Alex's stories · arrival · September

Disembarking

By Alex Townley

IT makes you blink at first, you can’t help it. This is the first unfiltered light we’ve been exposed to in our lives and we’re amongst the first anywhere to be exposed to this milky-way-923801_1280particular wavelength.

I keep thinking about Americans. I might be American genetically speaking, I can’t remember, but partly at least, there must be a bit of that pioneer spirit in me. We learned all about the pilgrims in our lessons, all about explorers from throughout Earth’s history, but we don’t entirely feel like most of them. I like those early Americans travelling vast distances west to a land they hoped would be kind to them. They weren’t the first to plant a flag, they aren’t each remembered, but together they were still pioneers.

Maybe we’re not at all like them, maybe we’re more like the transported prisoners who were taken east instead to Australia by prison ship for a chance at a new life.

Our ship has a canteen, and staff and ‘people in charge’, so that much like all technology from the time we left, we wouldn’t know where to start if something went wrong, we’ve had as much control as those prisoners in the middle of the ocean.

Of course in our time, in the time of the exit, the real punishment was being left behind.

We have put our trust in people we will never meet, and this is the moment that trust either pays off or collapses in a pile of corpses.

They thought that by the time we had to leave, we’d be advanced enough to sleep through the journey, but we didn’t get that luxury. In the movies I’ve seen from before, people in our position are always in suspended animation, like the filmmakers solved that problem without any actual scientists ever really concentrating on the practicality of it.

While astronomers were locating Goldilocks planets, and climate specialists were issuing their Cassandra-like warnings, and the masses were sleepwalking into the next level of Angry Birds, and downloading What’s App, no-one thought to turn science fiction into fact, so when it came to be time for the exit, when there was no choice but to leave, we were suddenly faced with the reality of the distances involved.

I’m quoting text books obviously, I’m not part of the generation that left. I’m not part of the seven generations that just existed in between leaving and arriving either. I’m part of the luckiest generation or unluckiest, I’m the pay off.

Only eight generations is a long time, long enough to get comfortable on board, for this ship to have its own history and culture and nationalities, and for all of us to feel now as though we’re being wrenched out of that world, the only world we or anyone we have ever met, has known.

I’m trusting my life, my future to this new world. I’m not the first to set foot on new ground, but one of the first, maybe one of the first hundred thousand. I’m not planting my flag. I wouldn’t even know which flag to plant, but I still count as a pioneer.

I’m part of a machine, and I’m trusting my life to people who couldn’t even master suspended animation, something we calculated four generations ago, if we’d only had the hardware to make it possible on board, but you can’t make these things out of thin air. It might take a few weeks for us to find out how thin the air is here.

Everything we know we’ve learned from books, we’ve made ourselves better than our forefathers.

There was a moment as the tug ships descended, where they slowly switched over the on board gravity to the natural levels outside, where we finally felt the reality of our new lives, of all that time, and all those people, and all that hope on our shoulders.

We realised finally that we had arrived.

© Alex Townley 2016

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