Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Daily Story 174: The Oasis of Little Birds

The view looks so familiar but I can't place it at first. Finally it clicks and I think of summers at my aunt's house and the quarry where my cousins and I would swim. When the sun was right overhead you could look down into the water and see the streamers of light stretching past you, rays of lighter blue hanging there like kelp. We would stare down into the water wearing cheap snorkels my aunt bought and just daydream, filling our minds with all the things we couldn't understand yet. If you were to take that snapshot of my memory and shift all the colors from blue to yellow you would have my bedroom window. Tendrils of sunlight are always reaching past the station into space, a black backdrop infinitely deeper than the quarry.

It's not a real window - there aren't any here at all - and so most people leave it set to some tranquil forest scene. Not me - I like to look at what's actually there, although I admit that view would only really make sense on the ceiling. On the wall it should be a sea of fire, the massive plain of the sun reaching out forever to the horizon while planet-high stalks of plasma wave like burning forests. Beautiful, but not quite so relaxing. It always puts me in mind of my parents, trying to talk me out of this post. They insisted that one well-placed solar flare would destroy the whole station, that a relatively minor malfunction could allow the antimatter factory to blow us all to hell, that if the shielding failed for even a split second we would all be vaporized - in essence, that Zerzura Station isn't a good place to raise children.

It's useless to try and explain it to them. It's not that they're wrong, exactly - certainly there are a lot of ways we could die - but it's like all of the things they're terrified of at home. Back on Earth they talk about pollution, and crime, and war. They let the media whip things up into a frenzy to increase subscriptions, and as a result my parents never go outside to notice that the skies are clearing, that the crime rate keeps dropping, that what we're calling wars would barely be referred to as 'minor conflicts' twenty years ago. They're missing out on everything they worked for. Is there a one-in-a-million chance that a solar flare will spring up under us faster than the station can skim aside like a water strider? Sure.

They say Zerzura Station isn't a place to raise children. I say if you aren't going to let them play outside anyway you might as well live somewhere incredible. I can hear their laughter echoing down the corridor as they return from classes - soon it will be our quiet time together, and then some games and dinner. They love it here, and the station is like a village where everyone looks out for each other. The door opens and I'm incapacitated with hugs before they break away to raid the cookie jar. I turn off the lights but leave the window on and we gather on the overstuffed couch to look out past the waving fronds of sunlight and daydream. Without fear of war or crime my children float along over this universe of flame, filling their minds with all the things they can't understand yet.