Inertia. An object in motion wants to stay in motion. An object at rest wants to stay at rest.
We have been still for so long.
Living had been a problem a long time ago. It was a thing we struggled for, and against, for as long as humanity was in its infancy. Then, one day, we grew up. And we learned to live forever.
Many hailed it as humanity’s entrance into Transcendance. But you don’t get something like that without a price. At first, they seemed like massive, heretical impositions. Wars were waged over the right to have children. Thousands died from moment to moment in the wake of our “transcendence.” Thousands of impossibly long lives.
Yet, as we tended to, humanity accepted and survived. Survived to live forever. But you can only persist in a balanced world as long as it stays balanced. So, we didn’t rock the boat. Much.
I was born in Canada during the war for our children. My mother fought in it. She fought for immortality.
I don’t remember that, though. Mostly, I remember the snow. Great, white heaps of the stuff piled outside the window. Driven by the wind, snaking along the smooth surface of the icy crust. My friends and I would crunch through it to school each morning. It’s weird now to think that each year a new batch of children would ship off to school. But, they did.
They did, and I was among the last of those waves.
They say that everyone remembers things from their childhood more clearly than middle-adulthood. To me, it feels true. I can still remember freezing my tongue to the fence outside the school and feeling the warm water trickle over it, sealing my freedom.
But, I couldn’t tell you what I’ve done for the last hundred years. Could probably only tell you the last ten, on a good day.
It’s the only explanation I can think of, though, for why I’m remembering it so clearly now. Looking out the view-screen “window” at the blackness all around us. The nothing we’re swimming through.
We’re on a mission to colonize planets we’ve never seen before, and all I can think about is that one Tuesday in December. Annie… Angie?… had hidden my boots and refused to tell me where they were.
I was eight. I didn’t have much I could do. I kicked her in the shins and tattled. I got my boots back and a bout of detention. They say there’s no justice.
I missed my bus.
Father, we had fathers then, was working, so I had to make it home on my own. It wasn’t far, just across town. My vice principal offered me a ride after I hung up the phone, but I wasn’t about to accept his charity.
Cool as you please, I said, “No, I’m sure I’ll be fine,” and walked out the front doors.
Ten minutes later, I was deeply regretting my decision. I’m sure my vice-principal was, too, because it was -30 out, and if anything happened to me, it was his ass.
Ten minutes is a long time in frigid wind and icy snow. Even your eyelids huddle together for warmth and refuse to let go. I started to wonder if I was going to make it.
The month before, we’d learned about Thanksgiving and the winter scythe that had devastated the first Canadian settlers. It was a sobering experience, trudging through that same hostile landscape. Snow transforms everything. No matter where you are, snow becomes the land.
Inside my warm house, I remember thinking that the settlers were crazy. Winter was our enemy. We weren’t meant to live within it. They should have stayed where it was warm.
I remember thinking then, as now, that we aren’t where we belong. Life-expectancy, civilization, and meaning are all contextual. What do we mean out here? Why have we forsaken immortality?
Since we started this voyage, we’ve lost so many individuals. So many lives that stretched back to the dawn of Transcendence. We aren’t meant to live in space.
Then again, we had no choice. There are no true forevers.
But now, as then, I can’t help but wonder at my surroundings. At the house that kept me warm. At the hull that keeps me safe from the unending nothing. The white fade of snow. The black void of space.
We built these to live here.
We gave up forever. They gave up what they knew for a land of impossible frigidity.
And we, many, many years and lifetimes later, built a house in their memory. Built a ship in our own.
And we live, because that’s what you do when the world changes. When you change the world. When you leave the world to change.
You live. You live and you trust that, just like every other year, the snow will melt.
We’ll shake off Transcendence and learn to be a race again. To wake up to the cold, white snow and the deep, black void. To be.