable and displayed a tell-tale signature, so steering around them was mostly automated.

M'slaidian scientists had been studying the 'forgotten items in space' phenomenon intently in the hundred years since the planet was terraformed and colonized, but they had made little progress. The stereotypical tendencies of 'absent minded scientific types' were exacerbated by their immersion in the very environment they were studying, and much ground had to be covered over and over. The concensus was that the accretion disc of the nearby black hole, which the system's sun orbited at some 197 AU, gave out weak electromagnetic pulses at a frequency close to that of the theta waves of the human brain. The atmosphere of M'sladia still retained a rarified remnant of the original ultra weak plasma it had before the terraforming, and the mental stress of those who had temporarily lost vital accessories resonated with the pulses from the accretion disc, setting off vorticies in the plasma which would somewhow sweep up those items and propel them skyward. In the early days of the colony the effects had been inconsequential, with papers moving across the room or keys falling from tables, but when the millions had arrived on the first waves of transports, the combined energy caused the vorticies to coalesce, like dust devils, punching up higher and higher, setting up standing waves around the cities and establishing persistent pathways for all the flotsam to ascend clear into orbit.

The most perilous were the outermost orbital levels, those seemingly free of debris. Passengers were strongly advised to sleep or be sedated during planetary approach or departure, though many resisted because they wanted to see the spectacular caul around the planet and the lovely seas and cloud patterns below. The problem was that those who were conscious had a truly bewildering clamor of stray, seemingly meaningless thoughts flood their minds. Dates, addresses, names, numbers from every point on the line would all intrude on their inner monologues. The theta pulses swept up synaptic patterns most easily of all. Moreover, facts and figures forgotten by travelers while in orbit were the strongest and loudest, since they had lost little energy reaching escape velocity; the seeming contextual relevance of the factoids was often enough to trigger full scale panic attacks and set off additional waves of forgetting.

Quite often travellers who stayed awake for the descent then found themselves in the arrivals terminal luggage carousel with no idea which bag, if any, was theirs; from time to time a lone straggler would wander out to the mag-lev depot with no idea what destination to ask for; these cases were why visitors were required to submit detailed itineraries before arrival and the terminals were so well-staffed with compad-toting guides. Transport crewmembers essential to the landing and ascent processes were the only ones who weren't sedated, but they were dosed with specialized psychotropics that rendered them little more than robots for that phase of the journey.

The rest of the Hegemony seemed to pay little mind to the problems of this backwater planet, given the inherently difficult trade and communication problems.

When the M'sladia region was overtaken by the Pakraticon Horde, it was hardly noticed.

the flotsam of
a hundred satellite launches
the detritus of
a hundred missions
drifting, floating, unnoticed and forgotten
by all but the skywatchers who observe and who wait
a glove, a camera, a pair of pliers, some rubbish bags
jettisoned boosters, dispensable probes, leaking reactors
drawn slowly in, inevitably, inexorably
debris littered beyond the cloudscape
casually tossed aside as if
space were mere soil or water or air

So... I just misplaced my keys in the calm beautiful immensity of the cosmos. Dammit.
Lost beyond time, no chromatic rockets or special effects can possibly get them back.
I search the sky in vain, peering into previously unexplored corners of the universe,
nonchalantly munching on particles of donuts and sugar...
where are my fucking keys I wonder ?

Miniscule electromagnetic waves pass by as I sigh, quarks and strings,
satellites and micrometeorites. Too much Space and too many parasites;
" I'm moving to the cyburbs " the Little Prince told me once.
Something shines beyond some gas giant, but of course it turns out
to be the last remnant of some alien ship's bipropellant.

The Sun, he scratches himself, and flings down his photons like nobody's business.
Ziggy's there choking on golden glittery stardust, cursing interstellar debris,
I doubt he'd help me. In the rear-view mirror of my now stalling saucer I see
the Lofstrom loop and some mutants dressed in retrofuturist space suits.
They snicker and begin throwing laser beams in my direction.
What the hell, is this a shitty day or just my impression ?

The protophasons of encephalic half-life are leaking away from my body.
What was it I was looking for again ? I forget already.

I'M SIGNIFICANT!

...screamed the dust speck.

with apologies to Bill Waterson


We know not of other interplanetary civilisations.
Could they know about us?
If they did, surely we would know about them,
and we would enslave some
to be experimented on
and we would shoot some
because they frightened us
and we would scare some away
as they misinterpret our greetings
and we would bore some
as we are an inferior species.
So
Do they even want to know about us?
Is it just their paranoia keeping them away?

No. They do not know about us,
and we are
forgotten.

We are all forgotten,
in the depths of space.

In a waste of hell-lit emptiness just inside the orbit of Mercury there spins a small metal shape. It is a bolt, instantly recognizable; threaded at one end, with a hexagonal head. Despite its time sharing the cosmos with hard radiation and fast-moving dust, it remains mostly coated with oxidized aluminum. Faint shiny parts show where that coating, legacy of its birth within atmosphere, has been abraded away by collision with particles large and small.

Somewhere in Saturn's ring system, within the orbit of Enceladus, there is a perturbance in the E-ring which shows itself as a thinner density of fragments and dust. At the center of this swirl lies a regular shape, perhaps the size of two clenched fists. Many years ago, it arrived at its present position in a slowly shrinking orbit, spiraling in from the emptiness outside Saturn's ecliptic. Power long gone, the relay camera had sent its last images of the ring system out into the void, unknowing and uncaring if they were received by the fast-moving probe that had spawned it. Now it rests within the bosom of the ring, collisions with ring matter equalizing its velocity, and slow-moving ripples from its arrival still crawl across space, visible only as third-order integrals of millions of tiny movements.

Near Ceres there is a boxy aberration, thrown clear from the surface of that planetismal when its power failed and its mooring motors froze. Four shock-absorbing legs still project from one end, but no longer face the asteroid; the shape is slowly rotating, legacy of its unplanned exodus and of centripetal acceleration. Each orbit is slightly shorter, as energy gifted it by a passing chunk of iron and silica is slowly lost to the tiny gravity well in which it wearily begins to settle back. One day it will brush the surface of the worldlet, and the energy of its freedom will quickly rush away in the scraping friction of contact.

Hundreds of thousands of meters above the surface of Mars, a satellite spins slowly, empty camera eyes still peering down at the reddish surface unrolling below it. The warmth of radioisotopes still glows within its heart, but not brightly enough to charge its batteries. It keeps vigil for its lost masters, oriented by a tethered weight some half-kilometer beneath it. Lenses still clear and bright, every hundred days enough solar radiation has trickled through its widespread sails to allow a single plaintive status packet, sent outbound. Every hundred days, it waits in vain for an answer.

If you look closely, a cylinder spins above the cloudy atmosphere of the third planet. It, too, remains oriented by tether, and solar wings spread wide. Just beyond the end, a figure drifts, four limbs akimbo and gold foil glinting from a helmet opened by the gloved hands' last act. Frozen desiccated orbs look down on an opaque wall of radiation and pollution, still in defiance of the last commands from home.

A single capsule sits, still clamped to the station's frame. It stopped chiming its patient call to board an unknown time ago.

There's more than dust in the center, and I suppose this is why things fall apart.  When a satellite explodes, the pieces may move outward, but the center of mass stays in the same place.  You can expand, extend, blossom, swell; it won't change a thing.  The center remains.  Conservation of momentum is a bitch sometimes.

The only way to escape this horrifying eternity of being is to focus on one part of yourself, to the exclusion of all others.  In this frame of reference there can be change and development and motion.  This is how things stay sane.

The only problem is that to do this you must deny a part of yourself.  Focused on finding motion and vigor, you don't even acknowledge the existence of a part of your being.  You can have peace, but you must pay with part of your soul. 

The forgotten is what we've given up in our zeal to deny our elemental selves.  And I am the worst of all for having realized this and still done nothing.

we know of an ancient radiation
that haunts dismembered constellations
of faintly glimmering radio stations



Less than 0.01% of television ever broadcast is available to watch,
said the speaker at the conference today, aiming to change this state of affairs.
Showing figures of declining costs of terabyte storage, and slides of a plan for networked Digital Video Recorders, exchanging torrent seeds to serve you anything shown any time.
On demand. Crowdsourcing.

The only way to watch some old, lost episodes of Doctor Who (Staring William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton or Jon Pertwee) is to go to Alpha Centauri.
He said.
And you and I know that this will of course not work, since those broadcasts crossed that distance in 4.7 years, arriving before the 1960s even ended.
And anyway, you can't go faster than the broadcast which is just light. You can't even catch up.
You'd need a time machine

But some super-massive black hole somewhere might bend the signals. At an angle.
So if you head for the place where the signals will go, the third side of the triangle.
You might get there first.
Of course this will take dedication. Millions of years of travel by earth's point of view.
Probably hundreds by yours.
Since super-massive black hole are rare and distant, galactic cores and the like.
And the signals will be far too faint by then, just part of the general background static. They're too faint for us to decode by the time they leave the solar system, apparently.
The costs would be unthinkable. But in a sense it's possible.

Instead, perhaps someone else out there has recorded it as it came past.

Beyond the suns that guard this roost
Beyond your flower of flaming truth
Beyond your latest ad campaigns...

Ten years ago, the scene had been much different. Space had been criss-crossed with trails from spacecraft as they hastily fled the coming invaders, racing for the jump gate that they prayed might lead to salvation. Today there was silence.

They came, they destroyed, and they moved on. They had no interest in Earth, of course. Their motive was to prove a point, of all things. To prove that we were vulnerable. To prove that although we held the line for five long, bloody years, they were still superior. They made their point, at the cost of seven billion human lives.

I was there the day it all ended. My parents had insisted on staying to the last - their pride wouldn't allow otherwise. By then, though, there weren't many ships left. My mother and brother made it onto the last one leaving from Norfolk, a ramshackle little freighter called Hope Floats. Dad and I were on the next one, the unceremoniously-named B 7119. They caught us at the jump gate. The warships were too far off, and we were helpless. I remember having my face pressed to the viewport, watching in horror as Hope Floats caught a kinetic harpoon and came apart, people and cargo spilling out into vacuum. The last thing I remember was our ship diving into the yawning hyperspace vortex before I passed out. I caught about four grays. It was awful, but I survived. Dad wasn't so lucky.

I was there, too, when we met them in combat and smashed their fleets to splinters outside the orbit of Merasz. And now I'm here, looking at Earth for the first time in ten years. My triumphant return. Our triumphant return. Only, I can't even call this triumphant. It's not a victory march. At best, it's a cold and broken hallelujah.

I look down at my watch. Fifteen minutes until the rest of the fleet arrives. I relax and watch the magnified view. Slowly, things tumble by. Mostly unrecognizable jumbles of metal, occasional things that were clearly once part of a ship. A few frozen, dessicated corpses - poor souls who met a kinder end than those left stranded below. A mass of shiny strings - on closer examination, a tangled mass of gold necklaces, and not far from it, a burnt jewelry box, tumbling slowly end over end. A child's teddy bear floats past. Nobody remembers any of this stuff. I catch sight of another corpse, holding the body of a child close, and my heart sinks...

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