by Livne Ore
The sky was blue once, we were told. There were white and grey things in it, hanging things that looked fluffy- a bit like sheep’s wool, apparently, but made up of millions of minuscule particles of vaporized water of molecules of H2O; or so we were told. We were told many things as we huddled together in the visco-seats. Warmed by our own softly vibrating atoms; kinetic energy turned to heat, and the omnipresent background humming forming the foundation of speech, a rhythmic pattern of intonation that lulled us into speaking our thoughts, emerging from the cluster of e-screens layered inch-deep between our eyes and the ship’s hull.
The sky is not blue here. It is a fathomless black that is not a color but a shade, and its shadow is cast upon everything that we look upon and do not see for distance.
These stories are old; they have circulated the ship back and forth for dozens of years, and like chinese whispers they return embroidered – suddenly, not only was the sky blue, but there are beings that inhabited it, who sometimes did not touch any surface but air, like us, but were covered in soft downy feathers and had large appendages jutting out from their backs to create propulsion. We do not quite understand this, as we do not have these ‘wings’, and only require a small force to move from surface to surface, gliding along in the gravity-less artificial atmosphere of the ship. We have experienced gravity: they turn it on every year to commemorate the day we left (but not more than that, because we must conserve the energy for when we need to maneuver around passing asteroids and stars) and we have all agreed it is despicable. To be tethered to one plane? It is so cumbersome and heavy, to think this was what life was like! On that day, we like to curl up in our visco-seats, reading or listening to stories, keeping still while our lungs heave with effort and fog up the virtual screens. We do not understand why they did not just switch it off, like we do.
The sky is all around us, all the time, and time is measured minutes that slip past, languid in their assurance, a passing ingrained in the hardware of the ship. The sky, all around us, is not filled with clouds, but with planets and stars and supernovae that swallow the dark for a few beats of the heart before receding, a speeded-up simulation that is a favourite of ours, requested regularly to be on-screen.
We are the first-born, those who have experienced nothing of Earth, nothing of land and sky and the separation of the horizon line. Of course, we have seen these things in our e-screens. But we can create, on our e-screens. We have drawn patterns and glazed them over skin and carved into bone and melted into ship; we have taken turns at re-shaping what our optic nerves respond to and crafting new surroundings for ourselves. For a month, we lived in a pallid yellow winterland, sliding up slopes on toboggans through lemonade runs, drinking only chai tea on the tops of mountain peaks that widened the higher we climbed.We know the power of the virtual, that creation of the mind’s reality. We were told that we were being told the truth. Should we believe?
The ship, bulk and stiff and made of solid lines and square corners; because what does sleekness matter when there is no friction, no drag? is real, as we know it, for we know it better than anyone else. We delved, unguarded, into the interface at the most basic level, and found no mind controlling matter, no overarching focus to maintain this illusion of warm peach and pale green rooms, the hatches and the bubble-suits. These, we know, are real. The scaffolding built upon this solid foundation, however. What has been formed by the weariness of 241922.63 hours of this-many square meters of space, and so-and-so faces to greet? Through our e-screens, each room is transformed; plants sprout from floors and moons hang from ceilings. Desert winds seem to ruffle imagined hair, and in old Elsa’s wardrobe is an enormous golden candled chandelier. These, we know, are not absolutely there, but have a subjective reality depending on the settings of your screen. The plain purple dress and thin black gloves hanging on the edge of the mirror are only visible to the naked eye. There is no purpose in dispelling illusions: we leave them to their individual conceptualizations of themselves and their surroundings. Sometimes, we even peek, finding that often the room changes as a story is told, shifting images in grains of sand on the beach of the mind.
The sky is a story that we were told. The sky is a story which we have envisaged. The sky meets the beach in lapping waves of pink-tinted water, and the sky may well be a phantasmagoric element underlaid by nostalgic wistfulness, for as we were told, this was not a planned journey as such. Perhaps it is not a journey, but a destination. The ship in the not-sky where everyone went when the walls came crumbling down and the roof collapsed under the pressure of the void.
For we are not travellers, not us who were born in this place of isolated humanity; we have remained, seated in our visco-seats as we read of our own potential history. Our state is of motion, an inherent opposition of our immobility which renders us in paradoxical terms, neither proceeding nor running away. And are they? They set off, acting on second-hand knowledge, engaging a pre-destined route, calculated long before our time, we were told, and, as is continuously repeated, as a last resort. They do not advance from one point to another for there is no conclusion of voyage, only the slow expansion of the universe before their eyes as the hum of the ship overlays the despair in their minds. They are drifting in the betweenness of not-yet-there, and must cope with the burden of will-never-get-there, for they will be dead soon and left, stranded, bloated with forsaken hopes, in the abyss. We were told of a purpose, a new landmass, a ‘Planet B’ if you will. But they will not reach it. Nor will we.
For those who do, it will be an arrival.
Author Biography: Livné Ore is a first year student at Victoria University
of Wellington, and is working towards a conjoint Bachelors degree in Science
and Arts. She enjoys curling up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate, and
would be happy to find a career in this demanding field.