THE STARSHIP Magellan was an oasis of existence in an ocean of nothingness. It screamed its loneliness through the inky blackness of space, crying out to the cold, distant stars.
The Captain stood on the bridge, gazing out at the blue speck that beckoned like an old, faithful friend. Thirty years of deep space exploration had taken their toll on him. He was no longer a young man and his greying temples and salt-and-pepper beard made sure he didn’t forget that. He focused on the distant speck again and forced his turbid thoughts to settle. And his mind moved upon silence.
And the Magellan rushed onward to Earth. Too long had it been in the empty voids of eternal night. It craved the noise of humanity, the sweet sad songs of Earth: the crackle of a small, warm fire deep inside a distant forest; the incessant hum of pulsing, breathing cities; the wind forever whistling across desolate deserts of Artic ice; all this and more, it craved, like a moth craves the flame. And onward it ploughed, delirious with thoughts of union, ignoring the ominous premonitions that seemed to almost weigh down its sleek silver exterior.
And as the blue planet drew close enough to fill the Captain’s viewport, a shudder of horror ran through him and the crew that crowded around behind him. For the Earth was dark. Not the quiet, gentle dark of a new moon but the harsh darkness of life terribly extinguished. For none of the great cities of Earth were lit up. And the silence that greeted the navigators was the same silence they had lived with for thirty years; they knew it all too well.
And the Magellan cried out in anguish and frustration and its cries were heard by the cold, distant stars, and the cold, dark planet and it sobbed quietly as the infinite loneliness of space silently closed in upon it.
Inspired by the greatest short story ever written, Arthur C. Clarke’s Songs of Distant Earth.