The distance between us has become an ache that I cannot soothe.
I arrived on Attranor yesterday. The University is located on the south side of the capital city, Kalinda. You should see this city, Milana, it is immense. I got a birds-eye view on the shuttle from the space station. Buildings line winding streets in all directions. It looks like a sea made of glass and metal, and the random flow of high-rises and low-rises appear like the swelling of waves. Beyond the city are grasslands that stretch out into the horizon.
Already I miss the jeweled pine trees and the stark mountains back home. Compared to Earth, Attranor is bleak and monotonous. Yet, for all of our biodiversity, we are still a secluded planet. I did not realize how plain we humans are until now. My mind is overwhelmed by the vast array of sapient beings I have encountered so far. Many seem humanoid, at least in form, though rarely in appearance. There are some who appear so different from us that it makes me wonder how we ever managed to bridge the gap and become a part of the Interplanetary Alliance.
The University is large enough be a city unto itself. The freshman dorms are on the outskirts of the campus, and I am in what they call a bunk toward the top of the freshman building. Bunks are just what they sound like, a tiny five-foot by five-foot room with a narrow bunk on one side and two desks smashed together on the other. At the foot of the bunk is a large bank of drawers that runs floor to ceiling. I got the top bunk and top half of the drawers.
My bunk mate is a Numidian girl. They are a prevalent species here on Attranor, and, I am told, throughout the Alliance. Her name is Talna, and she is breathtaking. I cannot tell if she is mammalian or reptilian, sometimes it is hard to see the difference when it comes to exobiology. Her skin is an exquisite color of gray, like the color of a thundercloud just before it begins to rain. There doesn’t seem to be any hair on her, that I can tell, but her baldness only draws attention to the sharp, delicate lines of her prominent cheekbones and full lips. It is her eyes, though, that are most haunting. They are the deepest color of red that I have ever seen, almost black, and they burn into me.
There is a small window in our bunk. From my bed, I can look out and see a little section of the military sector that runs adjacent to the university. It is yet another tangle of jagged buildings and squat warehouses. It feels cold and empty, and the sight makes me homesick.
It boggles my mind to think that this letter will reach you in a matter of days, that our technology can make the vastness of space so minute. Talna says that instantaneous communication is possible and that once a week she makes a video link with her family back home. Father says that such communication is too expensive and that he wants me to spend my time studying, not socializing anyway. Oh, how I wish I could see your face. I wish you were here, friend, to share this experience and dispel the loneliness that has been my companion since I left.
Do not forget me in my absence.
Forever your friend,