(Originally published as “Neverland” and “On Tormance we stand”
A cordial Hello to all who may see this, and may the day embrace you!
From your history books, you will know that our ship Neverland left the vicinity of Old Earth 11,000 years ago, bound for the solar system of Arcturus. Neverland was constructed in space, over a period of 50 Terran years, and encompasses a length and breadth of about two of your kilometers. The people aboard, numbering 196 (98 pairs), were the first voyagers.
I am Sheela, a female of the 112th generation born on this vessel. I am 25 “years” old. There is an expression that I have read in books. It says, “We stand upon the shoulders of giants.” And, yes, so we do. Many of the ancient stories from the beginning of this exploration tell of the challenges, tragedies, and triumphs of our forebears. Books have been my world, as I have no other.
I have never known Earth, our ancestral home, except through writings and legends passed down. I do fervently hope that my little story will reach there. I hope also that its people still survive, in the eleven millennia since Neverland took flight.
The curious name of our vessel has been a source of amusement for many of us. There is a running joke that we will “never land”. It is unknown what we will find on Tormance, the second planet in the Arcturian system. Its name comes from an obscure novel written in Earth’s 20th century. Our technology tells us only that it will be “habitable” to our species.
We of course have our own sustainable food supply, consisting of numerous crops in rotation. We do not eat beasts here, as was done on Earth, nor do we have any on board. Our protein comes from botanical sources, and the fish that we farm. Diets are kept from being dull through inventive hybrids and recipes, and our chefs enjoy a certain exalted standing in our small society.
Person of Earth, I will never know you. If we were to meet one another, I am sure there would be much strangeness. You have known a real world. I have been farmed like the fish. Earth has a violent history, and, at the time of Neverland’s birth, its very makeup was rapidly deteriorating. We too, aboard this fleeing bubble, have at times been in a mode of self destruction, even though our original crew had been picked for their stability. There have been murders, factions arising within the people, and irreconcilable differences. Still, we soldier on towards the purpose. Our numbers have been as few as one fifth of the crew that left Earth, and, as I write this, we are 125.
This may seem unsavory to you, but we compost our dead here, with rare exceptions. Services are held, in keeping with the beliefs of each family.
We, of “The 112th Regiment” (as we are called) will be the first of The People to set our feet upon the planet of a new star.
Truly, we will be Interstellar.
In my twenty-five years of life, all of it aboard the great ship Neverland, I have known naught but the constructs of humankind and the black robe of space.
For the last two years, our excitement has been building here. Through the luck of the genetic draw, we are the people, the gleanings who will complete this pilgrimage of 111 centuries, born in Earth’s orbit in times that are ancient to us. As I write, we are still many millions of Terran miles from the Arcturian disk, yet its glow of deep orange paints moving murals upon our living rooms, filling a great swath of our vision. We are in escape velocity, on a trajectory to stay clear of his magnetic influence.
The constellation in which our new sun holds sway was known to ancient Earth as Boötes. Funny, but constellations now are moot to us, shape shifting as they do, with space and time. I sometimes think that our early voyagers must have wished that the secrets of new dimensions could have been unlocked, permitting space to be folded upon itself, granting them new worlds within their lifetimes. These were the bravest of people, spending all their lives to a purpose, but knowing they would never see its fulfillment. And now, as was said, we stand upon the shoulders of these giants.
It is time! It is THE time! With Tormance in aphelion from its great sun, our rendezvous has been plotted. We are but days from history, close enough to see our World. I feel the adrenalin rising within me as this day of fate comes near. Sleep is becoming difficult but imperative, and I must medicate at times. As one of the Science Officers aboard, I will have the privilege of being in the first landing party.
Here. Now. Be mindful of your training. Let not your emotions rule you. We are twenty, in the first shuttle. All with at least some piloting experience, gained from trysts with unnumbered asteroids in the cascading years. Our instrument readings show a mean gravity 1.3 of our normal. An average surface temperature of 290° Kelvin. An atmosphere slightly higher in nitrogen than our standard.
And now, we get our first head-on view of the world. A peculiar thing to say. A foreign feeling, after a lifetime of steel and glass. Tormance explodes into our field of vision. Its dun tarnished silver is like a new color. The enormity. The buffeting as we achieve entry into its atmosphere, bathed in copper light. Will I ever wake from this? In our fellowship of the shuttle, I see that many of us are overcome with awe. Someone, in an ancient history book, said “They should have sent a poet”. As for me, this religion has captured my very soul.
Our touchdown is made on a terraced flat, minutes before the blood sundown, and, still wearing our slicksuits, we crowd the open hatch doors to drink our fill of this miracle. Our First Officer sets his foot upon the gray mica-like rock that glints in the crimson dusk. And we follow. We follow. We hug. We cry. A crosswind blows, and the airs smell like brimstone, but we breathe.
Upon Tormance we stand.
Image credit : https://www.zastavki.com/eng/Fantasy/wallpaper-93895.htm