A Diamond in the Sky
A. F. Witzsche
Between the main meal and the dessert still another one of those near unfathomable dimensions popped into view, with an intensity that demanded attention. Two tables in front of me in a direct line of sight sat a beautiful woman. I don't think I touched my dessert that day. I must have stared holes through her as though I had never seen a female human being before.
She notices me, smiles and then blushes.
I don't know whether it was her hair that struck me, or the shape of her face, or the way she wore her blouse. One word came to mind. A jewel! She was a jewel of a jewel of the Universe. I drank in this sight with the same thirst and eagerness as I had done only moments before, when the great carpet of stars of the Milky Way galaxy had been stretched out beneath my feet on our way to the black hole.
When I came to my senses again, I noticed that she had left. She was near the door already.
"Go and run after her!" I hear a voice say within.
I couldn't move. I was too shy to even stand up. Still, I managed to stand up eventually. It took all the strength I had.
The thought came almost like a command, "To hell with your shyness. You must do this!"
I looked around. At this moment I noticed the captain. I would catch his attention if I was to run after her.
"To hell with the captain!" says the voice within.
"What about Natalia?" I ask myself. "What if Natalia will see me running after another woman? I can't do this.
"You must do this," says the voice again. "Natalia is too intelligent to be hurt."
At this point the Bohr/Miller effect comes to mind again as a tempting alternative. Oh God, will it work? I close my eyes as tight as I could.
"I'm sorry! How clumsy of me?" I hear someone say to me before I open my eyes again.
"The voice sounded like the voice of my thoughts. Had the voice from within spoken again? Except this new voice sounded different, clearer, gentler, and less urgent.
That's when I noticed that the person that I had bumped into was her. I opened my eyes fully. There she was, right in front of me. The Bohr/Miller effect had worked. I was suddenly blocking her way. I simply stood there like a stone, immovable. I was flabbergasted. I didn't know what to say.
"I wasn't looking where I was going," she says to me gently.
I reply that it was entirely my fault. I say that I had tried to catch up with her, but hadn't done a good job of it. "I wanted to meet you," I add.
She smiles. "Yes, I believe that. I had noticed you staring at me," she says moments later. She speaks with a smile that belonged into a world of its own, a world that no mathematical formula could ever describe.
I remain in a daze. Nothing seemed quite real anymore. A door had opened to a New World and to a New Dance. This was a different dance than I had danced before. Had I already become the master of my dance and moved with it into this new sphere of boundless wonders?
I vow to be careful not to put any limitations on what this dance might present. I certainly had never felt anything like this before.
"You are a star among stars," I whisper to her, to my own surprise. "That's why I couldn't keep my eyes off you. If one blinks, the wonder is all too often lost and the star is gone."
She and I both blushed.
"Oh, I see, you are trying to flatter me, or entice me," she replies gently. Her voice appears so clear as if I had never heard the likes of it before. It had a quality that no electronic imaging system could ever map out in true justice.
"No, no!" I stutter. "I just.... Well, I just tried to put words to a reality that I seemed to have perceived for the first time in my life."
To judge by her look, she didn't seem to believe what she was hearing. How could she have?
"You are very kind," she says politely.
At this moment the elevator arrived.
"I must go to work," she says. The open elevator must have seemed like an escape-opportunity for her. Still, she hesitates for a split second and smiles.
"Oh, how wonderfully complex a human being is?" I hear myself say to the voice within. "A computer makes absolute choices. It answers, yes, no, but never anything in between. No machine is yet capable of scanning a near infinite range of implications and come up with an answer that is a sixty percent Yes and forty percent No.
"Allow me to accompany you," I reply as swiftly as I was able to get my reasoning in order to formulate a sentence.
She presses the button for level six. "Let me warn you, I'm a sewer worker," she says.
I look at her clothing. A black evening dress and a blouse made of silk seemed inappropriate. A row of silver buttons were narrowly spaced in the front of the blouse, put through perfectly stitched buttonholes. A delicate chain of gold graced her neck, made of a pattern of tiny links woven into a design that resembled the texture of reptile skin.
"A sewer worker?" I hear myself say to her with amazement. "I had never had much to do with the sewer station. I had seen it once a long time ago, before it had been put in operation. It had been originally designed to employ water hyacinths as I remember." That was all that I knew about it.
She nods slightly and smiles.
"Yes, I would love to see the sewer station," I answer her smile.
"As you wish," she says gently and smiles again.
"I have ten minutes," I hear myself say to her as I looked at the clock in the elevator. The next moment I hear myself mentally correcting this statement, saying, "NO! Time is an invalid concept!"
"You work on level six, that's near the forty-percent gravity mark, isn't it?" I say as the elevator stops, just to break the silence.
"It's just under forty-percent," she says, "but you guessed very closely. Are you an engineer?"
"Forty percent is better than zero-percent," I reply. "Forty percent is like heaven when compared to weightlessness."
"You've worked in zero-percent gravity, haven't you? This means that you are an engineer?"
"Worked? No, that's not the word," I interrupt her. "I have struggled. I have fought. I have performed the toughest job I've ever done in my entire life, in zero gravity. No, I didn't work as an engineer."
"You did this in the ship here?" she asks. "At level zero?"
I nod. "My involvement resulted from a vendetta," I say cautiously. "Have you ever done anything at zero gravity? When you lift a heavy object off the floor, it's almost as hard to get it 'unstuck' as in normal gravity. But once the thing is moving, it is just as hard to stop it unless one is anchored to the floor. It is likely that it hits one on the head. Have you ever done anything in zero gravity?"
She shakes her head. "Have you ever worked at forty percent?"
I say that I hadn't. "May I accompany you..." I had kept the 'hold' button pressed while we talked.
She blushes instantly.
"I have been in training for six weeks," she says as we enter the station. The elevator stop was the station. My surprise causes her to grin. She looks at me to judge my response, and evidently finds it amusing. "I'm replacing a person that was needed at the biology lab," she says, as if to hide her grin. "It wasn't easy to qualify. In order to qualify for this job, I had to take a crash course in bacteriology, plant growth biology, micro virology...."
"My God, all of this is required to become a sewer worker?" I interrupt her in a serious tone.
She continues grinning.
Well, she didn't have to say more about herself. The complexity of the station was amazing. This wasn't just a sewer station. This was a science station, and by all that I could see she was a full-fledged, top-notch scientist. She showed me the lab area first and introduced me to her coworker. Her own workstation was the most complex in the lab, in terms of strange looking instruments, none of which were familiar to me.
Outside of the lab, lay the vast multistage purification system. That's what she called it. In real terms it was a sweet smelling garden, immersed in a soft pink light. Inside the laboratory that was of a considerable size, the lighting was subdued. Her coworker barely looked up as we entered. My newfound friend explained that her coworker was occupied with a Circular Intensity Differential Scattering device, which she said was the latest in biophysical spectroscopy.
It was easy to see by the way she spoke that she was proud to be a part of a team of that stature and was working in this atmosphere that truly matched her fine clothing. I felt proud of her myself. I also felt proud to know someone like her, and to be a part of the kind of world in which this was possible. The advanced technology that she worked with, which filled the lab, didn't come from the moon. It was an extension of the depth of mankind, and I was a part of it. We all were, and so was the science that motivated her, which in turn made it possible for this ship to function. All of that had become a part of her life and my life, which altogether added a wonderful hue to our existence now.
She offered me a place to sit outside in the garden, then took a rather large sample from the pond and placed it on an induction heater on a nearby counter.
"I take it that you do like coffee," she says with a smile.
I would have choked and said no, had she not mentioned her courses in bacteriology and micro virology before. I knew I could rely on her judgment that the water was pure.
"Yes, I'd love some," I reply.
"Oh, you do have great courage!" she says and smiles.
"No, but I trust you," I reply.
We took a stroll through the 'garden' moments later, as she called the pond area, while the water was heating. The garden appeared to be a vast array of hundreds of ponds. She also pointed out that there were three more sub-levels below us with numerous tanks for "bacteriological preprocessing." She told me that collecting and analyzing samples from the final stages of the purification process was on the shift-roster of duties to be performed that evening. She performed the task with the same care with which her coworker had studied whatever it was she had under investigation. Her coworker hadn't even looked up when she had greeted her. She had merely moved a hand and said, "Hi-there, Jill!" Also, there appeared to be no one else on duty at the sewer station as far as I could tell.
"You're are a star among stars," I say to her as we enter the garden on the lower level collecting the required samples, "you and your friend both are."
Jill smiles in reply, but doesn't say anything. At the close distance between us, while collecting the samples for which I was allowed to hold the tray, Jill appeared to me even more beautiful than she had back at the restaurant across the two empty tables.
Natalia came to mind. I hoped that my being with Jill wouldn't hurt Natalia.
At this moment the ship's constitution came to mind, and most of all my friend Martin's words, that I was the master of my dance. Only, did I have the right to invite another person to join my kind of dancing?
"If the dance is enriching her as a human being, then perhaps you may invite her to dance with you," says the voice within me, gently.
I looked up confused.
This must have puzzled her. Her smile had faded and turned into a concerned kind of look.
"Forgive me, I'm not much in control of myself today," I say to her quickly.
My comment about stars and her being the most precious among them didn't seem to be the right thing to say for an introduction. I had screwed up. I wasn't at all happy with it. And if I wasn't comfortable with it, I figured, neither could she be. But how is one to repair the damage?
"I've come through a lot of strange circumstances today that I can't explain in any rational manner," I say to her quietly, "so I won't even attempt it."
"No, don't belittle yourself," she says gently. "You are a star too, a courageous and beautiful star. I love to hear you say those sparkling things about me, seeing that you're honest about it. It happens much too seldom that people dare to be honest in this way, almost never."
"I'm merely trying to be honest with myself," I answer.
"Are you an artist, then?" she asks.
"I don't know," I say quietly, "I really don't know."
We walked back to the upper-level lab. She suggests that the coffee-water might be heated.
"I really should be going now," I say to her at the upper end of the stairway. We came closer at this moment. She had stopped at the top of the stairs. We were near enough for a kiss. I was frightened and excited all at once, and of course filled with the most wonderful feeling all of a sudden. I held her gently, just for a brief moment. At this moment I realized that I wasn't so much in love with her specifically, as I was in love with all mankind, which we were a part of, which she represented in the loveliest way as a woman.
Being in love with her was like being in love with myself. What a strange and wonderful feeling this was! She didn't appear in any way less special in this broader focus, if not more special because of it.
In this trance the inner voice spoke again. "You fool," it said. "You had asked her if she had ever done 'something' at zero gravity, and she had said, no. Then you had asked her again if she was comfortable at forty-percent gravity. You knew what you were asking, and she didn't throw you out by your ears. Instead she blushed. Only a fool would consider leaving after this promise of a coming paradise! James, don't be a fool!" said the voice within. "Don't put limits on this!"
The next thing I became aware of, was her asking if I wouldn't want to stay for coffee. The words were sweetly spoken.
"I'd gladly stay for a century," I burst out and start to laugh. "Thanks for the invitation. To be honest, there's no place I would rather be than right here. The hack with what I had planned to do. There's nothing planned that can't wait till tomorrow. Being here with you has the highest priority that I can think of." I begin to laugh. I even bow and say, thank you, once more.
Jill blushes again while I say these things, and grins at the same time. "Am I so important to you that you would gladly stay for a century? What a wonderful thing to say!"
"It's true," I say in reply and smile. "Maybe a century is too short!"
Indeed, we traversed a century of traditional barriers over the cup of coffee that she had made and had served outside of the lab in this garden of pink light and sweet smelling air. A group of white garden furniture was set up near one of the ponds. They seemed arranged as a casual rest area, but also for studying. I noticed a stack of books on a table. But mostly I kept looking at her as if I had found a great treasure and might be in danger of loosing it if I kept my eyes of it for even one moment. Hadn't the metal object disappeared that way at the Jacuzzi?
"Why are you so fascinated by me?" she asks me at one point when the water was boiling for the second cup of coffee.
The second cup of coffee was as great as the first. It was real coffee, ingeniously grown on board the ship in a planter at the back of the garden. "It has been roasted in the lab," she explains. Of course the coffee had nothing to do with what fascinated me about her, if indeed I knew the answer.
"Why do you work at the sewer station?" I ask in order to avoid the answer.
"Me? The ship couldn't function without the station," she says proudly.
"May I kiss you?" I add instantly, changing the subject again.
She nods and smiles. Oh, how I loved this reaction. "The sewer station signifies life," she says, as if it was for a diversion on her part, reacting as if she hadn't heard. "Everything that is essential for life gets recycled here," she adds.
"This makes the station the most precious domain in the entire ship," I answer, "and the people who work here the most precious for their humanity."
"Is that what you want to kiss me for?" she asked.
"Yes, for a start, and also for a lot of wonderful other reasons that you cannot imagine and I can barely grasp. Enough to kiss all of your lips."
"All of my lips?" she repeats. "What do you mean by, all?" she says slowly and blushes again.
"Because you are a human being," I answer quickly. "That makes you most precious. However, as I said, that's only the beginning, because even as a human being you are very special. Have you ever seen yourself smile? If you had, then you would know. Have you ever loved yourself as I do, for your looks and your wonderful gentle heart, your whit, your caring for life? Then you might begin to glimpse something precious. Who in the world wouldn't want to embrace you and kiss your lips? Who wouldn't dream such wonderful dreams?"
"Maybe there is one person that I know who would," she says, "someone who dares to build bearings for generators out of platinum and zirconium to save the life of everyone on this ship." She begins to grin as she says this, almost laugh.
"Do you really mean that?" I ask. "How did you know? The captain never announced anything about that."
"A friend told me. So you see, what you did is not unappreciated. It never was. A few people know that you exist. This all by itself makes you the most beautiful man on the entire flying planet of ours," she says and nods. "I always wanted to meet the man, to find out what he would say. And here you are!"
"To find out what he would say?" I repeat. "Like, talking about lips and gravity?" I couldn't hold back a grin any longer. "That's not what you expected, right?"
She shook her head. "No James, but have you ever looked into a mirror yourself? Did you ever see you smile? You won't find the likes of it anywhere in the Universe, but here. Did you ever see a star smile? There is no such thing as a smiling star. A smile is the light of a great Spirit that we are a part of. It is an expression of a different reality than the material. It is a spiritual expression. You are a living being that is existing in a spiritual Universe. Have you ever seen yourself that way in a mirror?"
"Actually no," I say quietly, "not in the way you have put it. Have you?"
She nods. "I thought about this when you were talking about lips?" she adds, speaking more softly now. "Are you an expert on lips too?"
"Oh, I thought we were talking about life and the sewer station and everything that springs out of life?" I say and start to grin myself again.
"Ah, I see," she says. "We are having a dialog that involves multiple voices exploring the same theme like great bel-canto singing."
I nod. "And the main theme here is lips, and love, and embracing and kissing and all," I affirm.
"Is the term, all, a metaphor?" she asks quickly. "Or does it relate to something specific?"
"Something specific, I would say, relating to lips of course," I reply. "It might also be related to this wonderful environment here, surrounded by acres of flowers, soft light, sweet fragrant air and the gentle stillness. It all opens up boundless possibilities in which the term, all, can have many a signification. Life and its beauty can have many facets and might exist without limits. Some of these are found in lips and in love, at least some people may think so, maybe even all people do so, sometimes even without acknowledging it."
Her face becomes a radiant smile. "Which girl wouldn't want these to be drawn together?" she says and begins to grin again. "Maybe some might not, but this girl is not one of them," she adds.
She came close to me at this moment, close enough for a tight embrace. "All lips you say?" she adds before we kiss. "Right here?" she says many moments later with the same radiant smile.
"What other place on this ship can compare to this garden?" I ask. "What greater metaphor can one find? We are all beautiful flowers in the garden of life. Some are men, and some are woman. Do you know what a wonderful woman I saw in you in the lunchroom when I couldn't keep my eyes off you? You must have thought that I had never seen a female human being in all my life. It was that kind of miracle, seeing you. I was almost too shy to say hallo, and all that, because you're a woman. But I also found the courage for this very reason to stand up and meet you. If I hadn't given myself this courage the loss would have been too great. So I have dared, as if against all odds."
"And you succeeded. I love to be loved as a woman, because that's what I am," she answers before our lips met again. "I'm not just a woman by name. I'm a person and a woman."
"Oh, you are a woman of a beautiful soul," I say, "and with beautiful lips. All of them."
"All of them? Oh, how would you know?" she says and invites me to dance.
We danced in the garden, although there was no music to be heard. She invites me to dance with her the tango.
"I presumed a lot," I say to her, "when I said, all of them! I tend to presume a lot of things."
I spoke to her while we danced the tango to the tune of our own melodies.
We danced well, as much as there was space for dancing between the ponds, and as much as dancing was still manageable at forty-percent gravity and reduced traction.
"Am I presuming correctly in what I'm presuming?" I say to her when the dancing comes to halt. Oh, I loved the Spanish fire in her eyes as we had danced.
"The answer depends on what you are presuming," she replies and grins again. "Are you presuming that there are other possibilities at forty percent gravity, involving other lips?"
"There may be possibilities that no one has yet discovered," I say cautiously, reaching my hands out to suggest more dancing. We were now moving deeper and deeper into the endless seeming labyrinth of flowering ponds.
"Lips at forty-percent, who knows?" I say right in flow of the dancing. "Something like that might open up a whole new discipline of science to explore."
"With lots of studying being involved," she answers, "and lots of homework, which may drag on for years."
"Why talk of years when a single moment can be an eternity?" I reply. "There is so much to be studied, it may become an eternity."
"Ah, this may also be a study that one never tires of," she replies and stops the dance. "Of course, we'll never know if we don't begin," she adds.
"My scientific mind tells me that at forty-percent gravity the floor should feel nine times softer," I say in reply. "Should we test the theory? The same mind also tells me that it is rare that so many elements are coming together at one time, as is happening now, so that one simply cannot ignore the logic that is unfolding."
"Like what?" she asked.
"A, there is you," I say. "No one could be lovelier to behold. B, we are surrounded by a sea of flowers, a scene that would be hard to match even on Earth. C, we live in a micro-gravity world that makes one as light as an angel with white wings, afloat on a silver-white cloud. D, the whole world that surrounds us is bathed in a lovely pink light, matching the pink of lips, panties, and many other things."
"Ah, but you're wrong on item, D," she said. "There are no panties, pink or otherwise. Why would a girl need them? Why should we emulate you boys, where it's a part of the package? We dance our own dance. We call our own tune, and if it is the heart that sings, then the melodies will always match the melodies of other hearts, and the freer the song becomes, the greater the joy will be."
I agreed with this assessment.
"Actually, you are wrong about the clouds too," says Jill a while later. "And you are wrong about the micro-gravity too, that you say is making the floor appear nine times softer. I think it is actually nine-and-a-half times softer, and the cloud is pink that I am floating on, and it has the number nine written on it in golden letters."
"Is anything else wrong that I said?" I ask a while afterwards.
"Actually no," she says. "No matter how hard I try, I can't think of any complaints. Can you?"
"Yes, I do have a complaint," I said to her a long time later, breaking the silence. "The complaint is against myself."
"When I took my heart in hand and dared to come after you, to say hallo, I wanted to say to you, thank you for being in the world. I have failed to say this. So here it is: Thank you Jill, for being a part of this Universe."
"Oh, I think you have been saying this in more ways than you can imagine," she replies.
"And you too," I add.
"But you are right, we can't say it often enough," she says, and then she says it again with another hug and another kiss.
And so the moments turned into hours.
(from the novel, Flight Without Limit, Chapter 2)
The book is also available for free as a PDF e-book
Published by Cygni Communications Ltd. North Vancouver, BC, Canada - (C) 2009 - Rolf A. F. Witzsche - all rights reserved