They say space ruins relationships. I believe it.
I’m not talking about personal space, even though they might be. I don’t mean that his demand for guy time away from her coupon clipping is the spark or spur to the inevitable divide. I don’t suggest that two people perpetually intertwined for twenty-four hours out of every day is the key to a successful relationship either.
What I am saying is that beyond the influence of the beautiful blue orb beneath us, there is a siren call that will always pull man from woman, son from mother, brother from sister, casual acquaintance from casual acquaintance.
In the early days, I’m sure it wasn’t noticeable. I mean how far were the astronauts and cosmonauts really away from the Earth. There were always eyes on them, always a tether leading back to a vast complex of supercomputers and supergeeks, military installations and generals, news anchors and other assorted talking heads. You were never truly alone.
Even those poor guys locked aboard an orbiting station for months with no contact were still bound to the Earth by necessity. Mankind is not oblivious to his sanity or lack thereof in the extended absence of social interaction.
No, it was later in the human space race that man first felt the detachment. Once the Earth was no longer hanging there, fat and happy in the field of stars, always in view–once it was no longer discernible among the other dots of light–the connection failed, and the siren song began to play.
I suppose at first, we probably mistook the lost ships as the victims of accidents. The solar system is a constant five hundred mile an hour burn down a dusty highway behind a rock truck. We felt it was inevitable that accidents would occur, and we did not question the occasional loss of communication, especially once the private space race opened up unregulated access to the stars.
When the numbers ranged into double digits each month, we started to take notice. The first time it hit us that something might be out there was when the cargo ship Erasmus IV ejected its synthetic assistants on its way to Titan. Traffic through that sector of space at that time has heavy–treasure hunters were convinced that some of Saturn’s and Jupiter’s moons might have diamond core, which is ridiculous. So, it wasn’t too long after Erasmus IV went missing that an explorer ship happened upon a cluster of disabled droids floating alone in space.
Reactivated, they spilled the story.
The crew of seventeen had, without explanation, shut the droids down one by one. They displayed no symptoms of mental distress, but all had ceased their daily duties two days before they ejected the droids. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may soon be seen to be, the last droid shut down happened to record within its memory banks a heading that was programmed into the navigational computer.
The first five ships we sent on that heading disappeared.
The first ship fully “manned” by droids found a whole lot of nothing.
The first ship of droids that followed a ship of humans in that direction was destroyed by unknown means.
Double digits turned to triple digits on the list of the missing, and people stopped going beyond the asteroid belt.
Thrill seekers found a new deep dive.
It happened slow for me, I could still see Mars quarter-sized in the distance, and I felt it, a soft suggestion at first, but increasing in intensity with each second. I didn’t have the specific heading memorized–hell, space is always moving, so its not like it would be the same heading the droid had seen on the Erasmus IV.
Without knowing why, I put the heading in, and, like those before me, I ejected my droid assistant out the airlock.
By the time I passed Titan, I had no need for sustenance, I was running on a thread of energy invisible in the void.
Alone in my ship, the feeling was a symphony in my head, the deep caress of a mother’s hand, the press of breast. Life stretched out to eternity on that journey, and though I couldn’t see the siren mother, I could feel the umbilical cord of the soul regrowing, entwining, reaching out.
The Oort Cloud hides many things, some dark, some glowing.
But out here, surrounded by a black cloud, a mass of flesh pulsates, human bodies separated from their ships and mutating together into the massive body of an elder god, its eye turned ever toward the sun where it eternally calls to Earth’s children, like the Pied Piper.
I float in space, naked, waiting to feel the final touch that is death and life as I become part of the god of all death and all life. As I wait, I remember how I came to be here, and the story joins the chorus of all the souls slowly being crushed by the gravity of the truth hanging black in the void.
Space ruins relationships–husband from wife, brother from sister, man from Mother Earth.