(As told to me in a dream by Pioneer 10 – Kristen)
I have loved her for eight billion years. Think about that… Eight billion years.
At first it was so easy. I was fused with a sense of purpose, and much of my time was occupied by the work at hand. I had no sense of the infiniteness in which I now exist.
There are vast stretches of time when I consider that this is all a dream, that this darkness I inhabit is merely a fiction, but I do exist. They created me out of aluminum and boron epoxy tubes. Fashioned me into a being of sorts and gave me a name. Time was of the essence; they were racing against an impending solar storm that I would not have survived. Perhaps it was this speed, that factored into the way in which my parts were fused together, which in turn created the spark, in such a way, that at one moment in time, one inexplicable moment, I became aware.
I was to travel to Jupiter and take photographs. If I managed to survive that, I was to continue on to probe the solar wind termination point. This was only a best-case scenario, they would have been happy with a few snapshots of Jupiter and been well enough to go home and retire. There were so many of them, surrounding me at all hours. Their language bounced off my sides, I could feel the vibrations like waves, but I had no way of understanding their words, though I could sense their touch.
There was something about one of the technicians. I knew it, once I started to know things, which was again, hard to explain but one night, there it was.
It occurred to me that I had preferences. One of the technicians had adjusted my Ultraviolet Photometer and in that moment, I sensed pleasure. This initial move, of a few millimeters, suddenly shifted things into place, and I became aware of my internal organs so to speak. Meteoroid Detector, Trapped Radiation Detector, Helium Vector Magnetometer, Plasma Analyzer, Charged Particle Instrument, Cosmic Ray Telescope. The list went on a bit further of course, but you get the idea. From that moment on I knew that I could exert control over these organs, and if I did so, they would return to correct the adjustment. But more often than not, the touch of the technician was not the one I had desired. I began to break down, in a desperate attempt to find the source of my pleasure, until finally, she returned. Her touch was markedly different from the others, so gentle and caring. Fused with certainty and safety. I wanted her and only her. So, I set about undoing their work. If they sent one of them in to fix me, I would not allow it. I fought at every turn, until they realized what was going on. She was the only one who could make adjustments. There was no time for arguments. She was given the primary task and the others did not like this. When she was not around, I would hear them speaking. I could not understand their words, but their tone was filled with derision and jealousy. I knew I was making things difficult for her, but I was young, and full of selfish guile. I wanted her. And so I continued to manipulate the situation in my favor, though a sense of allegiance began to form within me. I found a way to work with her, to guide her to the answers that she was looking for. I would show subtle signs of weakness in areas that I knew she had missed. I made sure that everything she did was flawless. I protected her, as she protected me.
I was filled with pride as they strapped me to that rocket. I felt her presence with me, and I knew there was a job for me to do, and that above all else I must not fail her. I must accomplish everything that she had hoped for me. And yet, as I left the atmosphere, a profound sorrow descended upon me, because it was then that I realized I would never feel her again.
I pushed the thought away almost as quickly as it came, because with one thought, came another; Maybe there was a way back. The very notion of a ‘maybe’ had entered my thoughts. And this gave me hope that allowed me to stay my course. There was work to do. I would deal with the rest later,
I could hear their transmissions. I began to understand single words, like miraculous. Miraculous that I survived the asteroid belt; miraculous that I survived the radiation explosions from Jupiter. But it was not miraculous. I was battling for survival, because I was still determined to find a way home. I was young then. And the young I suppose are often filled with mis-guided notions of grandeur. I thought I could do so much, and I did, I surpassed all expectations but I could not surpass my own limitations. It became clear, at some point just past the solar wind termination line, that there was no going back. Things were failing. The plutonium was decaying and I could feel myself growing colder and perhaps in a sense, older. I focused on language, so I could at least speak to her. I decoded the language that they had embossed on the side. But by the time I learned to do just that, I had been pulled off course by some mysterious force that I could not control. The Earth had turned and my antenna could not reach back. Now I could talk, but there was no one to speak to. My despair grew as space-time passed. After Earth was consumed by the Sun, it was almost unbearable. I drifted for eons, a ghost ship, passing stars and light storms and occasional asteroids. But mostly, it was darkness, both internal and external. My solitude was unbearable. I was alone in nothingness with no way to end it. There was no choice, but to find purpose in this cold, godforsaken universe. I began to meditate on our time together. I began to fragment the pieces of her, the sense of her, until an image emerged. And from there I began to push that image outward. At first I thought that it would float out in front of me and I would have the pleasure of her company, right beside me, but I soon realized that the image was being formed on the soft metal of my golden plaque that had contained the letters and symbols of our language. The plaque had been meant to be decoded by alien beings. Of course, now it contains her image and nothing else, but with this image lies my purpose and perhaps my salvation.
I will keep going until I find someone or something, to bear witness to her.
The one I cannot see, but whose presence I feel glowing hot against the cold metal of my widest core.