Login   Sign Up 



by scarborough 

Posted: 17 August 2005
Word Count: 834
Summary: one of those little short stories which is more an interesting idea, than anything.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Time can do so much.

What will I find when I return home?

The asteroids whizz past. My heart is empty.

In my subjective experience, this mission has lasted ten years and two hundred and seventy days . that is a total of three thousand, nine hundred and twenty-three days. I was thirty-seven years and fifteen days old, when this mission launched. The voyage is in its final phase, the slingshot round the outer planet complete.

Soon I will be home. Soon the grand mission will be over. All the data I have collected, and all the samples I took, will be unloaded, downloaded, digitally rendered and made available to the scientific community. They will be put into storage, and occasionally pieces will be shaved off, and prodded, poked, burned, dissolved, and irradiated in laboratories for decades to come. The endless process of science, man's great journey towards that ultimate goal of perfect knowledge of everything will be advanced to a shocking degree. I will be feted, invited onto talkshows, have serious articles written about me in scientific magazines and broadsheets sunday supplements, and not-so-serious ones will be shown on television. My mission, and my career, will be a resounding success.

When I land, I will be thirty-eight years and two hundred and eighty-five days old, according to the passage of time as I perceived it.
Due to the effects of relativity, it will be fifty-four years and one hundred and sixty-one days since I was born. How old will that make me, I wonder? the question is a familiar one; many philosophers, psychologists, writers and others have speculated about this issue, and debated, to greater and lesser degrees of profundity, the effect that it would have on a man like me. I am privileged; I am an historic figure. When the effects of near lightspeed travel on time are explained to children, it is my life they shall use as an example. I will remain unique in this situation; for a number of reasons, no mission such as mine will be carried out again for quite some time.
Another person in a unique situation, is my wife.
We have been apart for a long time, but she has had longer to wait than me. I am Peter Pan, returned to Wendy's window, to find that she is ever so much older than twenty. She was younger than me, the naive foreign postgraduate marrying the glamorous all-american pilot. My country, to her, was fresh, and exciting. I showed it to her, and through her enthusiasm and her pure joy of living, I was made young.

Now, it shall be her turn to teach me something new. As far as I know, she is waiting, and she is well. Two years ago (my time), radio contact was re-established on schedule.I have had conversations with her and others. Due to the time-delay, they have taken months to reach me. it was even longer for her. But she is well. Our son, deliberately conceived in the months before I left, is doing well at school, and looks like me, so she says. No pictures have been sent. None are allowed.

She looks forward to my return. As do I. Even knowing what I do.

Five years, (earth time) after I left on the mission, contact was made with the Skarin. They look a lot like us, apparently; a little taller, their skin a little darker. Their sun is of a similar size, though they never told us its location. Speculation is rife, and a couple of dozen star systems have been championed as possibilities by one astronomer or another. After a time, when they became aware of these speculations, humanity was politely asked to desist. We did not know why, at the time.
The Skarin were peaceful, too, and interested in cultural exchange. Their scientists worked with ours. Certain areas of our technology have felt the benefit of their touch. Much to humanity's surprise, we also found there were things that we could teach them. Apparently, their grasp of genetics is much improved.
After seven years of this beneficial exchange, their colony was established on our planet. It was unclear, however, exactly what they wanted from us.
Human ambassadors- explorers, much like myself, I imagine, requested passage to the Skarin homeworld. The requests were politely refused, every time.
After nine years, Earth's governments learned that the Skarin are at war.
This knowledge came without warning, unbidden from the skies like the Skarin had come before. The Skarin were discovered, and subsequently eradicated by their enemies, who we surmise did not want a Skarin outpost in this arm of the galaxy. Our last communication from them consisted of an apology. We still do not know who these mysterious enemies are, only that they are only hostile to space-faring races likely to be a threat to them.
My wife and I look forward to the days we shall have together. She will show me what is left of Earth.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

paul53 [for I am he] at 11:59 on 18 August 2005  Report this post
This is a good short story. It can serve equally well as a stand-alone piece by itself, and also as an opener for a longer work with enough tantalising hooks about what has been happening on Earth in the hero’s absence for the reader to want more.
I went to comment here on writers block, but it got longer so I have pasted it as a separate thread.
The asteroids whizz past. my heart is empty.


Soon the grand mission will be over, all the data I have collected, all the samples I took, will be unloaded downloaded put into storage and prodded poked burned, dissolved, irradiated, and a thousand other things will be done. the endless process of science,

This sentence is a grand mess. Here is a sample correction, noting that a) I have omitted the “I have collected” & “I took” as we know it was only him; and b) I have omitted “storage” as it implies being left uninspected long-term rather than being eagerly investigated.

Soon the grand mission will be over; all the data collected and all the samples taken will be unloaded or downloaded, catalogued and then systematically prodded, poked, burned, dissolved, irradiated - and a thousand other things besides. The endless process of science,

I am a historic figure.

an historic figure

Argyle at 13:46 on 18 August 2005  Report this post
That is a great short story. As Paul said, it would work as either a story on it's own or as a great opener for a novel.

Really liked it!

nothing else to say :)

Nelly at 16:38 on 18 August 2005  Report this post
Very nice. I liked this short piece, quite refreshing with a nice twist (as one expects in these tales).I love the whole time/ near light-speed theory, having read some great works dealing with this theme.

As a stand alone piece, it needs some more filling out, perhaps a brief expansion on the Skarin as it appears rushed in the last two paras.

I noticed that some of your sentences don't begin with capitals,


In my subjective experience, this mission has lasted ten years and two hundred and seventy days . that is a total of three thousand, nine hundred and twenty-three days.

Check your spacing between sentences seems to be a couple of extra ones creeping in.

Hope it helps


scarborough at 21:36 on 18 August 2005  Report this post
cheers for the feedback; I know what you mean about the 'obligatory twist' thing, Nelly!
I think people are right, it does need fleshing; I feel there's a lot missing from the last section of the story.

Fair point about the 'grand mess', too, Paul. Guess I get carried away every now and then...

Patsy at 05:09 on 22 August 2005  Report this post
Hi Scarborough,

This is a really interesting idea. If you expand on it, it will make a great short story, or you could even pull it into a novel, as you have a lot to work with.
The style you wrote this in has a kind of movie feel to it, like a journal left behind by this guy while he was on his trip. I can really see this as the opening of a book. You could go almost anywhere with this.
Liked it a lot.
Patsy :)

shellgrip at 19:34 on 23 August 2005  Report this post
Scarborough, time dilation effects are a great sideline in SF writing - somewhere I've got several pages of equations from a treatment I did about 8 years ago.

However, I found that you can't have your cake and eat it. If you're going to quote relativistic effects with such accuracy then you need to get your facts right - SF authors will happily tolerate an unknown star drive but if you start quoting figures and properties for existing understanding, boy, you'd better get it right :)

I get the feeling you might well have your facts to hand - just a warning.

I'm bugged now because there's a short story about an ark ship that takes 100 years or something to reach a distant star and when they get there, they're greeted by humans that overtook them becuase of technological advances. Anyone remember?

Anyway, I'd love to see more if you have it (or write it!).


scarborough at 21:27 on 23 August 2005  Report this post
That's far too much credit you're giving me there, Shellgrip, I don't know my stuff at all! I have to say, I kept the details vague on purpose. I think you're probably right, though; there's no pedant like a sci-fi pedant :)
I'll tighten this up before I submit it anywhere.

That time travel story you're talking about rings a vague bell with me. It sounds like the kind of thing that Douglas Adams might have been responsible for, or maybe the Red Dwarf writers?

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .