Washed by a Wave of Wind
M. Shayne Bell, editor
 

Chapter 2
Solitude
Carolyn Nicita 

[p.28]To someone millions of Earth-years old, five months is still a long time to be speared to an aspen tree. Five months of pain should seem a small moment compared to the millions of years he had endured searching for his companion, but to be so close to her, yet unable to do anything—these five months burned darkly in his mind. 

His name was the image of himself. In symbolic language he might have been called Jeweled Hang Glider or Phoenix, if he had been named in space, or Harpooned, Dried-Out Manta Ray for the condition he was in now. The name Wing would do. Wing knew he must stay this way, ribs broken, metamorphosed against the atmospheric pressure which threatened to crush him, until he could access a sufficiently radiant energy source to repair him and lift him off the planet. 

Those of his species explored the galaxy. They traded mental images with each other and those with whom they made physical contact, images as sharp and concrete as a satellite map. After contact, these images could be sent across the galaxy. His people stayed far from each other, a survival technique to get as diverse a view of the galaxy as possible. Their body-space, their physical comfort zone, could be measured in light years. 

Wing was an anomaly among his people. They came together occasionally to make offspring. But Wing had wanted to travel with his companion, wanted to stay too long with the people with whom they had made contact. He delighted in their presence; he needed her company. 

[p.29]After he and his companion had produced several offspring, she made it clear in unmistakable images that it was time for them to separate, time to collect disparate visions once more. He wanted to stay, to experience the images with her. What was so marvelous about having separate visions? 

Nevertheless, his companion had flown away, millions of years ago. She’d left while he was drinking energy in a volcanic fissure on a gas-giant’s moon and had hidden behind a star cluster until he was too far away to catch up when she fled. She had still flung images to the galaxy on her voyage, until she’d gotten stuck on this planet. A large lake between the mountains and the ocean was her last image; then silence for millions of solar years. 

The human who finally found Wing was on her lunch break. Chris had answered an ad in the University of Utah Chronicle offering season ski passes to Solitude for students who would groom the slopes for two weeks during August. Her mother wanted her to get a real job, one that paid money, which was partly the reason Chris took the Solitude job instead. 

She liked the name of the resort. When she found she had to work with others, she was disappointed. She had imagined herself riding the ski lifts, then prancing down the slopes, scooping up a weed here, a Coors can there, combing down the grass with a rake, making sure everything was smooth, ready for her powder skiing on the diamond slopes when the resort opened after Thanksgiving. She obstinately held onto that dream during her first day while she worked amid a group of sweaty people, dragging slashup off the trails and planting duck fir and spruce seedlings for erosion control. The lifts, four-legged spiders spinning towline up the mountain, were motionless in the summer, except on weekends when they lifted mountain bikers to higher slopes. 

As for the people working with her, some were crude, some were puritanical, and by the end of the day they all smelled like armpits. By lunch on her second day, she decided she needed a vacation from these people. She put on her backpack and hiked up to eat in the aspen-covered hill across the highway. One of the others had said that aspens were money trees, because of their round leaves. True, in autumn the leaves shivered like pirate’s treasure thrown in the air. But to her the trees talked, and what they had to say was more beautiful than human speech. 

[p.30]Wing saw Chris approach through the aspen, her tanned legs in denim shorts and combat boots coming toward the tree where he had been stuck through for so long. She wore no jewelry over the “I Drank Nuclear Fusion” T-shirt, except for the silver crucifix her godfather had given her at her christening. 

Wing’s entire outer covering served alternately as shield and sight-sensory organ as well as energy collector, and since he had contracted to fend off the atmospheric pressure, he saw her as if through a fisheye lens. He put her images into the hopeful category, binding hot pointers to it, and as she approached, as the image got larger, the pointers became thicker. Three other of these beings had come through this grove and walked on. Perhaps this one would make contact and project the last image he’d gotten from his companion: perhaps this being would know. At least she might free him and take him to an energy source. 

To truly learn about a place, about its wonders and its dangers, one must see it through the sensors of its residents. Hadn’t they lived there millions of years? They may have seen his companion come. 

His species had developed a microorganism to aid them in gathering information. Once in the new host, it attempted to create a bridge in the mind over which images could be passed. But the microorganism must be transmitted by touch. 

The human stomped closer, munching on food. Her two eyes, covered in liquid and enfolded in lids of skin, seemed to look in Wing’s direction. She passed under the tree but did not stop. Instead she walked on until she was several trees away. She opened a can and slurped at the eruption of fizz. 

He had tried flashing lights before, but no help had come. He reflected an intermittent amber flash, as he had seen the vehicles do on the highway. 

Chris wondered what was glinting in the tree. She crammed the rest of the sandwich in her mouth and sauntered over. The thing in the tree looked not quite like an oily rag, yet not at all like a dead squirrel with a bike reflector in its mouth. She climbed the tree, wondering how the arrow got there, probably a poacher, and if the tree had grown a burl around the arrow’s shaft. She tried to pull it off but it was stuck. She braced herself on a few of the limbs and stuck her fingers between the thing and the tree. The rag-looking thing looked unpromising, so she twisted the arrow out and dropped Wing to examine the arrow. He fell, [p.31]bounced off a limb, and lay on the ground. Chris noticed that it had left a sticky dust on her hands which she absently tried to wipe off, but Wing’s microbes absorbed through her skin anyway. After examining the arrow, she held it like a javelin and tossed it, watching it fly, imagining herself to be Diana, the huntress. Diana would have to fly on Pegasus to get a better view than this. 

She noticed that she was looking at herself up in the tree. She almost fell out of the tree. It was as if she were a three-eyed creature whose third eye had plopped to the ground and was now staring back at her. 

Wing saw through Chris’s eyes and knew they had made the connection. It was comforting to have some company again. The ants with which he’d connected before were blind, no help at all.

He expected a pause in her actions. A being not used to this kind of communication would test out its own sensory devices. It often came over to investigate. Sometimes it would flee in terror. Occasionally it would eat him, and he would eventually pass out the other end of it. He had never encountered a response like hers, though. Chris simply climbed down the tree and walked away. 

Wing could only perceive images, not thoughts. If he could, he still would have been puzzled: Chris knew that Wing was an alien. She knew he was transmitting to her. After the shock of realizing this, Chris thought, If I were a visitor to his world, I wouldn’t want him to notify his authorities. I would want to be left alone. I wouldn’t want him to manipulate my life; I bet he doesn’t want me manipulating his life. 

Nobody would bother him here. Hopefully he would be free for a long time. Chris headed back to Solitude, a bit nervous that she was watching herself walk away from the back, as if at the department store watching a monitor attached to a video camera behind her. 

Not that she wasn’t curious; in fact she was very curious. She almost went back, then stopped herself. That’s what a dog would do, she . thought. That’s what her co-workers would do. She would respect the alien’s privacy. She would content herself with knowing that there is alien life in the universe.  

What if he needs help? a stray thought asked. She imagined it was Kermit the Frog on her shoulder, asking her. 

It’s an alien, she thought back to Kermit. It travels through space. It can help itself. 

His view still filled her head, of the aspens, and her back finally disappearing into the trees as she walked away. 

[p.32]By the time she was crossing the highway back toward Solitude, the image had started to change. 

She walked into a white flash of fire. Not real enough to burn her, but real enough to be disconcerting. 

She froze in the middle of the road, fearing that to move would be dangerous. 

The image was instantly followed by a glimpse of what might have been a boat on a dark ocean, its sails edged with tiny lights. 

A blowtorch-image. Several blurs of different colors, and a searing eclipse. A honk. This one was audible, a Jeep driver waving her off the highway. 

As she ran, it occurred to her that the images had been silent. She visualized a VCR on fast-forward and her hand pushing the pause button. 

She caught herself. No I don’t want to see this. She visualized pushing the off button and, back in real life, walked to the truck bed, pulling out more seedlings to plant in the erosion-control area. She worked faster so the forewoman wouldn’t think she was goofing off, like FrizzHead who came to work on his motorcycle and drove it up mountain bike trails during lunch. No one would manipulate her. But what did these visions mean? 

She stomped a shovel into the topsoil and tucked a pine seedling into the gap it made. She planted one beside it to keep it company, even though when they grew they would be too close together. 

The image came: a VCR, a finger pushing the pause button. Her image. Then the fire image. It stayed, as if on pause. This gave her time to get used to it. She realized there was nothing to fear, they were just visions. Her mind didn’t feel as if it were warping, she didn’t feel an uncontrollable urge to run towards the alien or do anything bizarre. It was only an image. A vision of fire. 

When Chris started getting bored with the image, when her thoughts started to wander, the image changed, became the boat image.  It stayed; it remained long enough for her to realize that what she thought was a boat was in space: a wire-frame fire bird sailing on solar flares-she could see embers spraying off, outlining its wings. Then she saw a progression of images until the firebird metamorphosed into a manta, rowing through the troposphere of an orange-green planet. 

She seemed to be soaring nearby, because she could see the spray [p.33]blowing off herself, as if she could see in 360 degrees, though she could not see what she was. They were flying toward a volcano on the surface— 

“Are you all right?” It was the forewoman. 

Chris looked around. Several other people were staring at her. 

One played ventriloquist. “Earth to Chris,” he called. 

Chris apologized and restarted her body planting seedlings, wondering how long she’d been staring at her shovel. Obviously these people had no idea what was going on. She was possessor of a great secret. 

The secret image was still in her mind, and she worked and tried to keep it in focus at the same time. It was a bit like walking and chewing gum, she thought, but you have to remember to keep chewing. 

She tried another image, the image of the alien himself.

The alien sent back images: An alien. It looked not quite like himself. Fire. The alien flapping into fire. The manta-firebird, much larger and glowing, flying out of the fire. Chris deduced that the fire changed these manta aliens into firebirds. So that was it, he was asking for fire. Hot fire. 

Another image: A lake. A large lake as seen from space, from a planet that looked the same color as the Earth, the same as NASA pictures of Earth. It also had a large moon, like Earth. 

A pointer. Zoom in on the place to which it pointed. Then: the other firebird. 

Chris thought of the manta in the image, and the manta in the aspen grove. There were two of them, she realized. One had markings in a pattern on its ventral side, one had a >:’ mark. 

Why didn’t he show them together? Chris wondered. She visualized the two different aliens sitting next to each other. Is this right? Are there actually two different aliens? 

When Wing received that image he was astonished. How did she do that? How could this earth-bound human possibly have seen Wing and his companion together when they had not been together for millions of years? 

Wing’s people, like many in the galaxy, do not have imaginations. Their minds lay memories, like bricks into mortar, which then set fast. They recall things they have seen and felt and touch them in new and interesting sequences, making new meanings, but they cannot synthesize a new possibility. Wing and his species thought new thoughts by taking existing images and splicing them together, the way a film editor assembles a movie. He didn’t know that humans had a special-effects [p.34]department in their brains. Usually the inability to synthesize images was not a problem. After living several million years, one of Wing’s species usually had enough images to cope with any situation. Occasionally he erased some images to make room in his memory. Hundred-thousand-year flights between solar systems usually got erased first. Wing kept all memories of his companion, and none of these memories looked like Chris’s vision. So how could she have acquired this image? Time dilates, Wing knew. Time does strange things. Could this be a future image? Predicting the future seemed more plausible than completely synthesizing an image, so Wing concluded that this human was predicting the future. He stored Chris’s image in a prominent place in his memory. 

He sent other images to Chris. He put images together as she would put words together to make a sentence, or as film editors put shots together to make a scene. 

Images from very long ago that others of his kind had sent to him of them together. 

When the other phoenix bird flew farther and farther away, the images came faster. Chris figured that the other bird was leaving him. 

Chris was moved. This alien was hurting inside. Attempting to ask him if he was lonely, if more were coming, Chris imagined one lone alien, then two, then several. Wing assumed that Chris had never seen several aliens flying together. He recited the vision back to her exactly as she gave it to him, no additions, no appending messages. 

All afternoon he told her of his companion, how she left, how she had sent a distress message, and how he had come to find her. He showed Chris the vision his companion had sent, of the lake. He showed her where he had looked, intercut with the vision of the lake. He showed Coastal Northern California, ocean too big to be his companion’s lake; Idaho, lakes too small; Great Salt Lake, no volcanic activity. Lake Mead and the Gulf of California were too far south. The visions came slowly, mournfully. 

After work, Chris went back to the aspen forest. She scooped Wing into her arms and carried him to the front seat of her mother’s car. 

They drove down the road that mimics Big Cottonwood Creek flowing to the Salt Lake Valley. Chris was able to pick out Highway 152 from Wing’s winter view of the mountains. She drove slowly, looking at the shoulders to see if his companion might be among the roadkill. The alien had not told her where his friend might be; she could be anywhere. 

[p.35]What would it be like to fly through space? she wondered. She imagined herself, arms spread out, visiting quasars and nebulae. I would love to do that, she thought. Maybe he will teach me how. 

They approached the Lake Bonneville historical plaque. 

Lake Bonneville. 

Chris stomped on the brake pedal. Her interest was transmitted to Wing both by her mental calculations and her braking, which had thrown him to the floor. 

Lake Bonneville. Chris got out and read the sign. It said that Lake Bonneville had existed 300 million years ago. Was it Lake Bonneville he had seen? When did it finally dry up? She knew from school and museums that the Great Salt Lake was a remnant. How could that be the lake though, when the continent it was on didn’t look anything like North America? She remembered the large moon, which looked like Earth’s. But nobody lives that long, she thought. 

She looked at him. Who could tell? He was an alien. She reviewed the images he had sent her. She didn’t have enough knowledge of science to tell how old the images were. In the visions of North America, the people she saw wore contemporary clothing. She had not seen any cavemen or Indians wearing feathers. Who knows how old he is? 

She would go to the library to figure out Lake Bonneville. 

She drove to the campus library, stopping only for food through the drive-in window at McDonald’s. 

Wing rode in Chris’s backpack, watching the library’s denizens through Chris’s eyes. These beings seemed to be feeding off the materials of this place, letting the pages radiate onto their faces, as if deriving nourishment from them. The place evoked memories for Chris. He got frequent, disparate visions from her, some incomprehensible. Maybe touching these books and carrels and shelves made someone see the future, like touching his microbes made them see into his mind.  When Chris got to the map section he transmitted an image of himself in Chris’s hands. In the map area, Chris brought him out. He touched the map. It didn’t bring anything to Wing’s mind so he let Chris tuck him back in the backpack. He watched from her eyes since the view out of them was more interesting. 

Chris watched him touch the map and tried to guess what he was thinking. She couldn’t help but get carried away by the romance. This couple had not seen each other for a long time, possibly millions of years. Soon they would be together—two beings that could see each [p.36]other’s souls. She looked at the maps. He could travel these in a few minutes. She imagined the aliens flying together. Two of them, leaving this earth, perhaps to join others; and Chris would fly with them, exploring. If only in her mind’s eye. 

As she studied the maps, Chris learned that Lake Bonneville disappeared about 50 million years ago, before the Cenozoic Ice Ages. Sometimes the lake was small and sometimes it was huge, even extending into Idaho and Nevada and connecting to the Pacific Ocean. She explored the different maps and noticed where the mountain slopes had been. She searched for Wing’s image and found the map that matched it most closely, a phase of Lake Bonneville about 60 million years ago that had lasted for only about 50 years. The mountains were different then as well. She compared it with the U.S. Geological Survey maps of present-day Wasatch Front. Then she put her imagination to work once more. She mentally pushed up mountains, evaporated the lake, creating Bonneville Salt Flats, leaving puddles; she rose mountains, changing the track of the Snake River, built Hoover, Deer Creek, and Jordanelle Dams, and let the runoff from the Provo River trickle into Utah Lake for him, all the time keeping track of the spot where his companion landed. Wing was in awe. 

 

That night Chris slept in her bed, which was in her mother’s attic. Wing, who never slept, watched the chaotic visions coming from her brain. He was certain she was traveling the past and future, seeking his companion, and her brain was becoming feverish with the effort. Surely they would find her, if this human survived the experience. 

 

The spot was a quarry at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.Chris skipped work and went to the quarry before dawn. She felt a little guilty, then angry that she had allowed herself to be tied down to a job. 

She looked for the spot, using the topographical map she’d photocopied last night as a guide. Though the alien had it in his mind, she had the map because her images weren’t perfect, and she tended to forget and invent things. 

Chris climbed over the quarry fence into the gravel pit, away from the guard station. Although there was security, she assumed it would be down the road guarding the machinery, not the piles of boulders that Wing wanted to check. Chris wondered what Wing would do if the gravel company had ground up his companion and poured her into the cement [p.37]foundation of the ZCMI Mall. But evidently he felt her in here somewhere. His thoughts came in staccato images. 

Chris walked around the gravel quarry. She tried to go where Wing directed her by vision. He transmitted the images, whispers that looked like abstract paintings. Chris wondered if it would look like a manta or a firebird. She wondered if it would glow. 

When they finally uncovered her under a pile of stones, Chris was disappointed. She looked like a fossil. Wing started moving wildly in the backpack as she picked up what he’d indicated—what looked like a fist-sized black trilobite. Evidently when they were this small and hard, the gravel crushers couldn’t crush them. It had been thrown into a pile of larger rocks. Wing was ecstatic, Chris could tell from the rapidity of the images streaking past her mind’s eye. 

The fire visions came to her again. Did that mean they needed to warm each other up? Chris put the fossil into her backpack with Wing. Maybe they were going to kiss, or whatever they did, and they would both fly out of her backpack. She zipped up the backpack. 

Fire, he sent. Volcanoes, suns, sprays of fire, hot fire whirlpools, explosions, then he repeated the image he had sent before, of his companion, as a manta, flying into fire and flying out as the firebird. 

Chris remembered the images of his companion flying with him into a volcano. 

Wing’s companion had become dormant. She had not been injured the way Wing had, so she was just waiting for energy. Either volcanic activity would catch up to her, or the planet would explode, or it would draw too close to a dying sun. But Chris understood that they needed heat. 

Where would I find intense heat, she wondered. She looked west over the dry BonneviIle lake bed, now covered with houses. He’s talking volcanoes. I don’t think pouring gasoline over these aliens and setting them on fire would be hot enough. Where can we get heat like that?  She looked around. The weather was clear now; in the winter a blanket of smog closed in over the valley because of the mountains. She thought of Morton Thiokol, the company that made rocket boosters for the space shuttle. That was an hour north in Ogden. She wasn’t sure that they could survive a blast like that, though. She didn’t remember any volcanoes in the vicinity, except Mount St. Helens, and she didn’t have enough money to get all the way to the Cascade Range. 

Across the valley were mountains whose tops had been cut off.  [p.38]Kennecott, the world’s largest open-pit copper mine. The planet’s largest open wound. You can even see it from space. From here it looked like a volcano. She imagined lava pouring out of the mountain. 

Don’t they need heat to get the copper out of the ore? she wondered. What if I brought these two to Kennecott? 

Chris had forgotten that security around Kennecott would be tighter than at a gravel pit. However, the guards were helpful. They told Chris that the smelter was seven miles north of the mine. She had in her naivete imagined tractors scraping chunks of ore out of the crater and throwing them into a bubbling cauldron of molten metal. She’d just toss the aliens in, and they’d have their heat. Then they’d fly off, most probably remolded into one unified being, incidentally leaving her the secret of space travel so she could follow. But she knew that if she asked the smelter guards, “Hi. Can I throw a couple of aliens into your smelter?” they would throw her out. So what could she do? She didn’t know anybody who worked at Kennecott.

 

One of her high school teachers, a humanities teacher who liked to talk about everything except the lesson, had proposed a theory he’d heard. He said that you are four contacts from everybody else in the world. For example: Chris might know a foreign exchange student from France, whose anthropology professor had done his doctorate in Papua New Guinea, where he had met a young boy whose shaman third cousin had discovered the plant that could kill the AIDS virus. In the case of celebrities you were three people away.

 

Where could she make the four-person link? Maybe she would just ask her mother, though she hated to depend on her for anything.

 

Her mother worked at a bank but knew a neighbor who worked at Kennecott. Chris’s mother was so enthusiastic about her daughter expressing an interest in some sort of career that she immediately had her neighbor arrange a tour with one of the metallurgical engineers. That had been only two people away.

 

Chris kept the aliens in a cat bed in her bedroom until the day of the tour. She tried attaching Wing to a paper clip stuck in a wall socket, but the energy draw flipped the circuit breaker.  Setting him on fire with gasoline did nothing, as she had supposed.

 

She planned how to sneak the aliens into the smelter. The fossilized alien she could stick in a pants pocket, but she would wear the larger one under a baggy shirt, in case she had to check her purse at the gate.  [p.39]She tried on the costume and stood in front of the bathroom mirror.

 

She thought she looked like a pregnant man, but it would have to do. She knew she would get into trouble. Maybe she could pretend to be under the alien’s spell, brainwashed, and she would avoid too long a stay in jail. If the Kennecott people started to suspect her, she would collapse and moan “Where am I?” While they fussed over her, she would watch the two newly-born phoenix birds sail out of view, together forever.

 

 

 

The tour was different from her expectations. She took it with five new employees. Chris was sweating. It was summertime, they were in a factory, and she was wearing a sweatshirt and two aliens. The tour guide droned on for an hour, and Chris still had not seen any cauldrons of

molten metal, only a few places where a trickle poured into some trays.

 

When the group got to a Cathode-something process, the guide proclaimed the tour nearly finished. Chris realized there might not be any cauldrons. The stream of molten copper she now saw pouring out of a trough onto a moving plate might be her only opportunity. Wing had seen it through her eyes and was sending images of it back to her, as if urging her toward it.

 

Chris fixed her eyes on the stream. She waited until the tour guide ushered the group into the corridor to the next area. Then she crept back past the barrier to the cathode area and tossed the aliens into the stream. She saw the fire in her head. This time the fire image was live. Chris backed away to keep from being burned by the sprays of molten copper. In the stream Wing and his companion became pliable, self-locomotive, easily able to keep up with the moving machinery under them. They splashed around in the stream like waterfowl playing in a birdbath.

 

They glowed. They grew larger, and their movements were more flowing, swift. The light in Chris’s eyes blended with the light in her head. She could not tell which was molten copper and which was alien.

 

A blinding light launched and crashed through the skylight, as if it had been shot from a flare gun.

 

Was that him? Chris wondered. No, the firelight was still in her head. It must be Wing’s companion.

 

She looked down, trying to blink the afterimages out of her eyes.

 

A second light shot up, a tracer bullet, following the flare.

 

[p.40]“Aren’t you going to stay?” she yelled. She realized her sense of loss. At least they left together, she thought.

 

But fire from molten metal still glowed in her mind’s eye. She looked back at the glowing stream. One—Wing—was still on the plate, drowning in copper. The area where he had been injured was swollen.

 

Then what was the other light? It must have been a baby, like the other offspring she had seen in Wing’s previous images. Why isn’t he leaving? she wondered. Where are the others? Aren’t they at least going to wait for him?

 

She remembered her mental pictures of them flying away together and realized that he would have been watching, also. Now he was watching her. She could see herself in his image. He threw her image back into her mind, the one she had synthesized of Wing and his companion flying together. He showed, in rapid succession, the picture of the two flares leaving, followed by one of Chris, then the synthesized pictures again. Then Chris, live. Chris knew what he meant. Liar, he was saying. Liar.

 

Alarms rang. The machinery stopped rolling, the stream of molten lava shut off. The molten copper, which had splashed over the cathode wheel, solidified. It cemented Wing to the plate under the trough.

 

She sprang forward to break him loose. The heat warned her back. She crouched and ran back to the barrier, looking for a tool to pry him off.

 

She assessed the situation, wondering how she could get him unstuck before someone came and took him away. If he can’t fly, she thought, at least he’ll stay here.

 

At that moment Wing shook himself loose. He glowed but faintly. He crawled into the air, pushing himself to follow the other two lights.

 

In her mind Chris saw Wing’s fading visions. She saw herself recede. She saw the top of the smelter, and she saw the sky. She had been left behind. Her fantasies of flying into space with them had disappeared; she despised herself for having needed those aspirations in the first place. Chris saw the tour guide running toward her. She sat, waiting for the consequences. Wing was alone. His visions of isolation made solitude intolerable. They would for the rest of her life.

 

She wept. The tour guide comforted her, not understanding.

 

Chris never gave her “Where am I” speech. When the tour guide discovered she was missing, he came back in time to see Wing’s ex-companion leave. The guide had reported the malfunction and [p.41]ordered the copper flow shutoff. He saw Chris huddled on the floor and feared his own negligence had gotten her hurt. Subsequent investigations were conducted without Chris.

 

Back home in her mother’s attic, Chris tried to remember what she was feeling at the library. She felt as if she were molding destinies, participating in a timeless fairy tale. The prince finds the princess, and they fly together for the rest of eternity. For all she knew, maybe the other alien was an assassin, or maybe Wing tried to push her into volcanoes. Still Chris longed for that surrogate companionship. She felt ashamed.

 

 

As he left Earth’s thermosphere, Wing checked his energy resources. He would have enough energy to get out of the planet’s gravity well, out to a sufficiently low atmospheric pressure that he could become a gossamer spacefaring creature hundreds of meters in wingspan, able to tack the force of solar particles once again. He would have to sail more slowly than the others though, left farther behind every year.

 

The human had lied to him. He knew he could not get true visions from this planet. This was no place for his species.

 

As for Chris, haunted by this alien’s solitary visions, assuaging loneliness would be her foremost need for the rest of her life. Chris viewed Earth through Wing’s eyes. I live on this planet, with these people, she thought. She would accept that, but refused ever to be satisfied with it.

 

And Wing knew that his species needed to see things from different points of view, far from each other. But he refused ever to be satisfied with it.