<--Previous | Next-->
Photons shed by distant stars kiss gently at my eyes with all the grace and charm of morning after nights spent long out drinking in the bars and fleshpots of a student town. I step through the portal that I've made into a silent stillness pregnant with the thrum of machine purpose and the dead air flat upon my breath. This is where I meant to go.
It is not easy having all of space and time spread out for one's mere whim. The power that might be is crippled by the question, which is the first thing that one sees when one makes the leap. The question that we all must face - but where do I go? How do I get there if I've never been? - these are the boundaries of our freedoms, then.
I move ahead into the seat I've used dozens of times before (or perhaps will in future, I'm not too sure). The console before me notes my presence, comes silently to life before I gentle it back to sleep with practiced hands - I don't need it now. I only come here to be alone and watch the stars.
Reaching inside my jacket, I come out with the pasteboards there and fan them across the now-dark silent surface of the console. Fifty-two, indeed, no jokers here - I'd long since pitched mine as well. Fools, he'd said. I separate the Fools suit out, ordering cards with flicks of hand. That leaves three, sigils strange but numbers not; I ponder for a time their message. Fools, identifiable by the hat.
The viewport is impressive - wraparound and perfect clear. The jewelry of the universe is there just past, flickers of the myriad rainbow colorbox gifted us by entropy and God. I settle into the seat and breathe, thinking, thinking.
The first time, so long ago, when I walked into the wall. Some strange and otherworldly switch inside my head that settled into place. Weeks, it had been, perhaps by then it had been months - since last I had been spoken to. Wandering across the city blocks. My voice had gone to ragged tunes and random words, not used to speak to others.
One day (one day, was all it took - one moment, really) one glance down an alley as I walked the street, the cards in hand. I can't recall where I was going, nor where I'd been. I know that even then I was a gentleman of the outdoors. A woman, with her dog, standing in the gloom, so calm. She'd turned her face up to the sky; that's what had caught my eye, the motion of acceptance. Arrested, I'd paused in time to see a strange flash of not-quite-light and then - she'd walked straight forward, vanished, gone.
Heartbeats fit to burst my throat.
I'd run into the trash and steam to find the spot on which she'd stood, and turned about, only then to realize the dog was missing too. The chill of autumn air that brought the condensation up from pipes and windows at the ground was missing from one portion of the brick - I touched it to be sure - but that was all.
Enough to make me wander those next few weeks across the city streets in pleading wonder and confusion, rain and snow cascading down across my head in streaks and rivulets of chaos theory track that tried so hard to point the way in gentle hint. I strained to know, to see - but that came later.
Around me, the ship hums softly to itself, singing tunes of endless mechanistic checklist jazz that will not stop nor change - one hopes - for some seven years. I let my eyes drift from star to star, thinking about what I've learned this subjective day, and ask the good ship Herakles to bring me drink and food. It is quite happy to oblige, and will not ask awkward questions about identity or purpose. Of the former I have none I can relate, and the latter? If such I have, it would not be understood, by it or me.
I drink cold crystal water while I think, and think of rest here in my private place. Somewhere far behind us, on one slice of one small world, the sun is precisely opposite the sky in rotation; here, now, a tone chimes. I stand in respect. Beyond the viewport, the stars shudder as Herakles takes itself into Maindrive for a brief quick jump before dropping back to check its work. Beneath, behind, encapsulated and preserved, fifty thousand humans wait in patient stasis for the automated ship to carry them to their brand new home - the first beyond the system known as Sol.
<--Previous | A Namedropping story | Next-->