Until the Blue Planet, I had never seen a place where something other existed. There were cosmic worlds suspended in darkness and nomadic chunks of iron, like myself, barreling along waiting to be pulled into one of their orbits. That was it. Gas and metal and rock and speed.
I’d seen a few of us get close enough to collide and disintegrate into some of these distant worlds. Even so, after the enormous amount of energy was released, not much changed. Gas and metal and rock smashing into more gas and metal and rock for billions of light years in every direction.
But when I saw the Blue Planet, it was filled with…life.
Massive life. Strange life. Life much different than after our collision. Life with fangs and tusks and scales. They were equal parts majesty and terror, and I would soon disintegrate with them. It’s the reason The Mover redirected me towards it in the first place. He knew an object of my size and speed would modify The Blue Planet without destroying her.
It was a magnificent place. There were steep mountains with glowing rivers, thick patches of vegetation, and black swamps that breathed steam. They sat waiting to swallow up the creatures. Those that dared to cross a swamp became trapped in its sludge.
A few days before contact, my eyes happened upon such a pit and noticed two creatures caught in the tar. The tree-like one must have submerged some time ago leaving only her tall, slender neck sticking out in the air. She seemed to know that death was imminent in the bog. It was also hurtling six miles closer each second.
“My name’s Agnes,” she said. “But that doesn’t matter anymore.” The anguish on her face was both deep and kind, as if her insides were boiling but she didn’t want the other creature to know. A tree behind them had been laid down in the bog. Its trunk stretched all the way back to land. I wondered if she knew about it. There was little doubt it could support her weight.
“Maybe you’re wrong, Agnes,” the other said. He was a stumpy brute with three horns protruding from his head. There was an innocence in his voice, but not the naive kind. His skin cracked with age. The ooze crept in his pores. “There’s always a way out.”
“I’m sure many have said that.” Her lips were somewhere between a snarl and quiver. “It’s ignorance. No one knows how to get out of the mire. I’ve been here for weeks, and each minute the bog swallows me more. I’m tired of thinking. Everything’s a dead end.”
“Weeks?” he replied. “I’ve been in one before but only for a few days. It must be agonizing.”
“More unfair, really.” she said.
I couldn’t believe it. Had she not been listening? Freedom wasn’t impossible. He’d found a way out once before. Perhaps she didn’t believe him. It was hard to tell. To be sure, these creatures were mysterious.
The tree sat half-submerged listening to their conversation.
“I know it’s dreadful,” the brute said. “But if you would be willing to stay uncomfortable for five minutes longer, we might see the way out.” The thought almost convinced her. She could tell that he, too, was uncomfortable. The crisis would have driven anyone to their breaking point.
They were silent for some time. “Even if you’re right,” she straightened her neck, “we’ll all die soon enough. One way or another.”
“Yes,” he said. “Death will meet us all.” There was more silence.
The brute took a long, calculated breath. “But when he looks at my eyes, they will be filled with hope,” he said.
“Good luck with your hope,” Agnes replied. There was despair and contempt in her words. She was angry. Not at him, but at hope itself and the notion of purpose. She could see no meaning in life and, therefore, no meaning in death. It must have been more unpleasant than the awful bog.
The Blue Planet turned away before I could see the end of their encounter. It wasn’t until the next day that I saw the tarry swamp again. Neither creature was visible, but over by the tree there was one set of black footprints trailing away from the mire.
Time had come to enter the atmosphere. I would soon become part of this world forever. As its surface cradled the impact and sent my DNA burning across the land, my eyes raced to find the one who got out. After a moment, I saw him. He was easy to see. It wasn’t his size or beauty that caught my eye as I rushed towards him. The brute’s face was what separated him from the others.
He was the only one smiling at me.