Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Last Step

Everyone says that Pluto is the greatest planet in the universe.

I am here to tell you it is not.

First off, the drive there is nothing you have ever seen before. I drove there alone, but if I had gone with a few friends I think we would have been at each other's throats. You can only listen to Gary Neuman tapes for so long before you start hearing the voices. They whisper to you and say things like "Bob's beakers break less than boring better brands, now only ten bucks!" or "You will never find an exact value of Pi", and my personal favourite: "You should never sleep". You can't shut those guys up unless you have some .45 aspirin.

Gas stations along the way? They're gonna rip you off seven ways to Easter Sunday. Some days, I siphoned gas off some poor sap who left his car unattended. Some days I had to push until I hit the next asteroid. Night's always good. You can sneak and steal some from the stations, attendants usually sleep off the six day nights. Brutal but you gotta do what you gotta do and if you want to reach Pluto, well, sometimes you gotta do things that you don't tell in polite company.

Food is almost as bad as gas. I don't like to talk about it.

Lotta folks don't make it. They hit Uranus or Neptune and settle down like an interplanetary Utah. Some are drifting mummified, either opening the hatch on the advice of the voices or running out of gas and food and slowly succumbing. Space ain't for the weak. Or the unlucky.

Reporters, back in the days when you could still enjoy a greased fatty burger and pay 90 cents per gallon for gas, used to ask those crazy gits scaling Everest why. Why kill yourself and others to plant a stupid dollar store flag on some rock? And they'd smile like a kid who got an A in finger painting and say, "It was fun" or "Because the mountain was there". In those days it was new and exciting and no one else was there. Just you, alone, with your hypothermia above the world. Nowadays, it's cake. A tram rides you up, you stay at the hotel on the top for a week, buy a photo and a postcard at the gift shop and fly home.

Pluto is the new Everest. A place where you can be alone in this civilization of ours. All alone, no noise, no lights, no gravity. Just you and space and it goes for miles and you realize why you came. You can't express that to others. It's like war. They have to be there.

Some come to die. They come outta the car, take in the experience and pop the latch on the helmet. It's humane I suppose. No sitting around hooked to a machine fighting till your body can't fight no more. And time flies slow and you watch your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren weep and moan. Not for some. Pop that helmet latch and embrace the sweet kiss of oblivion. You go out and wake up dead. Gravity's so low you fall off eventually and your body become a time capsule drifting, telling the universe that you existed till you hit a star or a black hole or a string and poof. Vaporized.

Sometimes, every ten years or so, you come to Pluto on this magic cycle and you see the Titan fleet go by Charon. You watch and you think "No way anything could be that big". Took years to build those ships in orbit around Mars, and these days they never see their birth planet. They fly out and mine the Kuiper belt for hydrogen, methane, and others and come back to Uranus to drop it all off to feed the appetites of industry. Back and forth ten years at a time. Whole families go off in them and born and raised and die without ever seein' the Earth, or any city for that matter. They're almost a separate race, a class apart. I don't envy them. Their lives, just a honeycomb of steel and space. Man gotta have some gravity, air, rock for a natural life and a ship ain't natural.

And they glide silently by. Most folks never think about that kinda thing. I was lucky, when I went I caught the fleet goin out for another run. Most beautiful thing I ever did see since, but it ain't enough to save Pluto. The god-forsaken rock it is.

Some crazies goin to build a town here. I expect it to die, the voices and supplies will kill it in the womb. But someday, Pluto'll be Everest and someplace else will be Pluto and the Titan fleet will be a flyin' somewhere else when they devour the Belt.

It's so quiet here, I admire that. It was hell and it's hell being on Pluto, I grudgingly accept that, I hate that. I'm here again despite that, I guess because why some people came back to Everest or the Moon. Quiet, Peace, feeling of being on the edge of man and being a part of something expanding, something larger. So much larger and ya so small and tiny and that larger is in a larger universe and god only knows what is larger than that.

And so I pull the latch on my helmet...

No comments: