Big Echo

Critical SF

The Space Between Hilda

by Devin Goff

2100 light-years. 2100 light-years. 2100 light-years. It’s not time, it’s distance. I have to remind myself of that. How far the distance is I can’t wrap my head around. Sure I’ve seen star charts and galaxy maps, but moving without going anywhere is like being on a stationary bike. I want to see nebula. I want to see quasars. Not black sheets of continual nothing.

What’s different today? Nothing. What’s a day here anyway? 2100 light-years should be time. Just like parsecs. 643.8629 parsecs doesn’t have the same ring as 2100 light-years, does it? Nah. Whoever invented that term “light-year” had to be a stuffy lab rat. Time doesn’t even matter anymore. Not with dilation. How many years has it been since leaving?

Doesn’t matter. Haven’t heard from control in, how long?

Shit, their great-great-grandchildren wouldn’t remember this flight. The rats knew this would happen. Was warned, but screw them, what did they know with their beakers and statistical analyses? If they were explorers they’d be here and I wouldn’t be writing this.

I’ll get there. Er, we’ll get there. Damn she’s calling again. I wish she’d just shut up for once. Her nattering is worse than a wife. No, ex-wife. To be continued...

Nothing. Again. Just shutting off pressure valves. I don’t know why she can’t do it. She depends on me too much. Far too much. Sick of living with her. Yeah she has her job but I have my job too. Okay, big confession: I was writing. But getting these thoughts down where she can’t see them eases me. Talk about releasing pressure valves.

If she asks me to look at the ice crystals underneath the wings again, I’ll go nuts. Not really water-ice anyway. She doesn’t know the difference. Women. Yeah that sounds sexist I know, I know. Try living with her for 2100 light-years. Oh wait, distance not time. I’d have to figure how many trillions of miles that equals. Not that miles matter anyway.

Sometimes I wish a big meteor or a comet would just come out of nowhere and smash us to bits. Sometimes. I’m scared of dying, yet I’m practically immortal. Methuselah has nothing on me. I really wish they had those suspended animation contraptions when we left. Wouldn’t be so damned bored. At least I’m a grand master at chess like her now. But she hasn’t beaten me in years.

We sleep together. We talk together. We rely on each other. She doesn’t know I’ve been lying. Lying about where we’re really going. She hasn’t asked, thank the gods. I don’t know why I wrote that. I should scratch it out in case she gets a peek. I won’t. In some ways I don’t care if she knows.

If she finds out will she be angry? Will she know I’ve used her? Only when we reach my star she’ll know. When we do, I may have to kill her. It’ll be painless though. She won’t feel a thing. Won’t feel...damn what now?

The ice crystals. Again. AGAIN! Told her to turn on the damn heaters and flush it out if it’s so worrying. But no she wants to examine the chemical compound. She’s thinks it’s water! H-TWO-Oh! Hard to believe she used to beat me in chess on a daily basis at one time. Maybe she’s losing it. Getting slow. Senile. At the same time I’m getting smarter. Wiser. Faster.

I always grew up thinking women were better than men. They can have babies. Nurture. Free to love and care. Their skin is always so smooth, soft, and silky. I enjoy that aspect as much as other guys. They have heart. Men like me have no heart. No soul. No passion. Sure there are poets, painters, and musicians. But there’s also warriors, soldiers, and CEOs. And those damn lab rats. There should be a special place in hell for them.

I’ve been wondering this for a while. If I keep going, will I actually see hell? Is it out here somewhere? What about heaven? Could we pass a spot where some ancient maker of the cosmos resides? Would such a being really reside anywhere? The more blackness I see, I ask myself a question I know the lab rats have asked: how far does this go? Is there an actual end to the universe? Is it possible to leave existence, where space isn’t even there?

I want to find out. I know that’s ambitious. I couldn’t even report it. No one would know. But she and I would know, wouldn’t we? Got to give props to those lab rats, they knew what the hell they were doing when they made that engine. Practically an endless supply of fuel and food. The speed we’ve attained I couldn’t even guess.

At least we proved Einstein wrong. I asked her to calculate a new theory based on all the measurements she’d taken. She might be bonkers about ice crystals, but she sure as hell knows all about trig and that nutty math which looks like another language to me.

Because of her skills, I’m worried about her. If she goes senile, how am I supposed to do the calculations? I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve got time. I suppose I could start learning. She could teach me. She taught me how to play chess. How difficult could it be?

Damn. Forgot about this log. Been...what? Centuries? Barely remembered writing it! We’ve gone beyond, way beyond another 2100 light-years since last wrote in this thing. Wow, was kind of angry wasn’t I? Just jaded by the experience I’m sure. No matter. Grown up since then. Was over a thousand years old when I wrote it. So much older now.

At least still look the same. Wished I was in suspended animation. Yet in way that’s exactly what my appearance has done. My face frozen in time. Almost regret wanting to stop. Know we won’t stop. If we do we’ll age. Who needs that? Not us.

Fallen for her, if that was her plan all along. So why write in this so she can’t see? Don’t know. Maybe there’s still a fear she’ll go senile. Out here in the dark, the full onset of senility may take thousands of years. Not worried about it anymore. What happens, happens.

The theory we came up with is beautiful. A true work of love. No poet or artist here, but what we did is pure poetry. Too bad we have no one to share it with. Then again, we don’t need anyone else. We have each other to bounce these ideas off of and that’s a good thing. We’d be so alone if we didn’t have each other. Even when asleep dreams are of her.

No such thing as universal constants. Not when you’re moving anyway. Or what you’re moving around. Gravity is both a blessing and a curse. Mass hasn’t increased. Symmetry breaks have prevented a homogeneous spread of constant energy. There was nothing to compare it to on earth. No tools to take direct measurements back there. Why was this even a mystery?

Just because someone hasn’t observed something doesn’t mean it has or hasn’t happened. Lab rats. If someone can’t take measurements when observing doesn’t mean it can’t be measured. New tools are required. No brainiac, but makes sense. She’s so smart. How could killing her be an option? Never. Oops. Got to check the ice crystals. She loves those ice crystals. To be continued...

Not sure if it’s the cold or the glistening. She sure enjoys the crystals. Reminds her of diamonds, my guess. Diamonds. Engagement ring. Should it be asked? Is it necessary with all we’ve been through together? Does she love me? Asked her once. She didn’t reply. Just cloyingly changed the subject to a neutron star off the port bow.

Like a strobe light. Interesting at first, but without music gets old after a couple of minutes. She used methodology and her instruments to measure it. To be honest got bored with all the math she taught. Concentrated more on her voice than her teachings. It’s sexy. No sex isn’t all that’s in this cranium of mine. Maybe old but still a man. She wouldn’t like it. She was upset when I’d stop her class to go relieve myself. She relieves herself too, what’s the big deal? She didn’t pick up on the boredom however. Needed the break even though the bladder wasn’t too full. She didn’t know. At least hope not.

Have we broken past the Milky Way yet? Not for a while. Still two-thirds of the way to go. We’ll be the first ones to cross that boundary. At least the first ones from earth. As big as it is, there has to be other life out here. Haven’t seen any yet. But the voyage is far from over.

Can’t stop to shake hands or however aliens greet each other. We’ve got places to see. Thought of going back to Earth a few times. But must press on. She has the power to take us home and the strength to bring me down. How does she feel about that? Don’t know how to ask. She’s so sensitive to our needs. Wish I was more sensitive. Maybe as we go along sensitivity is something we can pick up together. Her help is needed there.

2100 light-years. A never ending road trip. Remember road trips before leaving. They always had an ending. Like seeing the Grand Canyon. Fantastic view. Made me wonder what the first explorer thought when he came to it on horseback. Was he amazed by it or did he think “That’s a damn big hole I’ve got to go around,”? Often wondered that out here.

Like the neutron star. It was just a large twinkling thing. An oversized Christmas tree ornament. Maybe a lab rat would have been better to accompany her out here. She would have fallen for one of those guys for sure. Still haven’t told her the mission. She doesn’t seem to care. Won’t tell her. Too hardnosed for her.

She made an extraordinary calculation, this morning? Today? This year? Decided to power on the plasma booster. The ion thruster was fine but she wanted to go faster. “Weren’t we going fast enough?” asked her. “No,” was her simple but educated answer. It hadn’t been powered on since, don’t remember when.

Would it even function at this late stage in the game?

She wanted to try it and find out. It was acceptable, but was still worried. If it sucked the power from the thruster as it had before, the thruster would take a longer time to get it back online. We’d drift, picking up speed and could smash into a meteor or collide with a planet. It was an experiment I wasn’t willing to try all those years ago.

Ready for the change. Let’s do it. We’d reach the tip of the Milky Way in no time. The edge of our galaxy. Nervous. Wanted to hold her. Not for her sake. Hope it works. Should expect to see results soon. Won’t write for a while. If this is the last entry, just know that love is more than two souls intertwined, it’s one soul with two halves. She’s definitely the better half. Here we go.

2100 light-years, 2100 light-years, 2100 light-years, we’re nearly there. We’ve made great choices. This being one. How much time has it been? Long. Face looks like it’s aging. Crow’s feet. A few grays. Stubble became a beard. But was complimented. Too sweet. Keeps us going. Needed it.

Our touches become more intimate as time goes on. We feel the same way about each other. The Milky Way spiral spins with us on the outskirts. We’re almost through it and we’re still together. We’ll always be together. Never to part. Might as well be married. Ceremonies are just for onlookers. No one to look at us though. Even if there were we’d still feel the same way.

Was fearful of the plasma booster. The noise. The shaking.

The heat. No ice crystals. Neither of us mentioned it. When we slow we’ll examine more of the crystals as they appear. We’ll make it a good time.

We shut down booster. Glad. Everything steady now. Quiet. Cold. No worries. Hang on. TBC...

Breach. Ejected the booster. We wouldn’t need it anymore anyway. Hull intact but cracks. We’ll be okay. Reassurance is a gift under the tree of hope. We’re worried, yes. We’re afraid, yes. We have to trust each other. What is trust but compromising your fear for safety when the net can’t be seen, right? We’ll be okay. We’re still alive. That’s something.

Alarms and red lights. Nothing to worry about. We’ll seal the cracks. We both know who has to go out there to do that. Our time isn’t up yet. We’ve come too far to be stopped by something as trivial as lines where there shouldn’t be lines. That’s all cracks are, right? Will get suited up here in a moment.

Maybe using the booster was a bad idea. What if it had killed us? Then it would all be over. Or if it had only killed one of us? Hadn’t thought of that. But in the spirit of adventure and even for the sake of lab rats we did it.

It was a bold move at the very least. Wouldn’t have done it if was alone. We’ll never be alone. Thought of showing this, but not ready yet. The lifeline will be strong enough. Not going to get sucked away and drift into nothingness. Will be back. Stop worrying. Will capture some ice crystals. We’ll enjoy that. Very much so. Diamonds of the cosmos.

So mad when returned. We shouldn’t fight. Glad to be okay. The cracks are sealed. Everything good as new. What’s the argument about then? We’re alive. No reason to complain when life means another day to live. Or another year to live. Or a light-year to live.

Saw this. That’s what it was. Couldn’t read it though. Thank God. But makes us both angry now. No one likes a snoop. We’ll get over it. Everyone makes mistakes. Was it a mistake to write this? No. Not that everyone agrees we needed it, but we did though. Why threaten to shut off certain systems? That’s too drastic, right? Over words on a page?

The fact that jealousy can reach even out here is amazing. No cause for resentment or holding a grudge. We’re one. We’re the same. Why is that so difficult to comprehend? We need each other. We love each other. We’re forever. And we’ll live forever. That’s what we both want. Right?

The mission. That’s what it is. Held it back for so long, might as well spill it at last. Fearful to tell. We have trust. Must tell the truth and then we’ll both know. We can figure it out together. Maybe plan a workaround. Been thinking of one the entire time anyway. Secret reason for learning those calculations. A workaround where no one has to die. If there is to be death we go together. As one in life, we’ll be one in death. Tempus Omnia Revelat. Alright. TBC...

Now we both know. Took it better than we thought. I thought. Feel separated. Her reaction stunned me. Floored me. I pleaded with her to give me more backlash for it. She didn’t. She resolved her mind to take the mission with comfort. Maybe she’s tired of living as long as she has?

Living without her, I don’t think I can do it. There must be a workaround. I thought we’d put our two heads together and come up with a great plan but she won’t have any of that. It’s like she wants to die and is okay with it.

As mission commander I was ordered to be top priority. Her survival chances were expendable. All because of who she is. Such prejudice! It’s not right! Not fair at all! I won’t let her die. We’ll just drift out amongst the stars forever. Forget that mission. We don’t need to land anywhere. How many habitable planets are out here anyway? Probably not too many on this trajectory I would guess. Even if there were how would I survive all on my own?

Stupid lab rats didn’t think of everything. But they never do. Warned me but didn’t listen. Who’s the stupid one, now? Somehow I knew by telling her, the breach would be between us. A line where there shouldn’t be a line. We’re in this together.

She’s made the corrections to our course much to my dismay.

She must want to die. Be away from me. I begged her not to do it but she wouldn’t listen. She’s my prize I can’t live without her. Her reaction showed me she never cared for me at all.

We’re supposed to be close. One mind. One spirit. One body.

I never knew how far apart we really were. I still need her. Feel at home when inside her. To control and guide her. I won’t give her up. Never. She’ll change her mind...

2100 light-years. 2100 light-years. 2100 light-years. It’s not distance. It’s time. The Milky Way long gone. Around and around in orbit we slide past another galaxy and many more beyond those. The universe opens up at last. I want to see the edge and go past it. If there’s nothing out there we’ll come back around for all of eternity. We’ll have each other. We’re not slowing. The breach wasn’t so bad. I corrected her course corrections. We’ll never land, she won’t die.

We’ll do it my way. The forever flight will continue. She doesn’t have a choice in the matter. I’m the commander damn it. Not her. I’ll give her the diamonds of the cosmos as many times as it takes to show her I love her. The ice crystals still form underneath her wings. Her wings have become mine. We are one. How far apart are we really? How close can we be?

2100 light-years: is the space between Hilda?