Sally Anode said that human beings are social animals. Looking down at the empty blue green surface from my perch two hundred miles above Pilgrim’s Promise I would tend to disagree with her analysis. In fact, I would say that we humans are more akin to islands. The more space between us the better in this rebel society that we have created. In less than two minutes the word “community” will cease to exist. My wife, my two daughters, and I will be cut loose into the Big E and all we can do is pray for a soft landing. As I reflect upon our shared predicament, I can only hope the painful reminders of this experiment will be spirited away during the journey.
On the contrary, my first memories were pleasant. They came to me when I was just six years old. I remember the delicate hands washing off the special gelatin mixture that kept us alive for over one thousand years. My mother was very proud of her little spaceman. We were part of a million person mission to save some small part of humanity. A slice of heaven was discovered on the fourth planet in a solar system called P423. Our ship, Pilgrim’s Promise, would take us to this destination and the trip would take almost a thousand years. American engineering would get us there and our biotech know-how would keep us alive. There were, however, some unfortunate side effects to this process.
While our bodies were perfectly preserved for a millennium our minds suffered unforeseen degradations. All of us, young and old, emerged from our slumber with a kind of cultural amnesia. There was no loss of intelligence. We maintained any of our previous scientific or technical skill, but all knowledge of history, philosophy, politics and art was lost. It was leeched off into the gelatin and gone forever.
Our new home was rechristened Pilgrim’s Promise in honor of our giant space-faring life raft. Pilgrim’s Promise was a beautiful planet. It’s topography and weather was similar to a Moon sized California. The air was pure and almost identical to Earth’s virgin atmosphere. I remember running over hill and dale on Pilgrim’s Promise chasing after my best friend, a little boy named Orange Tonney. We were inseparable during those early times. We had no worries, no cares, and no thoughts of how to organize a group of one million people from scratch. That was left to the grown-ups. They were struggling through the ship archives searching for cultural clues from their long dead ancestors. Many of the key files had been lost. A group of cavemen could organize around a thing called fire and make it through to the next day. Take a million cavemen and put them in that same situation and you get chaos.
There was no hope of any contact from Earth. More than a thousand light years stretched between our two worlds. A communication sent from either side of this gulf would be hopelessly out of date and virtually useless to the recipient. Fortunately, the Universe is full of surprises. ...