Author: Trevor Lancon
A distant star ejects billions of heavy ions every second, bestowing them all with its message: “I’m here.”
One of the heavy ions skirts past a nearby planet. The beings on that planet would describe the ion as iron if they spoke your language. They could explain, using a system of mathematics born from the need to describe the physical world – much like your own – that according to them, the iron was created minutes ago, but according to the iron, it was created seconds ago. It’s irrelevant to the iron.
The iron sees many of its siblings disappear into the pull of the planet in a dazzling plethora of greens and purples swirling about its poles. The iron’s trajectory takes it beyond.
For thousands of years the iron continues its journey through the void uninterrupted, its message part of the energy it contains. Its remaining siblings have radiated outward over time. Eventually it’s hurtling alone through the emptiness.
Then there’s something up ahead.
The iron can’t aim, but that something is in its way. It passes through glass. Air. Plexiglass. Air again.
In that liquid sea of atoms thousands of years from its celestial home the iron meets its destination, a single oxygen atom, and it’s destroyed as it gives the oxygen its message: “It’s there.”
The oxygen dispatches part of itself to hurtle through the eye. Along the way it’s telling every electron it can: “It’s there!”
The electrons are excited by the message, by the potential it contains, and they’re repeating it quickly, in all directions into the eye: “It’s there! It’s there!”
The message multiplies.
Their excitement glows blue.
The glow propagates through the eye and reflects off the boundaries of that small world. Part of the boundary is an optic nerve. It sees the message: “It’s there.”
The nerve passes the message along itself in a string of firing synapses, the sodium and calcium carrying the glow’s message up a chain of others like it: “It’s there!”
Finally, the message arrives at its destination, a gray, wet mass of organized atoms whose whole is more massive and complex and incomprehensible than should be possible. It’s found a brain.
At last, the message can be understood. It expends itself and winks out:
The astronaut looks up from the gauges in the cockpit, satisfied with their trajectory. He takes in the view of Earth in all her colorful glory. Almost home. A flash to his left breaks him from his reverie.
“Edwin, did you see that?”
“A flash,” he answers. “It was there.” And he points.
Edwin looks where the astronaut points. “Nope, sure didn’t.”
“Strange.” Then he checks his gauges again.