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Purple Oceans and Red Cliffs


The sky once stretched over me, taut, soft, a dark velvet or a black ocean, I remember.

Full and wondrous, stretching to infinity, like the inside of the eyelids of a great giant. There I was, sitting in the eye, in the mind, of this great and powerful beast, breathing his air and observing his thoughts, so massive and beyond me, as they sparkled and spun in the night sky with ever-present purpose and absolute slowness. I sat; I breathed; I walked through the empty space, the void of meditation. There was sweet night air and soft night grass; the trees whispered above me, chatting with the breeze.

That was then. Here I am now, stretched out across the floor of my room, laying inside this metal beast as we orbit a foreign planet. My new home. It has been four months—four months since we set out on this voyage, for lack of a better word. Four months since we began our FTL travel to this planet, four months since I had breathed that sweet, night air.

What will the night smell like on this planet?

I hear movement on the other side of my bedroom door—little feet running and little voices shouting. Charlotte must be taking the kids to dinner already. How will they like the new home? Charlotte and Benjamin and young Alexis? Here we are, colonizing a new world hundreds of years after the colonization of, well, the New World, back on Earth. The sound of a door shutting, cutting off the little feet and little voices—I wonder what's for dinner?—and I was left alone with myself.

This was the right decision. I can't turn back now, I can't claim otherwise. But am I ready to give up my home? Am I ready to give up Earth's whispering trees and soft leaves and spongy spring ground? The sweet air and the music of the birds in the morning, the reds and pinks of a most beautiful sunrise? There is a sun here, I tell myself. There will be sunrises. But will they be as captivating and wondrous as Earth's sunrises, my sunrises? Will the air fill my lungs and my soul, infuse happiness and every other emotion into my being, with each and every breath on each and every spring day?

I rubbed my hand slowly on the rug on which I lay, imagining it as dirt and grass, the hair of a giant. The hum of the computers on the ship is the hum of wind through leaves, crickets chirping. The grumble of the main engines—only two floors down—is an ocean's waves rolling over each other, roaring against rocks and scraping past sand. I moved my hand farther across the rug, bumping into the metal wall of the room, and dragged my fingertips up its smooth surface. The ship was alive, too—the ship was home. I've spent half my life in ships. This great metal beast, so artificial, felt so alive sometimes. The engines are its heartbeat, and computers and air systems its breathing. The universe floats past outside my small window as I ride in its sheltered belly.

I let my hand drop, and close my eyes. Now I am the one floating, I am floating on my back on immense waves, journeying through the endless universe. Here I am, no longer grounded, no longer in the mind's eye of some great giant. Now here I float, a speck of dust, in this vast ocean, this velvet abyss.

Here I am, no longer observing the giant's mind, but in the giant's thoughts. Yet even here they are incomprehensible, intangible. Even here, inside the sky's infinity, I cannot fathom an end to its inky depths. If anything, an end seems even farther from my touch. Dark, never ending waters.

Here I am, in a small boat traveling a vast ocean filled to the brim with shining stars and nebulae, the colorful corals of the sky, this ocean. No land in sight. Just the boat and I, rowing and breathing through our sailor's journey, on our way to discovery. In, and out, come my breaths and my thoughts. In and out comes the waves of time flowing over the hull of the ship and the curve of my life. Water everywhere I turn. Time ever passing.

Here I am.

After a moment's meditation—a well-deserved rest—I look out the small window again. The ship had turned, so now this new planet poked into my view. Blue oceans with a hint of violet, almost mistaken for Earth's oceans at first glance, stretch across most of the planet, isolating red and orange land masses from each other. Clouds, as white as on Earth, conceal parts of the planet. A wrapped mystery. So foreign.

Three knocks—on the door, soft and firm—a make me jolt, a little bit. Charlotte walks in, and smiles at me. “Not hungry? I don't blame you, I'm sick of this food as well.” She sits on the bed, patting the blanket next to her, and I move to sit beside her. “I wonder if we'll ever be able to eat any plants down there?” She glances at the window.

I stay silent for a moment, then, “Did we make the right decision?”

Charlotte laughs, a little, quite laugh. “It's a little too late for those thoughts. We're hundreds of thousands of dollars and a spaceship away from Earth. The Governing Alliance payed for our trip here, but I don't think they'll sponsor one back.” She turns to me—deep blue eyes, an ocean of thoughts that I cannot conceive and yet here she is, trying to share them with me. I stare back, and break my silence again. “How do you not miss it?”

“Of course I miss it, Brian. Oh, of course I do.” She sighs, I sigh, the ship and the world around us seems to sigh, for loss and for gain of something so alien it cannot hope to replace what I've—we've—lost. “But do you see that? The planet down there? It's not so different, after all. The oceans look purple, but they are much more blue up close. The rocks and vegetation look red, but it's no different from the autumn colors and the red cliffs back at home. It may not be Earth, but it's not inhospitable. It's alive, Brian. Just like Earth is.” She takes my right hand in both of hers, stretching my fingers out and massaging my palm. “It's beautiful down there. Wait and see.” A peck on the cheek, a quick smile exchanges, and Charlotte leaves the room.

Earth. Home. There I was, once, bathed in yellow sunlight and vibrant spring air, green breaths and orange moods, swimming around me as I danced on the giant's head.

Here I am now, floating, traveling among the thoughts and dreams of young children and giants alike, forever unending, an ocean of possibilities.

There I will be, with air stained red and hope stained violet, with new memories in new places, bathed in new colors. There I will be, inside the mind's eye of a new giant. She will show me her thoughts as they spin in the sky, a new sky, with new stars, never the same again. But the giant will nonetheless share her thoughts with me, and I will share my unspoken words with her. Both messages will never be understood by the other, but that doesn't matter. There I will be, with the same emotions in a new place.

The giant and I? Maybe we can be friends.



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