A gibbous view of the planet filled the space-portal: its’ swirling mass of white clouds illuminated against the stark black backdrop. The spacecraft shuddered and shook as the entry sequence commenced.
Karazu peered back towards Sari at the main console, who looked up with her bright valiant eyes. She had always been the optimistic one and kept faith in their voyage. Her ovoid body quivered as siliceous membranes divided and reformed into a slender appendage. Her smooth dark brown arm reached out in his direction. In mimicry Karazu shivered. His body rippled with excitement and slid towards her with outstretched limbs. They embraced solemnly.
Through the starboard portal Karazu could see the hundreds of allied ships sailing guilelessly towards their fate. Beyond the fleet and beyond their planetary destination the starry void twinkled ominously. A stark backdrop: each prick of light scattered along with their shattered hope. So many planets, but so few they could call home. This would be their last chance.
Thousands of years ago, their ancestors had sought a new world to colonise as the threats facing their ancient home planet escalated. Finally they found a planet suitable for their race. The new planet dwarfed their tiny ships, but they strived forth and attempted to land. During the entry phase their heat shields yielded to the thick atmosphere, melting their ships, along with their hope. So many ships had plummeted to their doom, like thousands of falling tears. They had become nothing more than solidified glassy tombs scattered across the landing site.
Many years later, with new knowledge and new heat shields, Karazu led the final attempt to land on their new home. If this did not work there would be no more chances.
Through the emptiness of space, and across a distance and time too vast to measure, Karazu could feel the muted cries of all he had left behind and all the space fleets who had sacrificed themselves before him. By now their home galaxy would be nothing more than a pit of black holes. Planets would be boiling and blinking out of existence as ancient stars went nova. The age of sophistication would be lost along with all their discoveries: space travel, faster than light communication, self-regeneration, telepathy and the origins of space and time itself. The ancient Siliconeous beings were long credited as the most prominent beings in the universe. Carbon-based life forms now encroached the outskirts of the galaxy. Carbon was the new silicon, the new evolutionary path.
A jolt thundered through their craft followed by a hypnotic creaking. The external layers of their ship were beginning to melt under the pressure and heat.
Karazu sensed Sari approach alongside him. He reformed part of his body into an appendage and held Sari’s hand tightly. So tight his knuckles turned yellow and started to crystallise. He shut his eyes; he did not need to see. Sari’s fear and hope radiated through his core. He held her tight. This time, he prayed, their descent would work … but should their heat shields not hold, at least they would be fused as one.
The tour guide released a stifled yawn. Frustrated she looked at her watch, counting the seconds before the bus came to pick them up.
She got the stragglers to regroup. A gusty Nullarbor wind stridently skittled dust around, biting at the skin of inappropriately dressed bare-ankled tourists.
“Wow! Now this is exciting. I haven’t seen one of these in years.” She bent down and picked up the strategically placed black glassy object in her hands, cradling it delicately like a newborn child. “Does anyone know what this is?” she asked. Contrived enthusiasm seemed to ooze from every pore in her sweaty being.
A few shrugs, a couple of ‘I don’t knows’ and as usual one young boy facetiously proclaiming it was ‘a bleedin’ rock’.
“This is a tektite. They are only found in several places across the world, but most are found in Indonesia the Philippines and…” she prompted, looking at the youngsters.
“Australia” said a few vivacious juveniles in union.
“That’s right. They are very old, some dating back over millions of years. These ones here are possibly over 700,000 years old.” She lowered her voice to an eerie whisper. “They have a brown glassy surface inside and some scientists believe they might have come from the moon.” She sensed a few ears pricking up. Right she had them now, if she could just hold their attention she would be able to get through the rest of the tour.
She rabbited on, as she always did, with her rehearsed spiel. She talked about how they had high levels of silicon similar to moon dirt, and that they were unlikely to be from earth.
“They look like any old earth rock.” interrupted one brutish man capriciously.
The tour guide flashed a penetrating sideways glance. She looked at her watch; five more minutes.
“Maybe it came from Mars,” said an enthusiastic child.
“I doubt it, they would have been scattered more randomly if they came from somewhere more distant… speaking of somewhere more distant here’s our ride back to town.” She relaxed as she saw the dust billowing up from behind her motorised saviour.
The group poured onto the bus chatting indiscernibly as she dropped the rock down carelessly for the next tour group.
Preoccupied with the relief of the cool climate-controlled bus, she did not notice the rock shatter in two, nor did she notice the gel like substance that slid out onto the ochre plains, she did, however, hear an insistent voice echoing inside her head.
“When we first studied this planet it was not quite this warm. Can you perhaps turn the air-conditioning up a fraction?”
She looked around and saw nothing but empty dusty plains. Confused she shook her head “Too much heat. I must be going mad.”
Copyright © 2009 Melanie Rees.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, September 2009.
This page last updated 4th November 2009.