Art: Tomi Reichard. Find on instagram and at mustachemachineblackbetty
“Sorry I’m late,” she apologizes, and I know she is, because she hates the gaps as much as I do.
She surprised me, a welcome surprise. I had been moving through a vast stretch of emptiness. It is completely encompassing, against a blackness which light is not penetrating.
Deep space always rattles me. Everything is far away and lost, and it makes me feel the same. The immense gaps between stars is belittling, careless of my existence. It is the metaphor for living life: Without something to ground you, you become part of the nothing of reality, unless you go grab a hold of something. Something to live for.
I move through the nothingness, focusing on my goal. I can feel the stretches of space streaming by me, light-years, gone. Or else I am imagining it, because the only frame of reference I have is myself. The only basis for my movement right now is my superskin clocking my distance and trajectory.
I feel profound isolation, and then a small spark of dread tingles in my heart. ST had warned me of this, how to address the creep of space dysphoria. I was beginning to slide.
I focus my gaze ahead, stabilizing my lateral movement and pitch and then increase my speed. The change provides me stability, in my head. How ironic…but now I have a kinetic ledge to hold, an axis to ride through the void.
And, from somewhere behind me, my route mate crackles, “Here”, with her apology.
She matches my speed, and I slowly crawl out of the confusion in my head. I have a reference point now, but I also latch onto a faint muddle of light that struggles from a far away star system. It’s not our system, but I hold onto it. With my mate’s arrival and this blurred smudge of light, I savor the feeling of being in relation to my surroundings. I am not alone.
We run on for a bit without talking, basking in the simple presence of each other, the only life for an unfathomable distance. A distance truly appreciated by the time it takes to cross it. Fortunately, superskins were super proficient at time-sinks during these commutes.
“Spotting,” I said, and we both slow imperceptibly. I point out the hazy clump of light that has manifested itself out of the darkness in the distance to our starboard. We veer slightly towards our destination and push even faster. I hear a jet of O2 rich air before I inhale it. It compensates for the acceleration.
“Final trajectory” I announce. We are clocking quite fast now…another bank of light instantly materializes from the opposite side. It maintains itself for a minute.
“What stage?” I ask.
“Eight,” her reply comes into my ears. “They’re making good time.”
“What about our’s?” I ask. “Humanoids still progressing?”
“Yes,” she answers after checking the record. “They made it off-planet… within their system”
“That’s a good start,” I said.
“But their colonies are at war,” she sighed. “And they have a million year black hole event. And its overdue.”
She was quiet. There was only the purr of carbs resonating through my suit, pushing me on. A swirl of finely-pointed lights came into sight, our lights, and I feel the rotors engage and brace myself although I don’t need to. It’s the noise, really… the grinding stretches on until the soft pulse of my aft jet corrects my trajectory and we were coasting again.
“Perimeter maintained,” I said. The swirl resolves into differentiated dots of light, and I take in the details of each planet. Their weapons could not affect us while we’re in dimensional stasis, but I listen for alarms anyway.
“They might make it.” I said. “If they cooperate.”
“I hope so,” she said, and then she surprised me, again:
“But if they don’t… there are so many more.”