By E.S. Wynn
The moment I slip into the ocean, I know that I am home.
I wasn't born here, on Nereid IV-b. The colony is only a few years old, and most of the settlers are early-gen spacers, migrants who've seen a thousand worlds, elected for sterilization centuries ago. It's something else, something I can feel in my blood-- about the planet, the ocean, something I feel like I've been searching for my entire life, trying to get back to.
Something about the gravity, the planet's proximity to the three stars that hold it suspended in the most elegant orbit I've ever seen on an inter-system approach, gives it the most placid, most serene seas I've ever seen. Clean and clear, there are no tides or currents in the wide oceans of Nereid IV-b, nothing to wear down the smooth, gray-glassy stone that sprawls on across the bottom as far as the eye can see. No life-- nothing beyond a few simple mineral constructions that might become bacteria before the planet's three suns burn out.
All of my life, I've been afraid of oceans, but not the oceans here. Earth's oceans are dark and deadly, oppressive and thick with horrors both real and imagined. Some planets I've seen are worse, have thick, sludgy seas teeming with tiny, violent carnivores eager to seek out human flesh-- others are better, their seas more serene and silent.
But none of them have seas like Nereid IV-b.
There are no monsters here, nothing lurking or hunting in the darkness, no danger, no unseen movements of water waiting to pull you under. Open your eyes under the surface and you can see for miles, know that there is nothing but the seafloor, the shore and you, you floating there in the middle of it all. With the right gill-breather you can float there for hours, close your eyes, meditate, drop away into the pleasantly cool embrace of pure water held together by the most minimal gravity field you've ever felt. There is nothing like falling asleep in the oceans of Nereid IV-b, waking up again a few hours later and knowing that you are safe, that the sea has supported you softly while you've slept. It's an incredible feeling, trusting your existence to an ocean, to an entire planet's stretching seas, knowing that no matter how deep you go, no matter how far from shore you swim, you will always be safe, always be home.
The moment I slip into the ocean, I know that I am home, and for a while, at least, I know I can forget everything but the sea, the endless ocean I love, the silver, serene waters that seem to accept all that I am, man-- flawed and imperfect. Shore leave never lasts for more than a few days, but some day, some day, I'll come back to Nereid IV-b. I'll come back and I'll stay.
And I'll never leave the ocean again.
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E.S. Wynn is the author of more than 50 books.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
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