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Some people say it changed everything, that first photograph of the Earth taken from space. That it we couldn’t see the planet, or ourselves as humans, the same way ever again. That’s the power of a new angle of view.
Seeing this big, beautiful planet, the one we walk around on every day, as a small blue marble set in the infinite night of Space… well, it can make you feel pretty small.
On the other hand, maybe you have to think, too, that this is pretty special; that I can be that insignificant speck down there, under those swirling cloud patterns, and at the same time, I can look at this whole planet with the eyes of someone… way up here.
One foot on that lower world, one foot in the heavens. Pretty damn cool.
I should know. I’ve been there.
I don’t expect you to believe me. Not going in, anyway. You know what the internet’s like, all those weirdos out there, claiming all kinds of stuff.
Still, I decided this was the best place to tell my story, trusting that whatever reader stumbles onto it does so because coincidence or serendipity or some “unseen hand” led you here.
And it’s kind of a doozy, the tale I have to tell. I wouldn’t have believed it either, but it’s all true.
You see, I’m writing this in the 24th century, using some of my personal back-channels to publish it there, in the early 21st. If I’ve targeted my dates right, it will seem to you that I’ve only been gone from planet Earth for a few years. As Mark Twain said, rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated. So exaggerated that I was actually declared dead in 2010. That was our plan, of course, and the person responsible for my fake death got what he deserved.
But that’s only the beginning, only the first unbelievable part of my life, the part that lifted me off the planet, into another life, in another century. Sure there was mystery and suspense in that little episode, but that’s nothing compared to all that came later, the worlds I’ve seen, the loves I’ve lost and found, the people I’ve known: men and women who found their calling in making the galaxy a better place; alien worlds with disturbing cultures: orphaned half-blood children; tough guys and obsessive bureaucrats; and yes, even keepers of Truth.
See? I told you you wouldn’t believe me.
Actually, my life started out more or less normally; well, normal if you share a passion for women’s issues, ever had a first crappy marriage, or second one to a dotcom mogul. Normal if your hunger for some kind of soul-truth makes you willing to blunderingly go where…well, wherever the Path may take you.
Anyway, the first parts will sound familiar, if they’re not always very pretty. After that, it gets… interesting.
Not interesting in some space cowboy way, mind you. I’m not here to tell you tales of intergalactic shoot-em-ups. The truth is, life in space isn’t the stuff of video games or blockbuster movies, at least not about 99% of the time, no matter what you’ve imagined. The truth is far more personal, and a lot more amazing.
Like Scheherazade, or any decent storyteller, I’ve spooled out my rambling saga in small doses, designed to (hopefully) keep you coming back for more. I like to imagine these as bedtime stories I whisper in your ear as you nod off, tales that hover between the world of waking reality and dream.
Like David Copperfield, I start at the beginning. Though maybe I should have started at the end? Told how I ended my days back here on Earth, told how everything came full circle after all. I argued that logic with a very logical friend of mine, but in the end, front to back is how it came out. You can fit the pieces together however you like. By the time you’re reading this, it’s likely that I’ll have come to the end of my trail, anyway. The gentle departure of old age, I imagine, nothing like my first dramatic, though fake, death.
I want you to know, I gave it a lot of thought: whether it was right to introduce readers of your time to the rather fantastical facts of my existence. But one of the laws of the universe is this: perception is reality. If you think I’m just blowing smoke, then smoke’s all you’ll get. If you happen to be one of those rare people, the kind who can see your regular old life, and at the same time grasp that you’re living on this small, blue marble hurtling through space, maybe you’ll get something more. Maybe you’ll be the one reader who was meant to find me here. Maybe you’ll be the one who finds yourself asking, could all this really be true?
Ah, and reader, what if it is?