Author : Erik Goranson

Jane and Ellis floated parallel to one another across the vast canvas of space, eyeing the marble-like planets that slowly crept past them. Their skin reflected the starlight with a dull orange sheen. Ellis had called it ‘planet gazing,’ an activity he apparently thought suitable for a date.

“Do you see that one below us?” Ellis said, pointing to a round blue mass.

Jane shrugged.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked. “I’ll bet it’s beautiful on the surface, too. Like the way the dust begins to spiral when a star is forming.”

“Something like that,” Jane said. She didn’t understand his excitement. Planets were nothing interesting. They were just stars without the fire; black holes without the absence of color; asteroids with an atmosphere. They were just specks of light that littered the sky. The only remotely interesting thing she knew about planets was that the gas in their atmosphere were extremely lethal. Big whoop, she thought. Floating, atmospheric rocks of death. Ellis sure knew how to impress a girl.

“I’ve read about how gravity works differently down there,” Ellis said. “You wouldn’t be weightless anymore. You’d have to rely on your muscles to get around. You’d have to pry yourself off the ground and,” he paused, thinking. “walk. That’s what it was called. ‘Walking.'”

Jane was skeptical. “But how would you survive the gases?”

He hesitated. “With hazmat suits?”

“We’d only need suits?”

“And a place to live, I guess. But we could send some terranauts down there and have them build some pods or something,” he said.

Jane wasn’t impressed. So planets were atmospheric rocks of death that they could live on. So what? She was starting to think Ellis was a fool with his head stuck in a childhood fantasy.

“Would that really be worth it?” she asked. “It seems like you’d be constantly working to keep the nature out. Seems like it would be a pain.”

“You really think so?” Ellis said. “I think life’d be much better down there.”

“In an environment that could kill you?”

He nodded. “It’s beautiful down there. There are mountains of rock that would trace the sky; oceans of hydrogen that would reflect the starlight. Down there, the atmosphere would affect the spectrum of light. There would be color everywhere—sunlight alone would be more magnificent down there than we’ve ever seen. And with that kind of beauty, our petty problems would disappear. We’d stop being so careless and arrogant down there. We wouldn’t fight over money and resources and religion down there. We’d be too distracted by the beauty of it all. We’d finally come together.”

Jane felt her disapproval fading. It was a wonderful vision, a world without conflict. “Maybe you’re right,” she said.

“Maybe?” Ellis asked. “Wouldn’t you be stunned by that kind of beauty?”

“Too bad it’s only a dream,” she said.

Ellis wrapped an arm around her, and to her surprise, she welcomed it.

“Just you wait,” he said. “Someday we’ll walk down there.”


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