Take to a boat, run up sails, find the wind,
Just as a reminder, because it is all too easy
Forgetting that the world is ocean, with only occasional land.
How old was I, when they came? It's so hard to remember.
There was a building, a farmhouse. There was as barn, and… a man…my Father; he kept animals in there, and there were fenced-in fields with more animals, and other fields with crops. It was so big to me, when I lived there, growing up, it was the whole world. But I remember how small it looked from above, dwindling smaller and smaller, until I couldn't pick it out anymore. I wish I had understood then that I wouldn't see it again, not ever.
I wonder what it's like now, the Earth. Time dilates near the speed of light; the Friends had to learn a new language when they got home, so much time had passed. And it's been decades since.
I wonder if they'd take me back, just to see. Not to stay, of course. Just to see.
With the shell held to my ear, I can hear the entire ocean. I hear the darting fish and the gliding whales and the bottom-feeders skittering through the cloudy dust. I hear them as if they were one great creature writhing and thrashing and eating itself, dying and sinking and being reborn.
I have petitioned the King for a ship, so that I may take it to sea. I believe he thinks me mad, but he may grant my request nevertheless, to be rid of me. She may already have a name, but I am resolved to call her Eurybia.
"It's hot. Hotter than the projections." He cycled to the next data set on his arm-screen. "And the atmosphere's an unbreathable soup. Suit's staying on."
"Well, we figured that."
"You're coming through fairly clear." He turned around: the portal was shrunk to a tiny glowing speck, but it was still there. All those briefings, and all the classes, and he still had no idea how the technology worked. Or, why it worked. "Unbelievable."
"Three and a half billion years. Oop…" He steadied himself. "There's some ground movement there. And I'm seeing volcanic activity."
"No, far off. Horizon. Big plumes of smoke. Whole place looks more like Io than home. Let me try to get to higher ground and I can—"
"Negative. Stay on primary task. We want the pools."
"There's one about ten feet away, stand by." He clambered across a ridge of slick rock, placing his boots and hands with methodical care. "Here we go. I'm taking out the sample tool, but…"
"There's a film across the top of the water. Looks organic. It's well in progress here already."
There was a long pause. "Understood. Return to the portal. We'll just have to go back further."