500 Photons

Author : Nick Wood

Five hundred words Izzy. Further we go, less we get. No pictures either. We lose bandwidth as the vast miles mount, so my words must be enough. We’re beaming photon packages with data ten light years back. Latest planet-hope is called Delteron-9. Twice Earth-size so gravity may be a problem; exo-skeletons and gestational support needed for first-generation colonists, but I’m ahead of myself. Just logged into orbit, so much analysis still to do, this may just be another red-herring, a planet with parameters beyond our abilities for terra-forming. We hope and pray as we know the years pass more quickly on your heating Earth. Still, I hope to see you here, perhaps with children?

Let me paint a word-picture for you at least. The planetary disc swirls and shimmers a pale blue; not deep blue like Earth, but a water-blue at least. Acid-wet though, so work to be done before anyone can swim or drink here. Three moons swing in orbit; two little more than the Martian rocky moons, but one a large dead world that glows in pink phases from an orange-red sun that looks so similar and yet so different to our own. No sun’s name though, that’s only for official reports. Five thousand words allowed for those. Not fair is it? Anyway, there are flashes of orange on Delteron-9; ground is roughly ten percent of its area and is crinkled and crusted, some mountains rearing twenty kays high. White topped, places to walk or climb perhaps, like your father loves (or loved?) to do.

No words allowed from you here. Data is precious, time is short they say. The mission is all.

To them.

But when we drift around the night side, purple flashes seam the darkness. Atmospheric flares or pulses of fluorescent life? Too early to tell; we need to send the probes. As colours strobe the darkness I wonder, is it lightning, is it rain? It’s been fifteen years since I felt wet rain on my face. Fifteen years since I pushed you high on that swing and you laughed and looked back at me; your face caught in my head and heart, hair flying forward as you started your arc back down to me. I have no picture of that moment, but it lives inside me as I watch purple stain the darkness above or below us. Two pictures I have; you know the ones, one with your dad and me in front of the cake, one with your mom. Five years old. They’re pasted against the window over my cocoon-bunk. I look at both you and the new worlds beyond. But mostly I look at the gut-wrenching darkness of space. Purple flashes are few now; I see the orange-gold glow of an imminent sun-rise. I watch the sun rise for both of us. I’m too scared to ask the Ship for relativity calculations of your age. Wish you here Izzy. Love You. Grandfather.



  1. dunsel

    Amazing job of giving just enough information in the right way at the right time for the reader to both wonder and realize the relationship between the sender and receiver.

  2. wothbora

    Fantastic!!! This is a good tight little tale…

  3. Jae

    Beautiful piece.

    Room for some tightening of the prose if one were to do a fussy edit, but, not essential.

  4. SimonJM

    Nice idea. I got confused by that sentence in the middle, though.

    • atomicbob

      Is he saying that she’s not allowed to send anything back to him? This is a one-way medium perhaps. Either way, I’m very sad now.


  1. What I read {February 2017} | Irene Montaner - […] 500 Photons, by Nick Wood (365 tomorrows) […]

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