Dan

Alone, Again

Haman: “In the time it took for me to write this first sentence, everyone we know on Earth forgot about us.”

Remardu: “already God is calling to us”

Elund: “Yeah, yeah. Maybe your god is out here, maybe not. But what a ride!”

Only three of us chose to mark the millions of days, taking brief watches awake in slow motion, trading off tiny messages to each other through the limited bandwidth. The tiny ship could not carry more than one mind awake, loaded down with all it could handle, on the long traversal.

Haman: “The constellations look different already. Wow.”

Remardu: “slow like frozen ghosts”

Elund: “Yeah, Haman, I didn’t think the parallax would slide close stars visibly.”

Our tiny craft did not have the resources to waste on complex spells, so we usually floated in ghostly bodies through the stars. The more taxing we made our environment or our selves, the faster the stars flew by.

That was fine.

We liked it that way, having a grim grip on the supple flow of time, watching the tiny pinpricks in the celestial void pass faster during those brief times we all became slowly awake. No bodies, only a telepathy between invisible watchers.

Haman: “I wish we could have spared the computational space to have more time on the voyage, but… oh well.”

Remardu: “so we ride the beam out from Terran space”

Elund: “Are you kidding? We could go insane otherwise, at this rate. I think R here is composing a damn poem.”

Haman: “…”

Remardu: “its light glowing and filling our sails with ethereal wind”

Elund: “See what I mean? At least acknowledge us… guy… person… you.”

Haman: “I think you’re right. You doing okay, Remardu?”

Remardu: “Yes, I only miss the light of the sun red on my eyelids”

Elund: “I guess that means he’s okay. You guys want to try the instantaneous mode?”

Haman: “I was kind of enjoying the catnaps, but fine. Authorization for instant mode.”

Remardu: “authorization for instant mode, knowing full well the failings”

Elund: “Authorization for instant mode. Anyone can cancel. Here we go.”

Haman: “…Seems okay.”

Remardu: “skies that jump from between our fingers”

Elund: “…”

Haman: “Whoa. Like a blinking.”

Remardu: “strangers watching with me, flicker, judging”

Elund: “Uhh, yeah, it is stranger than I imagined.”

Haman: “I don’t think I like it.”

Remardu: “I feel your thoughts inside me still”

Elund: “Uhh, right. That. Yes, the perceptual jumps are jarring, yet somehow calming.”

Haman: “Yeah, sorry, too disorienting. Gonna have to cancel… Sorry.”

Remardu: “no apologies can match my slow dawning recognition”

Elund: “Hey, no problem. Even that couldn’t break Remardu from his poem trance, I guess.”

Haman: “Well, readings all seem nominal. The sail’s taking less damage than predicted.”

Remardu: “of your life’s wax and wane on my tongue”

Elund: “Yeesh, what a corny bastard. Now I’m glad Bethery didn’t try to squeeze things so we had more time.”

Haman: “Yes, did you notice? We’re almost halfway there already. 12 light years left to go.”

Remardu: “regrets, fictions, all dance off our memory”

Elund: “Wow. Subjectively, it feels like we just left.”

The journey passed quickly around us, our tiny canister of frozen souls whipping towards the galactic center, and the source of the suspected supermassive black hole.

Haman and Elund became friends, of a sort, if ghosts leaving messages can be called friends. And Remardu used their passing of time on poetry, of all things.

When we finally got close enough to see the Sink, it sprang up suddenly in our sensors as if by magic, and we were truly in awe.

Haman: “We’re getting kind of close. We should be able to pick up the accretion disk.”

Remardu: “the watching becomes you, becomes me”

Elund: “Whoa. Haman, double check the sensor readings. Where did it come from?”

Haman: “Holy moses. Where did it come from, and what is it? Look at how much mass it must be.”

Remardu: “Perhaps my eyes blaspheme the ancient ground”

Elund: “I… don’t understand. If there’s something orbiting, how would the thing not just collapse in on itself?”

Arriving at the Sink was like coming around the corner of a twisting canyon, hiking through a dry waste where a river once ran, and then turning the corner to be confronted with a sight that breaks your mind. You finally spy the canyon opening out into a large valley, yet there is a giant anthill filling the valley, larger than the hills around you, sitting there improbably. Impossibly.

As you walk closer, you realize that your eyes betrayed you. The anthill is not in the valley, it is farther away, which makes it even more incomprehensibly large. Who are the ants who assembled this sand?

You hike for days towards it, seemingly getting no closer to the enormity of its slopes, and then you realize the gray slanting lines behind it that you took for faraway clouds all this time are actually more anthills, staggering the sky so far in the distance they blend with the blue.

Remardu: “a vast temple of grace in the center of all things rises up”

Elund: “Well, it’s certainly vast. But this goes beyond that. “

Haman: “We are hitting things we really don’t understand. That much mass…”

Remardu: “watching in the stars, for us unseeing souls”

Elund: “Yeah, that’s… at least a 6 light hour radius. Even if it’s a thin shell, this is absurd.”

Haman: “Beyond Kardashev 2, at least. Well beyond what we can imagine.”

Remardu: “can we raise them? can I undo what cannot be undone?”

And that is when our systems stopped, we unknowingly entered the hidden first welcoming shell, and the Plumber snatched us from our seed. Before we could check any messages from Terran space, before we could prepare ourselves, we passed through the barrier and the unknown swallowed us whole.

We reproduce here Remardu’s poem, which for some cheesy reason they insisted was titled “Alone, Again.” Even though it was just the first of many times we misunderstood them.

Alone, Again

Already God is calling to us
slow like frozen ghosts
so we ride the beam out from Terran space
its light glowing and filling our sails with ethereal wind

Yes, I only miss the light of the sun red on my eyelids
authorization for instant mode, knowing full well the failings
skies that jump from between our fingers
strangers watching with me, flicker, judging

I feel your thoughts inside me still
no apologies can match my slow dawning recognition
of your life’s wax and wane on my tongue
regrets, fictions, all dance off our memory

You were the light that carried me
and now it is only the dream of a failed ghost
unable to end, unable to begin, too blind to see
how to find the path again; we wander

The silent stars judge me for my sins and failings
how could I have failed you so completely
my God, all I can do is stare into the void
the watching becomes you, becomes me

Perhaps my eyes blaspheme the ancient ground
a vast temple of grace in the center of all things rises up
watching in the stars, for us unseeing souls
can we raise them? can I undo what cannot be undone?

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