Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

We spent a century looking for life on other worlds. Found some, too. Most of it wasn’t happy to meet us. Us being us, we got round that with our usual bonhomie and genocidal violence. Until we met the Pesserac. They kicked our murderous fleets clean out of space, and eradicated every colony we’d established through force. Then they politely informed us that peaceful colonisation was welcome, because we had a lot to offer. However, until we evidenced the ‘fundamental societal changes’ needed, we were also banned from participating in interstellar trading or receiving aid.
We were a pariah race. Despite the clear warnings, we often pushed our luck. They had clearly dealt with our kind before, and fallen foul of the lies told. We never had any survivors.
It took Earth a century to sort itself out. Afterwards, things generally went well when we ventured into space. Then the first ship with cordallium-windowed viewing galleries journeyed into the long night and humanity discovered a reason to behave, and to believe. For any to cause denial of access to this wonder swiftly became inconceivable.
“Ma’am. They’re here.”
Streamers of light twist past the gallery windows. Tourists crane their necks to try and see ahead. There’s some pushing and shoving.
“Stand easy, people. You’ll see them soon.”
As if on cue, a whirl of colours comes to a halt by the largest window. It presses close. People step back. They can’t help it. I couldn’t, and I’ve seen this countless times.
In proximity to the glass, the colours part to reveal the outline of a figure. Completely negative, no reflections, nothing. Just a rainbow aura about a darkness that comes in varying shapes.
A man on my left sobs the name and collapses. Every time, with no exceptions, a revealed form will match someone’s recollection of a lost loved one. It works with animals, too. Not that all animals can express grief or distinguish individuals, but recognition behaviour, pack calls and the like have forced the acknowledgement of this phenomenon.
Another whirling form presses close. A shorter, more rounded figure. A family to my right clutch each other tighter and burst into tears together.
The eerie event continues. So many people come each time. Most don’t get the encounter they hope for. All of them see enough to be convinced.
These things are like dolphins, riding ahead of our ships, shedding ribbons of light. How long they’d done this before we could see outside bare-eyed, we don’t know. We can’t detect them in any other way than with human sight. Several scientists I know surmise it’s actually some interpretive quirk of the way our brains process light after it passes through cordallium crystal.
This new field of science is inconclusive and ongoing, but people don’t care. The entities, or effects, or whatever they actually are, have been named ‘Delphine’ in some strange hybridisation of religion and perceived characteristics.
A faster-spinning mass of light presses to the window near me. The outline of my sister quirks her head in the way she used to do. It straightens up and, just before it whirls away, I swear there’s a flash of light like the edge of a silver eyelid closing in a quick wink.
Every time I see, I’m sure it’s somehow learning from me how to represent her. My suspicions about that sort of behaviour have been dismissed so many times I’ve given up.
Much as I can’t stop myself visiting, I’m increasingly convinced we’re missing something. I’ve no idea what. But, in the moments before I sleep, it scares me.