Wednesday June 29th, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: the observatory.

Busy busy morning at the bakery. I do believe the tourists have arrived.

Sounds like there will be two of us out front right from opening tomorrow, which should make a huge difference. I'll probably still need a coffee in me before we unlock the door though.


As the blinding light of dawn drew steadily nearer, the man in the faded blue jeans and threadbare sweater wrote hastily in his notebook. With one eye seemingly glued to his telescope the words were messy and (he would later discover) illegible in places but he could not tear himself away from the view.

In the distance the phone in his office began to ring. Again. The man paid it no heed. Again.

His discovery had been made hours before, an object orbiting a distant sun in an expanse of space he had studied hundreds of times. Somehow, though, he had never seen this planet before. This Earth-sized, Earth-shaped, Earth... like object.

Was there life there? Life like ours? Was there someone there, right then, staring back at him and pondering the same questions about Earth?

Impossible to know. But so very tempting to imagine.

At last the man's writing hand began to cramp so badly that he had to put his pen down. But he continued to stare at this mysterious, intriguing object until the sun chased the night away, obliterating his view. A sudden sadness overcame him then, more powerful than the one that typically accompanied the ending of the night.

Would he be able to find it again? Or was it lost forever? What if it was only visible once every twenty years? Would he live long enough to make that discovery?

His phone rang again. The man turned his head and contemplated answering it. Then, slowly, stiffly, he lay down in the makeshift bed on the floor, and tried to get some sleep before the dark joys of nighttime returned.


morganna said...

Away out there in space
Staring hungrily into its telescopes
Scanning the skies with regularity
An alien searches for life like it.

Every year it must justify
The continued search --
Money-counting aliens want
More than a drain on the bank account.

There's other life out there,
I'm sure of it!
Just wait -- I promise
Some day we'll see evidence, I know!

Greg said...

@Morganna: your second verse is wonderful, it provides a lovely counterpoint to the description of the quest and the hope that the alien has. And it's very nice to see it turned around as well, with aliens (possibly) searching for us.

@Marc: quite a solemn piece from you today, clearly those tourists have put you in a thoughtful frame of mind! I like the motif of the ringing telephone in the background to show off the obsession that the astronomer has, and the descriptions at the end of the stiffness and other problems that come from standing still for too long. I'm also liking the fact that even though this discovery could be a hopeful one, you've played that down, which makes me wonder if it's going to turn out to be trouble....

The observatory
Wooden doors clicked shut behind them, and lights came on automatically. It was late evening and most of the staff had gone home, so the building was quiet and the only lights were the ones that lit ahead of them, and faded behind them. Maurette turned her head to check; behind them the darkness hovered like a stalker, leaping forward so as not to lose them, but never getting close enough to touch. They turned a corner and reached a metal door: the elevators. James pressed the call button, and the doors slid open immediately as though they'd been waiting to be asked.
The elevator accelerated after a moment, and the floor numerals went blank. She must have looked at them too sharply, for James placed an authoritarian hand on her shoulder. She wondered briefly if he were holding her in place to stop her lifting from the floor with the acceleration.
"Express elevator," he said. His voice was still pale and listless, still evoked memories. "We have to change at the 40th floor, so this is non-stop." Three minutes later the numerals lit up with "40" in red, and the elevator stilled and the doors opened with a ping. The darkness was outside, waiting for them. As James stepped out it retreated again, recessed spotlights turning on and illuminating a room that was nothing but a lobby: a table with a bowl of flowers, a painting on the wall of a depressed horse, and two other elevator doors.
They changed elevators three more times, stepping out at last on the 150th floor. Here there were corridors and doors and the soft-humming of the air heaters. James led the way, the lights still coming on as they approached and turning off behind them.
"Many of these rooms contain computers," he said. "Each one requires a support staff of nearly thirty people. The only reason we don't need more of them, and the staff, is because at this height we're just outside the Earth's atmosphere." They walked through double doors with armed guards on both sides. They wore the white and blue uniform of the Unified Authority and had the cold, dead eyes of serial killers.
"This is the Observatory," he gestured around the at the wood-panelled room, "That is Mars," and he gestured at the projection of a telescope view on the wallscreen, "And that is where we intend to send four men to plant our flag."

Marc said...

Morganna - I'm with Greg and his appreciation of your second verse. It really brings the whole thing together. Brilliant :)

Greg - hah, I don't recall what was going on for me when I wrote this, but I'll admit to enjoying re-reading it!

Fantastic atmosphere in yours, and I really liked the effect of the lighting. The final scene, played out on the 150th floor, is beautifully executed.