You see, I was afraid. Afraid of all the little things that could go wrong, the things that, out there, would be big things. One little bump, one little mouse-sized hole in the metal, and we would be blown open, exploded like dandelions, smoked out from the inside until we became quiet, floating ice cubes in the drink of space.
This is what I thought about. What I worried about. I did away with it when I climbed on board. I had committed to a four month journey, my friends. A big old space journey to the place where they’re sending scientists, the new Earth. It’s not for living yet, but you can come visit. See what it’s going to be like. Look at property. Marvel at the two moons, round and ghostly as sand dollars.
The reason I went was to be one of the first. It was only the second commercial shuttle trip out. I wanted to be a pioneer, you see.
Four months swept by fast. Nothing exploded. We slept. We ate big meals and threw our waste into the galaxy. I talked a lot with a thin-armed girl who was training to be a scientist. I told her that she was too pretty to be a scientist, and then she stopped talking to me for the last three months. What was wrong with being pretty? I wondered this until we disembarked.
It was a blue skied planet, just like ours. I’d seen pictures but this still surprised me. There were mountains taller than the cloud level, yet absolutely snowless. They towered over everything, muscled and furrowed like a gigantic beast. If there was an indigenous species here before us, these mountains would be their god, I thought; even now, it was hard to believe they weren’t alive.
But that’s the thing. They actually were, you know—alive.
I saw it for myself. Third week of the stay. I was just lounging outside by the giant lake or the inland sea or whatever, and then I heard this creaking noise. It sounded like trees, only there’s no trees on this planet. Thin-armed girl told me so. I looked around to find the flowing noise, a long clash, maybe like bones sticking together. And then I saw it. It moved.
I told all this to the trip leader. She told me that hallucinations are common with the slightly lower oxygen levels. She says the scientists are trying to fix this by implanting more algae in the water.
But the next day I saw it again, and keep in mind that a day there is not an Earth day; it’s two Earth days. So I kept seeing this stuff another two New Earth weeks in, way past what Trip Leader called the “adjustment period”. I got the feeling, too, that I was being watched by it. That it could see me. I felt like I should talk to it. We had some great conversations. Much better than any with Thin-Arms. It told me I should stay there with the scientists. It told me there was nothing to go back to, that the Earth had exploded while we were away, that the emergency radio signal hadn’t reached us yet and wouldn’t until we were halfway home. This was too specific for anyone to doubt. I filled in Trip Leader and she told me that madness was not uncommon on unfamiliar terrain. Space travel could trigger this in some people. She recommended I fly back on the next charter.
That’s when I became afraid again. I thought it might be better to run off. Hide among the scientists. Wait for the New Earth to truly begin. That’s what the mountain told me to do. I wonder if that ship made it back. The signal hasn’t reached us yet.