1/6 of Are The Stars out tonight?

Are The Stars Out tonight?

By

Allison Kohn

The year was 1988. Judith was sitting by herself in the living room of an old farmhouse. She picked up a flyer and glanced at it idly. They have been gone a year today, she thought. Where are they? Do they want to come home? Or are they glad to be where they are? Could they come back if they wanted to?

Judith’s brother, Mike, was expecting a guest for dinner and she would play hostess. After their parents’ death, Michael had moved back into the old farm house with Judith to give her a chance to adjust to living alone. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

“Starduster,” said the ad. “A slight squeeze on the thrust control will boost your power to climb up out of the water, and gain flying speed. Dream a little, or a lot.” Judith would. Dreams were her specialty, but Judith wasn’t dreaming about ordinary things; her dreams were about star dust and light waves – and questions.

After dinner, while her brother and his guest talked business, Judith looked off into the sky.

To be able to see something that was 4,080 trillion miles away made her heart beat faster and her palms sweaty. Just think, out there about 8,000 miles away is a black hole that I can’t see with anything but my imagination. But she knew it as well as some people knew their pets. Once it was a bright, lovely star full of mass. The larger stars burn more of their mass as fuel faster, so they have the shortest lives. “Of course mass doesn’t necessarily mean size, but this star fossil would have been extremely heavy. Can you imagine the power it contained?”

Her brother coughed apologetically and Judith realized she had spoken her thoughts, but she couldn’t stop the flow of thought she had been engaged in while her brother talked with his guest.

“My sister’s after-dinner talk,” he said, but her mouth kept going.

“Strong gravity from the dense burning core, trying to pull its expanding gases together, squeezed the contents in the hub together until the nucleus became so dense that it collapsed from lack of fuel and no longer emitted light.”

Her brother’s dinner guest smiled. “A shining star transformed into a great black hole.” He gazed into the blackness of the sky and sighed. “A light went out. Perhaps an angel fell.”

Judith looked off into the dark night sky and saw, with the eyes of her imagination, a great black hole and the gravity that hastened the motion of a space ship toward it unaware of the danger. She looked at Mike, who stood near her, scrutinizing the heavens. “Would a space ship have enough reverse power to stop acceleration when it comes in contact with the power of the gravity from a black hole?”

He shrugged his slender shoulders carelessly, and ran his fingers through his auburn hair. “I don’t know. I know that a planet’s gravitational field can grab a space probe and fling it further into space, and you know the gravity from a planet is not near as extensive as the wrench from a black hole.”

“Yes, I know; so if an object like a space probe were sucked into a black hold, it would be pressed into its density and destroyed.”

Her brother laughed – a deep throaty laugh. “The way you talk, anyone would think you planned to take a spacecraft to a distant planet and needed to be aware of all the dangers.”

“Anything is possible. The chances that we are the only intelligent life in the universe are infinitesimally small; and the chances that people from other planets have traveled to earth are pretty good, so why shouldn’t I travel to other planets someday?”

Mike grinned good-naturedly and explained ti his guest, “My sister has recently gotten the idea that there is life on other planets. She read a story about some scientists in England who got radio messages from what they decided later were pulsar stars. There seem to be more pulsar than massive star explosions and astrophysicists wonder where they come from. Judith isn’t so sure those transmissions were bouncing off stars.”

Mike’s guest, Paul, looked thoughtful. “I understand the area between Mars and Jupiter is loaded with speeding asteroids – odd shaped chunks of rock and metal that orbit the sun.

Sometimes these minor planets crash into each other.  Anything the size of the state of Texas is large enough to give off quite a signal, and even the ones that are less than half a mile across are capable of leaving an electrical report of their collision. Space is full of electrical impulses, I’ve heard.”

“I suppose so; but I know that the scientific explanation is based on prejudice because scientists never seem to be willing to admit that any belief they haven’t invented is worth talking about, and you know they have such a hard time keeping up with their own dogma.” She grinned to take the sting out of her words.

Mike snorted. “I don’t suppose you’d like to clarify that amazing statement, would you?”

Judith crossed her arms. “Well, they once thought that a large planet between Mars and Jupiter had exploded to form asteroids. Now they believe them to be rubble from when the solar system formed. Science has been wrong too many times in the past to make absolute statements.”

Paul’s quiet statement interrupted her train of thought. “Change is the nature of science.”

Judith looked off into the quiet summer night and imagined she could see a storm of meteoroids sweeping to the earth. “The asteroids reach earth as meteorites.  Some scientists believe that Mar’s two moons, may have been asteroids that were pulled into orbit by Mar’s gravity. They seem to think meteoroids, asteroids, and comets were all formed during the same period as the planets and sun. What do you think?” she asked, looking at Paul with honest eyes.

“I think that’s a reasonable assumption,” he said with a smile. “That’s what the Bible says.”

Judith’s hazel eyes snapped. “Oh, do you believe the Bible could know anything about it?’

“With all my heart.”

“Well Judith,” Mike said, “it makes just as much sense as what you believe. There has never been any reason to believe there is life on other planets.”

“Yes there is.” Judith’s arms were hugging her. “I was just reading that, in 1908, near Tunguska in remote Siberia an observer saw a bright light in the sky and then heard an explosion. The blast destroyed a wooded area the size of Rhode Island. Some people believe it was a space ship; and they believe the ship’s radiation caused the trees to grow faster afterward.”

Mike shook his head. “Yes, but there are others who believe it was an exploding comet whose heat waves did the destruction.”

Judith looked at Paul. “What about you? What do you think?”

He surprised her by saying, “Both explanations could be legitimate, because anything is possible. We have not been given all the secrets of the universe. It is wonderful what man knows but perhaps not as wonderful as what he thinks he knows. The huge iron meteors that have made craters in other parts of the world and thought-provoking too, but the information gleaned from the studies of material in and around them seem to indicate the birthday of the rest of our solar system coincides to Earth’s. That is certainly what the book of Genesis says.”

They continued to gaze at the sky and Mike brought out a telescope and set it on the porch. Paul seemed to be as thrilled as Judith to see the balls hanging in space and Judith’s heart gave a leap to think she had finally found someone who was as delighted to gaze at the Milky Way as she was. The rest of the evening seemed to fly by and when Paul left, Judith was surprised it was after midnight.

Both siblings headed straight for bed. Tomorrow was a work day for Mike and Judith always got up and made is breakfast. She felt closer to her mother when she was doing the things a mother does.

Judith didn’t know how long she had been asleep when she woke to a light tap on her bedroom window. She rubbed her eyes and sat up. The lawn was illuminated by a bright light, not the full moon – that was a full week away. But there was a man standing right outside her window. He looked like Paul, but what would Paul be doing there and why was it so light? The man was the size and coloring of Paul, but his attire looked rather odd, even to her sleepy eyes. He motioned for her to come outside and she grabbed the robe she had thrown on the floor when she went to bed. She put it on and fastened it as she left her bedroom. When she closed her bedroom door it was very dark in the hallway and she had to grope her way through the house and out the door. It was still dark outside and she thought that was a bit odd, but when she got to the backyard, it was light as day.

The man met her at the corner of the house and beckoned for her to follow him.

“What is it? Where are we going?”

He stepped a little further out into the backyard where light seemed to be even brighter and gave her an amiable and credible smile. “Just step over here a bit and you will see it.”

Judith didn’t think about why she should or shouldn’t trust the man enough to obey, she went where he told to; and, when he motioned for her to follow, she followed. One step led her further out in the yard, and the next step she put her foot in a hard surface and suddenly she was in a large building. She looked around her in amazement

“An observatory! How could I have missed it? And in my backyard too too. How could I have missed it? I must be dreaming.”

“No, no, you’re not dreaming. It’s clocked, of course, so it can’t be seen from the outside.”

“Clocked?”

Yes, of course; it has a shield around it that keeps light from bouncing off it. Don’t you watch Star Trek?”

“Star Trek?”

The T.V. program. You should remember seeing many programs where their so-called “science fiction” explained about the very real concept of making a ship invisible to the naked eye. Of course it is only fiction to earthlings.

“T. V. program? Yes, I do remember watching that some when I was a child. Are you making a movie or a T. V. show? How could you do that without my knowing?”

Judith looked around her at the room full of large men in metal-like uniforms. They all seemed to have the same build and general appearance as Paul, as though they were all clean-living football players. Their outfits seemed to be tailored, but loose enough to not restrict movement. The material looked like some sort of silver. One of them was wearing a uniform made the same way as the others, but the material seemed to be infused with colors that changed as he walked.

He was looking at her as though she was an astonishing individual and he wondered where she came from. That seemed strange to Judith since he was the odd looking one doing something incomprehensible in her backyard.

“We are not making a movie,” he said authoritatively. “This is a real spaceship and we have come to explain who the little grayish white men with the big black eyes are and clear up a few misconceptions that you people are so fond of harboring. Not that Americans are the only ones, you understand. We will contact each country separately. I am Captain Largo.”

Judith listened politely, vaguely aware that he thought she knew what he was talking about.

“We will talk to everyone of course, mostly housewives, as we have discovered that information, or new knowledge, whether correct or erroneous, spreads faster through word of mouth through them.”

Judith smiled absently and looked around her.

“So this is a real spaceship? Are you planning to go to other planets in it?”

The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. “We are on another planet. We are what you people so ineptly call a UFO.”

A large map of space covered the wall behind the captain. Judith had been studying it while the man talked and now she said, “That map is backwards. I’ve never seen one like it before.”

“Why do you say it’s backwards? Point to your planet, Earth, for me please.”

Judith pointed to Earth but had no answer to his question.

He pointed to the closest planet whose solar system was much like Earth’s. “How do you know that this isn’t Earth?”

”That’s not our solar system.

That sun and its orbiting bodies are lot like Earth’s but there are twin planets where Jupiter and Saturn would be if it were ours.”

“How do you know that?”

Any school child knows that from their school books, or you can read all about it in the Book of Knowledge.” She pointed to the nearest planet. “Is this your home?”

“Yes.”

“Your solar system isn’t on any map that I have seen.”

He looked at her thoughtfully. “You’re very well informed for an Earthly housewife. Our solar system isn’t on your maps because it’s too far away for your weak telescopes to pick up.”

Judith looked back at the map, noticing its detail as far away as Earth’s galaxy. “I’m not a housewife. I’m a house-sister. Is there life on the other planets in our galaxy?”

Yes, there is.”

“Will we be able to live in harmony with any of them? Have any of them visited here?”

“Harmony is a good choice of words.” He motioned to her to sit down and she sat opposite at the counter where two other men had been seated. Judith noticed that all the other men were busy with other things and had lost interest in her.

“All the other planets have life of some sort. Some of that life is not in harmony with ours so that we can’t even see it. It is like Jesus walking …”

Jesus?

“…through the wall, or the effects of static electricity when you come in contact with it as opposed to electromagnetic interaction making the same contact.”

Judith leaned forward eagerly. “Have people from other planets been here? Like Mercury?”

“The inhabitants of Mercury would find earth as impossible to live on as Mercury would be to us.”

“How about Venus?”

“Venusians would find the temperature and atmospheric pressure unbearably low. If we could survive long enough to enjoy the beauty of the yellow clouds over a surface of darker clouds that look like mountain ranges, the winds would blow us away. If we were to make Venus habitable for us, as some of your scientists have suggested, by reducing the planet’s atmospheric carbon dioxide content through the use of plants, the Venusians would not survive.”

“Where then?”

As I was telling you earlier, the little men that you Earthlings describe as grayish-white marshmallow men with big white watery eyes and no hair…”

At her blank look, he asked, “You’ve heard of them?”

“No. they haven’t been on the news have they?”

He walked over a desk and removed a copy of Enquirer and Star and a hard book on UFO’s and held them on the counter in front of her.

“Oh,” she said, blushing. “They aren’t considered reliable.”

“That’s a relief. They aren’t reliable at all. However, the men do look like they are described in the book to the uneducated. They are actually small olive skinned men and women with black hair and brown eyes in protective suits.”

Judith’s eyes sparkled. “Where are they from?”

His slow smile made his blue eyes sparkle. “They are scientists. Someday you will know who they are and where they are from.” He sobered when he noticed her staring out the window. “What are you looking at?”

My brother just opened the door to my bedroom. I can see him through that window over your shoulder.”

Then you must go quickly and get back into your bed. He must not find you gone.”

“But how?” Judith turned in confusion and found that she was back in bed. How odd! Had she been dreaming – but it was so real!

Mike rubbed his eyes sleepily as he stepped through her doorway. “Judith, are you all right? I heard voices in here. What is it? Can’t you sleep?”

“I’m all right.” Judith sat up in bed and picked up the clock. “You must have been dreaming too. Why, the clock has stopped.” She swung her legs off the bed and looked out the window. “It’s already light out. What time is it anyway? Is it morning?”

“I’ll get my watch.” Her brother stumbled back to his room and a moment later called, It’s seven o-clock. I’ll have to get in the shower and head for the office. No time for breakfast today.”

Judith dressed and came out of her room in time to wave to Mike as he left; then she walked all over the backyard looking for any sign that there was or had been a spacecraft. With no indication that anything had been where she was so sure she had been only a short time ago, she had a strange sense of unreality.  Was it a dream after all? No. Well, it must have been. Judith returned to the house and tried to forget it.

That afternoon Paul stopped by. He said Mike told him he would be out of the office all day and asked him to go to the house and pick up some papers he had ready for him there.  Judith knew her brother was working with Paul on a battery the size of a sugar cube that was strong enough to power a car for 500 miles without having to be recharged.

She opened the door wide. “I haven’t heard from him, but I’m sure he’ll show up here soon. Please come in and sit down. Would you like a cup of coffee, or would a cold drink sound better?”

“A cold drink sounds good.” He picked up one of the books lying on the table. “What are you reading?”

“It’s a physical science book.” Judith handed him a cold soft drink and sat down on the edge of a chair across from him. “Did you ever wonder about time and space and light and sound and if science really does have all the answers right?” She thumbed through another of the books on the table. “How can time and light be measured accurately? If time is an inescapable natural condition of the universe and entropy must persistently increase, then the universe is running down and time with it.”

Isaiah, the prophet, said the heavens will vanish away like smoke – you know, when the fire is completely out, the smoke is no more. He also said the earth will get old like everything else does and the dwellers of earth will wear out in the same way. And Peter said the heavens are going to pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt from a great heat – the earth will burn up.”

“How horrible! But do you really think those old scriptures are a reliable source of information? Yes, I see that you do.” Judith flipped through the book. “Maybe it’s because I’m not very smart, but it seems to me that there are an awful lot of unanswered questions. This book says that time is the fourth linear dimension with height, length, and width being the other three; so why is it not possible for an object to move backwards in time, or forward faster than at a fixed, and constant predetermined velocity? For that matter, who made the determination? Who made the laws? Why is an object’s velocity of 186,000 miles per second irrevocable? How can we be sure that it would take all the mass energy in the universe to get an objects motion reversed at the speed of light? And did that man, Jesus, really walk through a wall?”

Paul had been listening patiently to Judith’s deluge of questions without attempting to answer her because she didn’t seem to expect an answer since she never seemed to take a breath in between questions, so when she stopped and looked at him questionably, he was at a loss for words at first. “That man, Jesus? Oh do you mean after he rose from the grave when he appeared before his disciples?”

“I don’t know. I just heard somewhere that he walked through a wall. Is that possible, do you think?”

“Well yes, because you see, he had a glorified body after he was raised from the grave. It was out of alignment with matter as we know it. At least, that is what I heard a scientist say once.”

Why, how odd. That’s just what someone said last night in my dream.” Judith picked up another book. “This book of physical science says that chaos eliminates the Laplacian fantasy of deterministic predictability so how can it be determined that everything in space is moving through time at the speed of light? There are so many questions that seem to be unanswered in my mind. For instance, is time a dynamic moving tangibility that flows past us and the physical universe; or is it a static reality through which the universe moves? I sometimes wonder if time is a product of our imaginations, created in our minds to explain the process of the law of the conservation of energy. If time is measured by change and change doesn’t exist without time,” she handed him a plate of cookies and refilled his glass, “then time is only a tool of change. If space can’t exist without change, then is change the only reality? Is entropy a direct function of the passing of time, or is time a measurement of entropy?”

Paul smiled. “Yes,” said Judith, “what does the Bible say about them?”

“It says that time and change happen to everything and everyone, but someday God will end time and its effects someday.”

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Michael said, entering the kitchen from the garage. “That meeting turned out to be more complicated than I thought it would be. Well Paul, I see my sister has been bombarding you with her favorite pastime; but it looks like you were able to hold up under the onslaught. Judith can get a little carried away.” He laid a manila folder on the table. “The papers are all there and ready.” Michael was a physicist who, with his associate, Paul, was in the process of marketing a small tritium battery for electric cars. “But I hope you won’t rush off. Might as well stay and have dinner with us unless you have other plans.”

Judith realized it was later than she usually started supper, so she quickly fixed a light meal. About midnight she brought snacks out to the veranda where Michael and Paul were discussing the details of battery life and weight while Judith listened with vague attention. Her thoughts were in the stars. What if the plane had been transported to another planet and her parents were alive and happy there?

It would have to be outside the Milky Way, maybe in a sister universe. She had imagined a planet where there was no pollution and the sky was always blue when Michael took her plate from her hand and jolted her back to reality.

“Paul is leaving and its time you did your dreaming in bed.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I was just thinking of another universe…”

“We’ll discuss it later, I promise.” He gave her a gentle push toward her room. “Paul said goodnight and you nodded so you go get some sleep now.”

Judith gave her brother an absent minded wave and shut her bedroom door. She undressed quickly and crawled into bed but sleep didn’t take over. She tossed and turned and tried to tell herself last night never happened, but it was still so real, more so now that she was in bed. How could it not have happened? She got out of bed and went outside to investigate the back yard again, but the only thing there was dew, so she went back to bed, and this time she began to fall asleep.

But, as she was drifting off, a hand touched hers and she sat straight up in bed and looked into the face of Captain Largo. She reached for her robe and before she knew it she was back in the space ship talking to the captain as though she had never left.

“Did your brother suspect anything?” he asked.

She shook her head no. “He isn’t the suspicious type. It was time for the alarm to go off and he always seems to get ready for the office in his sleet anyway.”

“You said you aren’t married. Do you live here alone with your brother?”

Yes, our parents died in a plane crash a year ago and there was just the four of us – now there are only the two of us. What about you? Do you have a family?”

“Not a wife,” he smiled slowly. “I have never married. It wouldn’t do, you know, but I have thirteen brothers and sisters and a large supply of nieces and nephews.”

Judith rested her chin on her hands and looked thoughtfully at the captain. “What is your planet like?”

He lowered his large frame into the seat. Life on Juno, just like life on Earth, is controlled by genes – the coded instruction woven into the fabric of minute coils called chromosomes which make up the nucleus of living cells, as we know them. The same DNA and RNA determine the order and send messages of assembly, so that life forms are pretty much the same as on Earth.”

She laughed. “Okay, what’s the planet like?”

“Well, desert and savanna conditions prevail. We have one large land mass instead of several. It’s beautiful and calm – very peaceful. Everything is larger there than here and the colors are brighter. The atmosphere isn’t as turbulent because we have only three circumplanetary bands to your six and they are wider. Juno’s axis tilt is different so naturally its rotation is slower. And we have two moons.

“Two moons,” Judith repeated dreamily.

His voice was low and caressing. “I wish you could see them.”

“So do I.”

Captain Largo leaned close to her. “I can’t take you there – but maybe,” he lowered his voice and spoke so low Judith had to lean closer to him to hear. “Time is relative you know. Your earth day is currently twenty-three hours, fifty minutes, and four seconds long, but as the distance between the earth and moon becomes greater, it will be longer. A day on Jupiter is nine hours and fifty minutes. We travel through time at different speeds and in different directions. In traveling further and faster, we broke the sound barrier and the light barrier when we invented the jet liner and space craft. In order to go to distant galaxies, we had to break the time barrier too, and go faster than time.”

He looked into her eyes and she felt caressed by his. There was something so familiar about those eyes. What was it? But he was talking.

“Time, you see, is an invention of the mind, so telepathic travel can break through all barriers, including time. We can take a trip by mind travel through your galaxy, if you will.”

He held out his hand. His slow smile invited her more than his words. “Will you put your hand in mine and go with me?”

She put her small hand in his big one and, as his fingers closed gently over hers, she felt herself rising through the ship and into the heavens.

As they rose above the earth the northern lights spread out from the poles. Judith caught her breath and the captain squeezed her hand. “They are beautiful, aren’t they? They are caused by an intense activity on the surface of your sun that shows low to the earth the super-hot gasses that constantly flow up from the surface of the sun and stream far out into space.”

“Are high temperatures what causes the gas to change and become electrically charged particles? Is that plasma?” Judith felt as though she were a part of the whole show as the lights spread from the sun in all directions at what seemed like hundreds of miles per second and formed a solar wind that reached the outer edges of the earth’s magnetic field. Judith could imagine that she saw the magnetic lines of energy looping from the north magnetic pole to the south magnetic pole around the earth shielding it from the charged particles that constantly flow from the sun.

“Most of the solar wind’s particles will be turned aside by the magnetic field,” Captain Largo said. The ones that get through will be spiraled around in lines of magnetic field and bounced between its poles. Some of them will collide with atoms of air in the upper atmosphere. It is solar charged particles colliding with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere that produce auroras of red, green, violet, and blue lights.”

“It’s so incredibly glorious.”

“The heavens declare the glory of Yahweh and the firmament demonstrates his handiwork.”

“That sounds like something from the Bible. Where did you get it?”

“Yahweh is the God of the universe, and Juno is part of the universe.”

“And you have the Bible too. How strange. I didn’t know anyone really believed it anymore. I mean educated people, you know.”

“Surely you can’t look at all the beauty and grandeur and not know that its design came from Ultimate Intelligence and Power. Come, see the beauty and splendor and tell me where you think it all came from.”

Suddenly two strokes of forked lightening came from the earth and two more reached down from the base of a cloud to meet them, then zigzagging streamers shot out in all directions in a great sky-splitting spear shooting upward through a crimson and blue pool in the dark sky.

Judith caught her breath again. “Why, the whole sky seems to be one gigantic display of power.”

Captain Largo pointed down to lacy threads of white over lush green bordered with the deep blue-green of the water. “The Andes mountain range. See, off in the distance is Santiago, and all of this below is Chile and Argentina.”

Judith gasped at the specular view before her. “It’s all so brilliant. I feel as though I’ve never seen anything before – only imagined that I did. It’s like being partially blind and regaining your sight. Oh look; those are rivers and lakes, aren’t they? But they look like delicate trellises. And there’s another storm; and what is that bright gold and flame over there?”

“That, my dear, is the pollution over the Indian Ocean.”

Unexpectedly Judith saw the slime over the pool of gold and flame. She shuddered and looked away. “How could we treat our beautiful earth so contemptibly?”

“Like naughty children who don’t take care of a beautiful gift from their father. Look at the earth now. It looks like a beautiful marble, doesn’t it, but so delicate that if you were to touch it with your fingers it would crumble like a delicate glass ball.”

“Is that what we’re doing?”

They left Earth far below and floated out through the vastness of space.  She felt the tender pressure of his hand covering hers and caught the excitement the surged through him; and she knew the thrill, for him, was in the sharing.

They visited Mercury’s crater- marked mountains and broad lava planes. They stood on the lava crusted surface and, looking off into the eastern horizon, watched the sun rise, stop unexpectedly, set and rise again.

Judith, with her hand tightly in Captain Largo’s, floated amid the yellow and orange clouds of Venus, watching a ray of sun tinge the clouds and stone-covered slope with its irregular dark patches of lave a fleeting kaleidoscopic of color.

They glided between the red cliffs and craters of Mars and skirted the fluffy pink clouds of dust to skim above the sand dunes and over ice deposits, mountains, valleys, and canyons.

“Do you hear the music in the wind?” the captain asked, and taking her and in both of his, he whirled her around and around to the song of the whistling air. Her heart beat to the cadence of their dance.

Then they drifted in the midst of Jupiter’s many moons as they watched the Great Red Spot high overhead; a constantly traveling atmospheric storm that made the clouds that swirled with it look like golden light moving from right to left. And then Captain Largo took Judith into Jupiter’s liquid molecular ocean where they watched the waves of blue and red roll all around them. She backed into him and he put his arms over her shoulders. His heart seemed to be beating with the cadence of the waves.

Saturn and its moons, its lakes of methane, cratered hills, rocky debris and ammonia ice fragments created visions of pink, blue, and white. “Oh, it’s so beautiful,” Judith said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Captain Largo’s slow smile told her he was enjoying the experience too and her heart smiled.

Judith felt like the universe was singing her a soft lullaby as she glided past pale green Uranus with its soft green clouds and nine narrow rings, soothing her into a blissful drift past Neptune and its two moons toward Pluto.

They lingered over methane ice-covered Pluto and gazed at the sun, so far away it looked like a bright star, reluctant to return to Earth. Captain Largo put his arm around Judith’s shoulders and pulled her close, the slowly moved them away. With her hand is his, they returned to Earth.

As they approached the sun was eagerly exploding over the horizon, accompanied by more than a half dozen bands of color from the deepest shade of red to the brightest and deepest blue.

The Captain opened his hand and let it linger under hers and Judith looked up into eyes that were filled with sadness. Then he veiled them and stood tall. “You must go home and I must say good-bye. Someday soon you will give me an answer to my question, where did all the magnificence and grandeur come from? I will be listening for it.” A tear escaped from Judith’s eye and wet her cheek. “Go now – please,” he whispered.

The door was open and she turned and walked through it.

 

 

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