Big Echo

Critical SF

Perihelion

by Vajra Chandrasekera

First published in Cast of Wonders

Hold on tight, we're coming around again.

This thing crumbles a little every time we hit perihelion. Almost lost my footing again. You okay? Good. We've got a moment to catch our breath, except we don't breathe any more. Words stick in language like vestigial tails in the womb. Not that we have either of those any more, either. 

We still have eggs, though. And if you're ready to leave yours behind, now would be a good time. We're about as far from the sun as we're going to get.

No? It's okay, it's okay. Take your time. You're all right, I got you. Don't worry, all right? If you can't bring yourself to make the jump, I'll carry you. I just think you'll like to look back later and remember your first time flying. 

We're all afraid the first time. 

And your heart is beating faster than it should, because you were born sped up. We all were. Later, when we're safely off this little rock, I'll show you how to slow down to a normal speed. 

The way you feel time, it needs to be anchored to the real speed of the galaxy. You'll understand what I mean when I take you swimming in the star nurseries and you see them flowering fast around you, burning in every colour in the spectrum. 

Our ancestors, when they first evolved sapience, were living so fast the universe looked black and frozen to them. All they knew was splashing around at the bottom of their dark hole, drowning in air and water, dying as soon as they were born. Claustrophobic, isn't it?

You just need to brace, like this, and flex your shoulders. Your wings will pick up the solar wind when they spread, and we'll blast off this dirty little snowball before it melts under our feet.

I was born on a comet too, you know. It's best to jump off when we're in the outer rim, give ourselves a nice boost to open space, and then we can head on out to meet the family. 

Hold on, here we go again.

This is the sun — careful, don't lose your grip. Say hi, kid. It took care of our people through some bad times, before we learned how to live.
All right, we're heading for the outer rim. Stand up — it's okay, I've got a good grip on you. Feel the rock wobbling under you? It probably won't survive another perihelion. We have to jump now. 

Jump, and spread your wings. I'll talk you through it once we're clear. Ready? 

One, two —