RADIO STATION – On the edge of an abyss a radio station floats above its plunging depths, rocking gently with the sway of invisible waves. It periodically broadcasts:
“This is Station Merlin in Sector Gamma-Four with information Whiskey. Time…”
THE PILOT’S CABIN – The voice filters through the holes of your ears, rousing you from a dreamless sleep.
MIDNIGHT SUN – Or was it so dreamless? Something teases at the edges of your subconscious. A flickering lamp, tongues of firelight…
AUTHORITY – Focus. These whimsies have no place in the land of the living.
YOU – Shake off the thought.
RADIO STATION – The audio briefly strengthens: “…in use Two-Two Center. Transition level…”
MIDNIGHT SUN – The only beat pulsing within light-years of your craft.
ENCYCLOPEDIA – Radio stations such as this one serve as crucial waypoints for interstellar navigators out in the far-flung reaches of deep space. Both a lighthouse and an information service hub, it is one of many in the vast constellation of the Trans Galactic Radio Network.
ENDURANCE – You attempt to sit up, but a wave of lightheadedness washes over you. Visual snow. A numbness tingles in your extremities.
PAIN THRESHOLD – This is nothing.
YOU – Brace yourself against the wall and ride it out.
THE PILOT’S CABIN – Your sight clears. A thin thermal blanket is folded away in its cubby. A book lies on the floor below your cot, pages splayed and spine sticking up.
REFLEXION – The book is right underneath where one of your arms was hanging over the cot’s edge. You must have fallen asleep while reading.
YOU – Pick up the book.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF INTERSTELLAR EXPLORATION, A HISTORY – It’s titled “The Golden Age of Interstellar Exploration, A History.” The cover features an artistic render of a Space Bridge on the surface of some exoplanet, a set of complex arches backlit by an imploding supernova. A tiny figure stands alone before the gilded architecture with one fist raised.
CONCEPTUALIZATION – It’s certainly eye-catching (or excessively gaudy, depending on who you ask) for a history book.
RHETORIC – Not to mention the scientific inaccuracies that you itch to point out.
DRAMA – And pray tell, to whom, my liege? There is only an audience of three: me, myself, and I.
PERCEPTION (SIGHT) – The cover art is faded and the corners are worn. The author’s name is barely discernible. A strip of yellowing tape runs down the book spine. There’s something small sticking out between the pages.
REFLEXION – This book is well-loved, albeit old. Chronic radiation exposure and handling has dulled its colors.
YOU – Flip the book open.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF INTERSTELLAR EXPLORATION, A HISTORY – The introduction reads: “For centuries after the Space Race, interstellar travel to any extrasolar systems remained a distant fantasy. Travel and information were hard-limited by the speed of light. As conditions worsened on Earth, there was no more time for dreams. Humanity lost interest and space programs fell by the wayside in favor of tackling problems on the ground.”
ENCYCLOPEDIA – Until the discovery of an anomaly at the edge of the Solar System, just beyond the shadow of Pluto.
PERCEPTION – Something unperceivable, only describable by the lack of it.
LOGIC – A scientifically inexplicable phenomenon.
MIDNIGHT SUN – A hole in the fabric of reality.
L’APPEL DU VIDE – The abyss.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF INTERSTELLAR EXPLORATION, A HISTORY – “…some saw it as a warning, others, a blessing. Love it, fear it, or hate it, the *manifold* undeniably reignited space interest and within a decade, numerous space probes were sent off to explore the unknown. It was a cosmic black box, but stray transmissions would leak from a localized region, enabling researchers to triangulate an approximate volume of space where the phenomenon existed.”
“The first probe to successfully cross the boundary— and return— captured images that would shake the foundations of scientific knowledge.” The words are familiar. Charming.
RHETORIC – Charmingly *passé*, you mean. An overreliance on pathos and quixotic visions. The author’s attempts to harness the zeitgeist of the golden age with little basis in scientific accuracy is dubious at best as an accurate portrayal of historical events.
EMPATHY – All the same, you once loved this book.
RADIO STATION – A burst of static jolts you from your reverie. The staticky buzz is louder than before, sounding like a land-line left off the hook.
PERCEPTION (HEARING) – There’s an odd pause in the automated broadcast.
LOGIC – It’s not the usual end of a message.
RADIO STATION – “Sometimes I close my eyes…” The voice sounds the same as the automated announcer, but it’s unmistakably human, thick with emotion.
EMPATHY – You can’t interpret the voice’s feeling, tinny and distorted through the static. You can only tell that it’s undeniable *human,* raw in cadence.
RADIO STATION – “…and for a moment, I’m back on Earth with you.”
REACTION SPEED – Wait. This must be the station operator. Did he hijack the broadcast?
RADIO STATION – “I could feel the sunshine and taste the grainy sweetness of cornbread. It was the World Faire of ’82…” He stops.
ENCYCLOPEDIA – The World Faire of ’82 was held in the Republic of Americas, over a century ago.
RADIO STATION – There’s a crackle of a sigh. “Except I don’t think we attended. We couldn’t afford the tickets.”
“Things have been getting weird lately. Maybe it’s just me, but…”
GLOAMING – A frisson of fear skips down your spine.
RADIO STATION – “Once, I woke up on Pluto, watching as Wakefield first stepped through the Bridge. The cameras, the rovers…” He sounds breathless.
PERCEPTION (HEARING) – You have to strain to hear his next words.
RADIO STATION – “I was alive.”
MIDNIGHT SUN – Now, he is no longer alive.
RHETORIC – It is impossible for this person to have lived through both events. Something doesn’t line up.
APHELION – Memory is a fickle thing. There are many possible, *normal* explanations for this phenomenon.
LOGIC – A prolonged lack of human contact, for one.
ENCYCLOPEDIA – Studies have shown that chronic social isolation increases a person’s risk of premature death and numerous mental illnesses. A lack of physiological and psychological stimulation contributes to the risk.
CONCEPTUALIZATION – What better way to escape than dreaming of the past?
YOU – Keep listening.
RADIO STATION – The operator sounds like he’s moving away from the receiver. “I figured… they never solved faster-than-light communication… wouldn’t have mattered except…”
REFLEXION – This station sits at the edge of a massive black hole.
ENCYCLOPEDIA – The time-space dilation of a gravity well of this magnitude would mean that a minute on the edge is equivalent to seven years on Earth.
DRAMA – Time is a social construct.
MIDNIGHT SUN – An unstoppable hand that extracts a toll from all of us, sooner or later.
YOU – Keep listening.
RADIO STATION – “I wish I could remember what you looked like when you got on that train.”
The static hiccups. There’s another long pause.
Faintly, as if from underwater: “What I wouldn’t give for a cup of real coffee.”
The transmission’s keen fizzles out just as abruptly as it started.
YOU – Lean in.
RADIO STATION – Nothing. Only waves of static from some distant shore.
MIDNIGHT SUN – A ghost trapped in circuitry, bouncing from electron to electron, rocketing out into a vast dark. Just another mote of dust in the cosmic haystack. A memory repeating itself over and over and over…
GLOAMING – The thermostat in your cabin has not fluctuated, yet a cold seeps underneath your skin. Gooseflesh prickles.
YOU – How much time has passed?
LOGIC – For the station—
GLOAMING – The operator huddles underneath an oversized coat, slumped over the dashboard. The coat engulfs his scrawny torso, a hatchling sheltered under its mother’s wing.
LOGIC – Based on the timestamp of the last automated broadcast—
GLOAMING – The body has barely even cooled.
LOGIC – Ten minutes.
THE FOURTH WALL – Hello! Lately I’ve been inspired by various media and their ways of storytelling. As a result, the blog’s taking a somewhat different direction this semester, but the stories belong in the same overarching universe.