Something about a moon.

Opening my eyes to another day of grey. Grey houses. Grey trees. Grey skies. Grey everything here on the Blue Planet. Even with the ease of access, never having to drag around our oxygen tanks, I’m starting to wonder if coming here was the right choice for us. Or, coming back here, I should say, even though our history here seems so far away, as if it’s something I’ve read in a book rather than something I’ve lived through myself. Part of my imagination rather than memory.

My memory is full of our old home, our frosty spectacle of a do-or-die scenario, where we lived to our fullest each day and sat on the ground in the evenings, looking up at the ringed giant, dwarfing the Sun with its massive appearance right in front of our staring, earthling eyes. The sky on Enceladus was always clear as the first true winter’s day used to be on Earth. Back before it all happened. There was ice below us, sky above us. Universe above us.

I remember holding your glove-clad hands in mine, seeing our breathing turn to foggy clouds of condensation each time we exhaled into the air between us. Your deep brown eyes such a foreign color on the white planet, as if you took the two most beautiful pieces of the Earth with you on our mission into the great unknown. I remember how easy it was to carry you around. Put me on your back, you’d say, and in Enceladus’ near-nonexistent gravity, I’d simply toss you on my back and feel you cling on to me, giving us both heat throughout the days as we went exploring, making a home of our new home.

Looking up I can’t see our old new home. Looking up I can’t even see this planet’s moon. I can’t even see the Sun, save for a slightly lighter patch of grey in the East revealing the whereabouts of our gigantic life-giving ball of fire. I wonder what kind of society could have developed under these conditions, under a starless sky. I wonder who would have dared to dream. I wonder who would even have dreamt up the notion of dreaming. Would there have been Explorers? Would there have been gods for mankind under a grey sky?

My hand stroking your hair, black as the nights on Enceladus, only lighted by the specks of starlight I see whenever I look at you sleeping beside me. My eyes’ gaze lowering to your stomach, to that bump forming on you, predicting our future with every new kick. We had the discussion, the pros and cons, of growing up here or back home. Of valuing the open landscapes, the night sky above, or valuing the gravity here, ensuring that his bones will grow strong and durable, his muscles forming like ours.

We never factored in how things might have changed here while we were gone on our own adventure, seeking pastures new as the Earth had nothing left to show us. We didn’t count on escaping the War. We never expected the War to finally, horribly live up to its promises of doom and blood, of broken countries, broken lands. We most certainly never expected the sky to be broken too.

It was visible as soon as we neared the Blue Planet in our shuttle. It looked nothing like when we looked out the window upon leaving, seeing only oceans back then, almost sad to leave the safe fresh water supplies behind. Fresh water is a thing of the past, as least as far as we have searched. We have worked our way through the bottled remnants of water in the supermarkets. The small village we’ve found is starting to break up, leaders turning on each other, families looking with spite across the camp, envying those who have yet to develop a cough, assuming others to be thieves.

It was the most elemental part of all this, how much time we’d spend traveling. How much farther ahead in the Earth’s history we’d be when we got here. I’m holding your naked hand as you wake up, opening your eyes to the same realisation as I had. You look up at me, telling me my eyes are the only glimpses of the galaxy you’ve had since coming here. And I know. I know.

We hid our shuttle as soon as we landed. Its insides only large enough for three people and the most necessary luggage. We knew immediately how valuable a shuttle like ours would be. The opportunity to get away from here. Anyone would be tempted to take it. Anyone would be a fool not to. So we hid it and never spoke of it in the village. Call us selfish, we have lives to live. And we knew we’d want a way out in the future. We just never expected to catch the future so soon.

Holding your hand in my left palm, I write in yours with the digits of my right hand. E N C. You start smiling that smile I’ve known forever, since before our souls found each other in the stream of life. E L A. You wait patiently, allowing my cheesy behavior even on this greyest of days. D U S. I kiss your palm, putting the key to the ignition in it and closing your hand tight.

Let’s drive back home.

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New Earth.

You told me they had found a New Earth. A planet with rocks and rivers and a sun to keep the plants warm. You said it with an air of optimism, as if you could envision yourself on the New Earth, taking strolls on a different wing of our galaxy, and looking back on Old Earth through a telescope, waving, even, for whoever had been left behind. But the light travels forty years to get from New Earth to Old Earth, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever catch you waving before it was too late. If maybe my time ran out before the light could go the distance. Or if perhaps you saw me there next to you on New Earth, working around the problem by bringing me with you, just as I would bring you anywhere.

But I said none of those things aloud. It didn’t seem right as we were lying on the floor, glancing up into the ceiling and talking about the open space on the other side of it. How very unconnected would I seem to ask such self-centered questions when we were considering galaxy plateaus and light years. I turned my head to look at your ocean eyes, feeling myself drown as I realized half a life too late that half a life is halfway dead, and I had already spent seven-thousand days without you. It was then and there I decided to appreciate the elasticity of time and make sure every minute of us would count as an hour, and every hour would count as a lifetime. There were no rules until we made them. There was no distance between us as long as we held on.

Exterrestrial.

Someone has to go first. It’s not a competitive claim; it’s purely logical. There’s no such thing as complete simultaneity. At least not when it comes to human bodily movement. Not even in those terrific synchronized swimming competitions where the athletes practice four years to do things exactly the same way at exactly the same time in teams. Even then there’s still a slight difference between when people’s legs drop into the water.

And I guess we should have foreseen it. It seems silly now, standing here, looking back (metaphorically, of course) on all the things we didn’t take into account. Like: how long would an Earth-minute feel here? Longer, is my current observation. Definitely longer. Hopefully longer. And would the planetary rotation make any difference? Would the transfer of energy end up corrupting the whole procedure? I’m not saying no one thought about any of that. But if they did, I sure didn’t hear anything about it.

I probably should have prepared something about small steps and great leaps. But then again, what’s the use? If anyone’s listening in, it will likely sound to them the way a fox sounds to me. Desperate; hungry; incoherent. Just sounds. Plus: there was never the notion of being in this Neil Armstrong scenario. Our time had been spent wondering what sorts of creatures might be ready to jump at our throats as soon as we materialised.

But someone has to go first. Someone has to be the inter-galactic Neil Armstrong, even through large, round, easily-big-enough-for-two-people portals, it seems. And the honour and trepidation has been bestowed upon me.

My watch would say at least 10 minutes has passed, if it were to say anything. The only thing it seems to say is that it was another thing we didn’t think carefully enough about. At any rate, it has stopped. 12:01. The last moment before I took a step forward, outpacing my companion by an inch. Or, should I say: outpacing my companion by 2.5 million light years.

Now, I’m no mathematician. But that’s quite an inch.