The Road Less-Travelled
By Jeff Baker
“Over there. To your right,” I said. “That’s Alpha Centauri. About seven light years from here.”
“I see it. It’s a triple star, isn’t it?” Zac said.
“Yes, but you can’t make out Proxima Centauri unless you’re a lot closer.” I said.
“And there’s Sirius!” Zac said, pointing to a bright spot in the gathering dusk.
“One of the brightest stars in our sky,” I said staring upward.
We had spent that late afternoon wading and swimming in the river. Now that the sun had gone down it had gotten dark quickly.
“Hey, did you see Proxima Centauri when you came here from Earth?” Zac said.
“I wasn’t paying attention to things like that when I was about, what, four years old?” I said. “Anyway, we didn’t just shoot out to Procyon all at once. That would be a long trip! We stopped along the way. Remember where I went to school?”
Zac laughed. “Nut. Orbiting Sobek.”
“Discovered by the freighter Atun in 2467, given its name because of its greenish tint.”
“Named after the Ancient Egyptian crocodile god,” Zac said. “And Nut…”
“Goddess of the sky,” I finished. “Our school slogan was ‘You gotta be nuts to go here.”
We both laughed. We stood there in silence for a while and listened to the breeze rustle the leaves and the tall grass. The only thing missing was a moon.
“You think I should stay, don’t you?” Zac said.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” I said. “I mean, it’s your decision.” We stared at the sky. “Still, it’s a long ways away.”
“Yeah, Zac said. “I was remembering when the ancient Earth explorers used to go from one continent to another. Essentially it was a one-way trip.”
“They couldn’t make calls,” I said. “Or send Electron Notes to each other.”
“Which I will do,” Zac said. “I promise.”
I smiled and stared up at the stars again.
“Pete and I had you conceived on this planet,” I said wistfully. “I always thought you’d stay here.”
“So did I, when I was a kid,” Zac said.
You’re still a kid, I thought. 23 is awfully young.
But there comes a time to let go of your kids. You can raise them as best you can but you have to let them go. He’d be gone in two weeks. Off to his adult life. Best to enjoy the now.
“Look at that!” Zac said pointing. “Bleiler’s Comet. Right to the side of the Cohen Nebula.”
“Almost looks like two comets, side-by-side.” I said.
We stood in the darkness side-by-side.