64720 AU was written in response to Emile Bojesen’s track by the same name on his recent release: Radio Transmissions from Distant Planets Vol. 1.
The radio signal from Beings passed us just over one light year from ‘arth, fifteen years into our voyage, several generations from _______.
The ones that arrived would name it.
We were elated at first, as we were taught to feel, that finally our species was not alone in the universe. You are not alone, it said, as we moved through space.
To an observer our elation would have been barely perceptible. A decade and a half—floating—in the hospitable regions of our craft, no floors, only walls, makes it happen differently.
The elated are near-indifferent—there is only a trace of ‘arth left in us now.
Elation takes place slowly and involves little muscular action. I think some of us only twitched, but a twitch carries meaning to those accustomed to space flight where nothing much happens and almost everything that does has become so familiar it scarcely registers to consciousness.
Each twitch a discourse on ‘arth—our said.
We hardly reacted to the stuff that collided with us in the craft, colliding so long, the collisions were gentle but occurred often enough to destroy less seasoned travellers. The tape was gone.
When small things accumulate they kill those not yet near indifferent.
When pieces of things and things not yet in pieces did not strike us they passed us by and clouded our vision, but the various materials we had not secured, and could not be bothered to secure in any case, did not disturb us even as we slept, though we still bound our arms to our sides, out of habit, for the welcoming of sleep where there was nothing much, in that, to be dreamt.
As one speculated, or said, or thought, or thought they said, in another fifteen years we would, most probably, even lose the compulsion to itch.
Elated, then, only because that is what we had been taught to feel, and so, barely elated, barely moving with that feeling, or the thing that felt like feeling, we realised the pain of knowing something new. We were struck by that pain after so much time of nothing left to say or know.
The pain we felt was the fact our joy, you may call it joy, we called it nothing, was struck within the hull of our craft. Or, at least, if we broadcast it, that joy, or simulacrum of joy, our broadcast, and with it, our joy, would only ever chase behind the radio signal from Beings that continued behind us, in our wake.
The signal from Beings left us, almost as soon as it struck us, on its way to ‘arth, and hence, would pre-intercept whatever else lay in its path, advancing long before anything we might think or say.
The signal from Beings began to feel as impersonal as it was before it entered, and as it exited our craft, and so this elation came to present itself to us as a thing entirely without purpose. Another fragment. A speck. A habit.
The ‘arth would hear the radio signal from Beings first, and only then hear of us hearing of it, and then of us attempting to make sense of it long after that, that is to say, once ‘arth had made sense of it too.
Our significance on this journey that we long understood but never entirely felt until that moment appeared in its full, brutal absence. Nothingness ceased to be a word in our vocabulary as words vanished before meaning.
We were sacrificial beings. We were and finally felt our role as placeholders to future experiences. Life would resume in a region of space far from here that would have no need of remembering us before the greatness of its own task, to settle and occupy and breed and love and destroy.
So we cast our semen, our eggs, our incubators, and the infants we produced and incubated into the vacuum, and lived for a full year in the knowing that the news on its way to ‘arth was near meaningless anyway. Its point of origin was so far away that the Beings were certainly dead, their world finally barren, and their sun most likely collapsed.
Our message would follow: humanity is dead now too.
Ansgar Allen is the author of Wretch (Schism) and The Sick List (Boiler House Press, forthcoming). Ansgar is based in Sheffield, UK.
*Image credit: Image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), NASA, ESA, R. Windhorst (Arizona State University) and H. Yan (Spitzer Science Center, Caltech).
*Sound credit: Emile Bojesen, ‘64720 AU’ from Radio Transmissions from Distant Planets Vol. 1.