Letter 4: hauntings of home

Sweetest Valia,

If you did, indeed, lose a part of yourself in the depths of space, then I have found it in my travels. It was drawn to me, drawn by the strength of my love for you and I will keep it safe until we meet again.

It has been only an hour since I sent my last letter, but I find that I cannot wait any longer to write again. I owe you for the worry my silence caused you, and I mean to show you that my heart yearns for our friendship. My briefing was dull, a political voicing more so than an actual briefing, and it had little to do with the construction of the defense station.

Apparently, the Liridians are ceding from the Alliance. This announcement sent the briefing into an uproar. Everyone spoke at once, and their voices fell together, creating one booming, fearful cry. Perhaps this is what caused the whispers of unrest you wrote of in your last letter? I heard no mentions of war, though losing the military might of the Liridians is certainly unsettling. Such a loss might be why this defense station is being built. Willem, the ship’s captain, tells me that the Liridians were largely responsible for the Alliance victory during the Dark War. Will their absence make us vulnerable to the Sonomians again? Such a thought strikes terror in my heart.

Ah, Willem. I didn’t mention him in my last letter, did I? He is from the United African Nations, and he is beautiful.  We have started a romance. Perhaps the word romance is a bit strong for what is between us. I am a distraction from the monotony of repeated jumps for him, and he is a breath of familiarity and comfort for me, my little piece of home out here in the darkness, where everything is strange.

His skin is the most beautiful color of ebony that I have ever seen. Sometimes we lock ourselves away and worship each other for hours on end, reveling in the pleasures we can gift to each other. I am not sure how I will handle his departure, though I have no delusions about what is between us. His companionship has made the drastic changes in my life tolerable.

Our second refueling stop was the planet of Auralia. We were not supposed to disembark there because it is a dangerous planet, but I convinced Willem to let me accompany the restocking crew to the planet’s surface. According to the chief of the restocking crew, Auralia was originally uninhabited. The Ralite people fled from the neighboring planet of Cadrieng and built their empire here.

The city we visited has no name in the common language, its name in the Ralite’s tongue is not translatable, so it is simply called the Great City. It is immense, larger than any city on Earth. The borders cannot be seen, they stretch out to the horizon. The architecture looks angry. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, other than as a twisted jumble of rust colored metal frames. Glass spheres sit together at odd intervals, appearing like insect eggs amid a pile of debris. It reminded me of your father’s scrap metal pile.

A Ralite man met us at the ferry station, and he was delighted by my presence among the crew. They explained that he was some sort of diplomat or public relations official. Have you met any Ralites on Attranor? His skin reminded me of the small mushrooms we would find in the yard after a particularly heavy rain. It was that same blotchy tan that faded to white along his arms. His head was circled by bulbous tissue that looked like sea foam. The tissue swelled and deflated rhythmically, perhaps they are lungs of some sort. While the crew worked, he took me on a small tour of the nearby city.

Do you remember the Harvest Festival back home? The sun at that time of year felt alive and it held in its warmth a caress better than any man’s hands. The laughter that tinkles like the little bells strung up between lampposts calls to me, now, as if I need only turn and I would find myself among our friends once more. The Ralite brought me to the city’s light festival, and the smells and sounds transported me home. My heart squeezed, and tears burned my eyes.

Images of home have haunted me since that moment. Were we foolish to race off planet on these grand adventures? Perhaps we should have done as our fathers wished and married sweet farm boys and led a simple life.

It is late, I think. It has been a week since I felt sunlight (is it called starlight if not in our system?) and though the lights on the ship mimic a typical day, my body is not fooled. I feel stretched, as if this trip threatens to pull me apart. My mind demands sleep, though I am reluctant to end this letter and its frail connection to you. While I write it, I can imagine that you sit beside me, that I speak these things to you rather than sending them into the emptiness beyond this ship.

My biggest fear is that the paths we chose will never again cross, that I will never look into your eyes again and see myself reflected there. I miss you terribly.

All my love,