The sky through the Venetian blinds is the colour of Neptune. The pale blue of ponds and evenings, across which the errant moon, Despina, casts down her queenly shadow over the clouds of hydrogen swirling in 2100 kilometre per hour winds. I would close the blinds if I did not see, far away in the west, the faint sigla of our future happiness setting. It's hard to make out against that faded ultramarine but looks like this:

Astronomical symbol for Neptune.

which means I think that the sea holds whatever promise there may be for us now. I used to imagine Venus, I used to entertain Mars. For half a decade now I've been haunted by Saturn, Cassini pictures beamed back across 8.833 A.U. directly into my visual cortex, scrambling the synapses until I saw rings wherever I went. Fingers, toes. Now I think of the Ninth Men, designed to live out there beyond Uranus: Inevitably it was a dwarf type, limited in size by the necessity of resisting an excessive gravitation ... too delicately organized to withstand the ferocity of natural forces on Neptune ... civilization crumbled into savagery.

Astronomical symbol for Neptune.

And the Tenth to the Seventeenth: Nowhere did the typical human form survive; but the Fifteenth and the Sixteenth achieved a great civilization and learned to study past minds. Then there was the Eighteenth: Superficially we seem to be not one species but many. Extinguished with the rest of what remained of the Solar System in a supernova n million years from now. Or so the book says. As if the future might be written from the past, as if the study of past minds might reveal not this future but another: there have been so many worlds / between th bell & th blue star !

Astronomical symbol for Neptune.

Neptune. I'm still going to close the blind and go about my business, but just before I do I take a closer look at that strange now deepened blue. And it isn't the colour of the sky. It isn't the sky at all. It's like in Quiet Earth, that blue planet has come down to this blue planet and we are having congress with one another. I hear the bells of St. Andrews, tolling out a final evensong. I see the black rags of birds flung up against the void. I feel the unholy chill of hydrogen creeping along my skin, minus 218 °C. Can you name that colour now, azurine, berryline, gridelin or bloom?

Astronomical symbol for Neptune.

I should close the blinds but don't: go instead out the door onto the balcony. I'll swallow blue or let it swallow me. A last thought: Raymond Chandler's favourite piece of American slang: Aw, turn blue ... I do. And while there's still time step off into that darkening sky.

image: Despina, Moon of Nepturn; quotations from Last & First Men by Olaf Stapledon (1930) except the lines of verse from David Mitchell, laughing with th taniwha, Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby (1972)


1 comment:

maggie said...

Is it possible?, that, with each symbiotic syllable, I fall, deeper, imprisoned, captivated, your love, wrote, a latchkey to my soul, eternally yours,I'M.