The planet is the light of my life. I wake to it every morning as I open my eyes, staring up at the expanse of space through the wide skylight over my bed. I wake as it crests over the foot of my bed, it’s brilliance stunning, only amplified by the twinkling stars that seem to caress it on its journey. I never rise from my bed until it passes completely over my head and disappears beyond the skylight. When I was little, I would reach my arms to it, as if I could hug it close to my chest. As if I could love everyone and everything that lived and breathed and moved upon its surface. I’d always hear a loving voice, the voice of a mother, calling out to me. Come with me. Come dance upon me, and feel the wind brushing my scalp. That’s how I always imagined it.
My own planet was never so majestic. I was taken from its savage lands as it languished in the death throes of an expanding red sun. Though I was not even old enough to speak, whenever I smell something burning I see in my mind’s eye a molten landscape bereft of life and tranquility. Sometimes I hear the screams, though their words take on no meaning. Even the sky was red, bathing everything in an eerie light. When I see red now I close my eyes and turn away. Perhaps that’s why I admire the blue of the planet before me. So much of it is blue, like a faceted crystal buried deep within a planet’s core.
But though I long to feel the planet beneath my feet I cannot go. It is forbidden by the council. No matter how I badgered Elder Hildebrandt, he rejected my every request. “They do not know our ways,” he repeats, “they would kill you before you ever touched its surface.”
Our station hovers above the single moon that orbits the beautiful planet, but it is like a common river stone compared to the beauty of its planet. This moon is dead, never changing, forever white and still and silent, like a statue. But as I look up at the planet before me, the slowly swirling clouds prove that it is alive.
“How do they not see us up here?” I asked him once.
“Their eyes are blinded because they choose not to see.”
“I do not understand.”
“One day, you will.”
But many cycles have passed since then, and I am still no closer to understanding, until now, as I see the planet once again pass overhead. Sometimes I can only see part of it, as it waxes and wanes, but this morning it is full and I behold its full majesty. I reach up to it and clasp it with my fist.
Today, I will walk upon its surface.
The morning rushes by as I prepare, my eyes constantly darting about for any sign that someone knows, that someone has discovered my plan. I have been careful to cover my tracks as best I can, but there is always a chance. Once every 28 days, we send a scouting ship to the planet, to collect samples, monitor experiments and venture further than the last expedition.
Today’s expedition is heading into the middle of what the natives call the Pacific Ocean, though I have never understood how they can separate a body of water that is connected to most of the water on the planet. Nevertheless, it is the ocean that I wish to see the most.
We have enough water aboard our station, but never enough to swim. I gaze at the planet above and I wonder what it would be like to be in the middle of that ocean. To turn and see nothing but water all around, and at night to look up and see the stars above. I have always imagined that I could see the stars reflected all around me and that I could swim through the universe, silent and smooth, turning one with the planet, bathing beneath the open universe.
The sentient natives appear to keep mainly to the land, which seems odd given how much life and mystery they will never see. Compared to the lands, the oceans were filled with silence and peace. When they do venture, they mostly glide upon the surface, very few bothering to go deep.
But we travel deep and below, where they fear to go, where it the waters are as dark as space itself, an inner universe contained within this single planet. Today, in the darkness of the Earth’s ocean they are sending a ship down, and it is today that I will be aboard.
I make sure to report to my usual stations, checking in with the appropriate leaders, seemingly making everything appear to be just another day, but I secretly carry my pack with me, hiding it behind my back as my elders pass, though no seem to be the wiser.
I expect a blaring alarm to bring my adventure to a halt, but even as I step into the ship bay, there is nothing and no one to greet me, exactly as I planned. I stick to the walls and shadows, avoiding the cameras that I do know about until I reach my destination, the Bringer of the Blue Dawn, aptly named for its beautiful metallic sheen meant to represent the white and blue gradient of our home planet’s sky, a symbol of hope for the future of our kind.
It all seems too easy as I slip aboard and climb into an unused cargo crate shoved behind a shelf. I leave a crack open so I can watch, but I soon grow bored and my eyelids droop.
When I awake, it is with a loud hum, vibrating against my face. I sit up and bang my head upon the lid of the crate, then cover my mouth to make sure no one heard me. I look and see no one here. I turn behind me and gaze out one of the nearest portholes just in time to see something amazing unfold before me.
Our ship rapidly descends into the planet’s atmosphere. I crane my neck but cannot see anything below, until the ship slowly rotates and part of the sky is filled with an inky blackness devoid of stars. My breath is caught in my throat as I see this black mass rush up to meet us and within moments the ship turns again and I can see something different, the black ink below, the starry sky above, and beyond, like a tiny beacon is what I realize is one of the planet’s many islands, illuminated at night and twinkling in the sea.
Imagine my surprise when our ship splashes down and begins to turn. I realize, with growing horror that this was not the intended flight plan of the ship. We are heading towards the island of lights, closer to the native species that call this planet home.
I fully climb out of the crate and press my face against the window, straining to clarify if my fears are true. We speed across the water so quickly that the island begins to grow and I realize that the light was actually many lights, spread across the island, as it becomes bigger and clearer the closer we come.
I stumble out of my hiding place and head for the ship. It’s possible the auto-pilot has made a mistake, but I fear that we will crash into the island. We would be discovered for sure, and all of the fear that Elder Hildebrandt instilled in me over my lifetime bubbled to the surface, threatening to drown me in absolute terror. We would crash, and even if we lived, we would be found. We would be experimented on. I would never again see the station or my bed or reach my hands to this planet each morning.
Suddenly, all I wanted was to be home, curled up in my bed, but then just as quickly as we had accelerated, we had stopped and I fell forward, scraping across the deck. The hum of the ship died down and I heard someone coming my way.
I scrambled in my daze and stumbled back to the crate, nearly getting out of the way just in time as the cargo bay doors opened, flooding with the soft moonlight. I gazed with open eyes and open mouth at the site before me, the beautiful white sands of the planet spilling onto our ship, almost like it was going to take a mouthful and close again. The ship gently settled, the engines still softly whining as they ground to a halt. The figure rushed past me, nearly stumbling as I had down the gang plank.
I realized with another gasp of horror that I was breathing the air of this world. It smelled like nothing I had ever beheld before and I quickly panicked, worrying that these would be my final breaths.
But a fire rose up within me. I could not die until I did what I had always dreamed. I followed seconds behind, stopping as I reached the white sand beach spreading before me.
I reached out one foot and it sank into the sands. I pulled it back, afraid, but then saw the tracks of the figure who had rushed out.
I stepped again, and this time leaned forward, sinking but then stopping. I yanked the other foot forward too fast and fell forward, any possible scream muffled by my face hitting the sand. It tasted gross and I spit it out, wiping my mouth. I was not sinking, I was upon the ground, the ground of the planet I had gazed up upon for all of my life.
I dug my hands into the sands. They were warm and like a thousand tiny particles. They felt smooth against my scales. I dug up to my elbows and laughed a little in spite of myself. I threw my arms up and the white sands rained around me, giggling as some of it landed on my head, because it tickled as it slid off.
It was then I felt someone staring at me. I looked to my left and saw someone I had never expected to see. It was Elder Hildebrandt standing nearby. He had what I imagined was the same look I had on my own face when I had beheld this beach. His mouth was wide open and I could fully see the milky blue around his pupils. But he wasn’t the strangest part. The Elder was standing there with a human, and they were holding each other in their arms, very closely, and staring straight at me.
I gaped upon them, unsure of what to say. They stared at me, I suppose thinking the same. I had never seen a real human before. Only as usually blurry movement on video screens or captured in still images. This human had skin that reminded me of the moon’s surface and it had long dark hair that framed its round face.
We stayed like that for a long moment, frozen in each other’s gazes.
The Elder moved protectively, as if to the shield the human from me, but the human, gently pressed his lips against the Elder's cheek in a strange gesture, whispering something, and then came forward slowly, towards me. I tumbled back onto my tail, curling it around myself.
The Elder spoke a language I did not understand, and it took me a moment to realize he was speaking this human’s language, for the human turned and said something quickly and then continued forward slowly.
I couldn’t move, my hearts beating wildly in my chest. I felt like I would faint as the human knelt just inches away from me. I took in a shaky breath of more of that strange air and I began to feel nauseous.
But the human gently pulled an arm across its chest and bowed before me. A sign of respect. Both my hearts fluttered in confusion.
“Men-wan-jo,” He said, which I knew was him trying to pronounce our word for greeting a new friend.
I continued to stare at this human, which was now so close that I could hear its single heart beating. How could they live with only a single heart? So many questions arose in my mind, but they were silenced when he spoke again.
“You must be Sophine,” the human finally spoke in a pleasant but alien tone, “Brandt has told me all about you.”
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
The human reached out and took my hand gently. Its skin was smooth and thin. I could almost feel the bones beneath it. They really were so fragile.
“Sophine,” I didn’t even notice that Hildebrandt had come to my side. He put one hand gently upon my shoulder and knelt between the human and I, adding his hand on top of the human’s. He spoke in the same soothing voice that I had known my entire life.
“This is Akamu, my star-mate.”
The pressure became too much and I fainted on the spot. My body fell towards the sand, but I never felt myself hit…
I dreamed of the future, as my people often do.
In my dream, I saw myself standing on a long, brightly-colored board, that glided smoothly above the inky waters, as if the planet’s own hand was lifting me and drawing me to its white shores. I was gazing up and saw the moon as I never had before. It was paler and perfectly round, itself like a bright star in the night sky, before a wispy cloud blocked it from view. I could smell that thick air as it rushed by me, the stars reflected around me at my feet and above me hanging like a dome over my head. I held out my arms like I was flying through the night wind, and my laughter echoed across the ocean waves into the universe. From that moment on, I knew that everything would be okay.
I embraced the light of the planet I had once loved from afar.
This story was inspired by a prompt from the writing prompt generator on Seventh Sanctum:
and from three random Magic: The Gathering cards drawn from:
and from three random Magic: The Gathering cards drawn from: