12th September


If we had been there, we would have battened down for the storm. We would have read our instruments, recognised that something was changing. We’d have tightened locks, checked seals, strapped ourselves in. Such basic, human, futile precautions. And then, even at the incredible speed at which we were travelling, we might have felt something: the solar wind easing, the particles slowing in their flight from the now distant sun. Yet our motion would not have eased, would not have become smoother. New forces buffet and rock us. We enter an area of greater turbulence, as the sun particles collide with other matter about which we know almost nothing: the constituent matter of deep space. But we must have faith, alone in this cosmic vastness in which the very notion of faith is impossible. We must believe what our science tells us, that beyond the tempest lies a balance, an equalisation of pressures, and beyond that a shift in the wind, a new impetus, a thrust into forty thousand years of sailing in the dark. This is the moment of departure, from one room of life into another room. What it contains we do not know, can hardly dare to guess. We are going behind the curtains of eternity.

If we had been there, we would have waved farewell to Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Mercury long ago. A lifetime before, we’d have gazed with an aching in our hearts at the pale blue dot of our birthplace. The blueness of oceans, the white streaks of cloud, the moss-green patches of continents – the bowling-ball of swirls and flourishes – all these would have faded to vague memories, concentrated into that single uncertain dot. And then it too would have left us.

If we had been there? But we were. We are. The signals keep coming, seventeen hours, a day’s journey away, but they keep coming. We send them and they keep coming back. And they tell us about ourselves. They say, Look, we are going. We don’t know where to, but we are going. Look, we can watch ourselves go. We can watch ourselves being left behind. Look, the signals say. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. Goodbye.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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