It was absolutely black between the bright, almost irritating stars. I rolled over to avoid both their intensity and their optimistic-seeming presence. I looked down at the Earth then; browns, blues, and a lot of white smeared and clumped in a random pattern around the surface of the planet.
I looked down at the continent of Africa. The color of the desert contrasted with the brilliant green of its jungles. The Nile was a wavy black line cutting through the desert and disappearing in the jungle below, ending in its own green delta to the north. Madagascar swung under me next, a long and large island off the southeast coast, having its own green plains nearer the ocean surrounding it.
Then there was the Indian Ocean, barely discernible from the ocean around it. From my height I couldn’t see its depths, it was merely the same blueness of the other oceans, its surfaces silvered by the water blowing from the winds, the sun reflecting itself towards me.
India, to me it was surprisingly green,despite my belief that it was mostly desert, it was not always shone that way on the maps that I was used to seeing in the atlases. These were the biased map makers that always pictured the United States as the greenest of all countries, perhaps rivaled only by the Amazon jungle of South America. I assumed that other countries suffered the same illogical depictions as well. But that was largely before breakout of the space age, when it seemed that we had about a million satellites photographing Earth, and a thousand or so people who had travelled up here for a personal view.
I watched India slide off to the North, as I had many times before in the various spaceships I had travelled in, and from the windows of a Space Station or two also. Approaching was Australia. It was always interesting to see from space, it’s vivid colors of whites, browns, oranges, and greens. They swirled together, giving only a slight impression of the inhospitable “Outback” with its golden sands.
From here it didn’t look so ferocious. It was merely colorful, rather beautiful. Having gone to the country myself, and having flown over it at plane level numerous times, I was quite aware of its hostility though. It had aspects of Jupiter in its violently blowing dust storms that could rip your skin off if you didn’t have the toughness of the aboriginals born there.
Of course the continent wasn’t all Outback either. The coasts had beautiful resort areas, full of people enjoying the warm weather and each other’s company. From my moving perch I could see where the mountainsides slid into the coastal regions, turning the brown heights into a lush green where it’s major cities had been placed. The blue of the ocean flowed into the harbors, browned by the discharge of its rivers.
While over the mountainous areas, I was well aware of the hostility of those regions also and wondered why less was made of it than that of the desert. Surely they were both just as lethal if preparations weren’t taken for navigating their natural roughness and dangers.
But not surprisingly, we hadn’t found the solution to our own inner-hostility towards each other, which we assumed to be less fatal than that of nature. At least most people were more socially responsible, most of the time.
The edges of the cities were invisible, merely suggested by the discolored land where buildings had been formed out of the trees and grasslands. Nor could I see the demarcations between the political boundaries, or the separation of the counties in Australia anymore that those of the countries on other continents. From here it was one island with geographical highlights only. I wondered briefly how many millions of years the island had been here, floating alone in the vastness of oceans.
The Pacific Ocean was rather boring with its spattering of tiny islands, while the larger continents were just out of sight, around the curvature of the planet’s surface. It just seemed to take longer to traverse it, even while coasting along at mere thousands of miles an hour, now angling downward to the southern end of South America.
I rolled over and caught sight of The Moon, at the moment hidden from the sun by the Earth’s presence, but even the darkness of its shadows failed to hide its features as it seemed to be touchable with only a slight reach. It’s mountains, so clear without the disturbance of an atmosphere, looked jagged and sharp enough to cut my finger should I try. But of course they were miles high and I would die from falling off of them before such a silly thing as that.
Eventually I rolled over again, seeing the brightness of the sun’s reflection from the moon as it climbed over the horizon and illuminated the South American continent, as well as the northern continent above it. In seconds it was possible to see the land of the United States, and the brown extension stretched between the two land masses. I swore I could almost see the dust swirl as it spun and the wind moved it across the land masses.
I thought I could see the tiny Rio Grande river keeping Mexico away from the states, but only as a shifting and flickering reflection as the massive orb bounced it’s rays off it’s surfaces. How quickly would that barrier disappear if the intensity of the Sun wasn’t filtered by the atmosphere for even a minute. Morosely I thought that it would be a puff of moisture just a little bigger than my own when my orbit finally declined.
My suit was built to withstand great amounts of heat and cold, and it was functioning well, but it wasn’t made for this direct sun for very long. Already I had begun to roll continually to keep equal temperatures around it, saving the electrical system within it from having to transfer the air within it from one side to the other for a balanced temperature.
I doubted that I would run out of power as quickly as I would run out of air, but the infinitesimal idea of being rescued, and my basic training, kept me from staying on one side and waiting until I was baked quite like a fish in a frying pan. Even though I was moving at the same speed as the ship when I slipped off of its surface, it was only a matter of minutes and already I could barely make out its white exterior, a large distance away from me.
It was only the hardness of this helmet that smashing against a strut hadn’t punctured it. Instead it had knocked me senseless from the rattling around of my head inside of it, and I was unable to locate myself in regards to the ship only after I was too far away for my tiny jets to propel me back to it.
I would have been depressed, but my training had taught me how to deal with it. Ambivalence seemed to occupy me instead. Replacing the panic was my supreme effort to conserve oxygen at all costs, as I was trained. These trained responses lasted an hour. Now I twisted in the suit while my mind swirled on just how my life would end. Clearly I would slowly asphyxiate and fall asleep when the oxygen level dropped to around twenty percent, but exactly how long that would take had a lot of factors built into it.
A piece of white repair tape covered my instinct to look at the gage. I would know anyway when I began getting tired. Once again, training gave me almost the exact number of minutes I would have before falling asleep one final time. Unfortunately I could also estimate it almost without trying to, having done it in many trials down on the planet. I wished I could forget it and fall asleep without a moment’s notice. Instead I fretted over the time I knew I had left. The internal systems of the spacesuit swept the sweat off of my face with a slight breeze.
Another continent passed under, and I wondered if there was still strife breaking apart the people and the countries. I could see no borders save those that followed large rivers, bodies of water, or coastlines. It usually defined a single side of any given country, leaving the rest open to debate and decision.
There were masses of land under me then, but not much of it compared to the vastness of the oceans separating them. It amazed me that so little hard surface had spawned so many different civilization and cultures, so many people, who were now poised to ruin it for each other.
When the battles were finished, the oceans would still be blue, the land would still be brown, and the tops of the mountains would eventually return to white, and they would glisten in the sun that would keep coming up for millions of years after man had degenerated into a plague of self-destruction.
In a billion years, I wondered how many times creatures would develop and work themselves up to walking erect once again. Somberly, I also wondered if any of those attempts would be worth the millions of years it took to happen. Having emerged again, would they remain this time, or denigrate into calcium deposits that were pummeled by the wind and rain, to be melted in the sun in a few decades, or hundreds of years after their deaths.
As depressing at my situation was, and having had it override my training for a while, it had taken my focus and pointed it towards the land mass below. I wanted to make everyone aware just how tiny my planet was from the vastness of space, even though I was still in its gravity, and almost in its atmosphere. But of course, they knew, and ignored it just the same.
It seemed to me that the wars fought for whatever reason were no better than a squabble over a piece of gum when I was a child. I hadn’t died when one was taken away from me, and no one need die if a boundary was in one location or another. “Adapt, adjust, alter your perceptions….” I thought.
“So simple, so naïve.” I relented. Instead, I thought that the size of the planet, that the limitations of its size and materials, was far too small to be fought over, but that it was large enough to suffice if we shared it intelligently.
Sharing resources was one thing, but sharing its space seemed to be an even greater difficulty. There are so many different people; different races, countrymen, so many views of the world to be seen, both manmade as well as natural, that fighting and starving was the biggest waste that I could imagine. It was a waste of the handiwork that created it.
While never a hedonist, I could see that all that was really important was to enjoy every aspect and every moment of life while we have the chance to experience it. Work was necessary to survive, but any more than survival should be outlawed as a degradation of man, and of whatever creator there was. Disrespecting this world, the only one given to us, must be avoided as the biggest insult to any Supreme Being that could ever be.
It seemed to me that it was unnecessary for anyone to deny anyone else any form of beliefs they chose to help them through this life, as long as one didn’t interfere with another in any regard. I wonder if that was even possible. Nobody had really known, and probably never would either.
Disrespecting this world, the only one given to us, must be the biggest insult to any Supreme Being or Creator that could ever be. As an insult to man, it would only be fatal, nothing more than that. It would be entirely a waste of the millions of years it had taken for us to establish consciousness. I only hoped that the turbulence beneath me remained limited to that of the winds and the jet stream that served the planet instead of threatening it.
Exhausted with thought, I rolled over again and kept rolling in a slow turn like a piece of meat on the spit of a rotisserie. I guessed my oxygen percentage as just about twenty percent, but it didn’t matter to me any longer. My training hadn’t kept me alive, or even kept my thoughts clear. It had only painfully pinpointed my final minutes. But finally at least, it felt like any other sleep and I was content that it was peaceful.
Perhaps that was Adam and Eve’s sin after all; turning away from the needs of the planet to focus onto a single, temporary aspect of it, human life. Yet we were God’s greatest creation, weren’t we? “So many questions.” I thought silently.