[[The Road More Traveled By]]

Revised 9 November 1996

This is a tale that perhaps I shouldn't tell. For you see, I don't have the original tellers permission to tell it to you. This tale was given to me in a dream. But since the teller is obviously from a place and time quite unlike ours, I doubt that he will accost me on the street for passing on his story to you . . .

I don't know where, and I don't know when, but somewhere out amongst the stars traveled group of creatures remarkably like human beings, though they would not pass for normal in my neighborhood! In fact, after just now telling this to you, I believe that these star travelers are human after all, but humans of the future, after years and years of, changes. If I am right, perhaps you are a reader from the future, and know this story to be true!

Ah, but I digress!

This particular group of people (for I now feel safe in calling them such) were known as Mid-Spacers. As their name implies, they lived comparatively mediocre lives in the backwaters of space. They traveled in that region between home and the unknown. They did not particularly enjoy the epithet 'Mid-Spacer', but they contented themselves with the knowledge that there weren't any geoscience teams allowed among the Deep-Spacers, who were the true space explorers. (Very few humans actually inhabited Deep-Spacer ships since they were on one-way missions. The ships themselves did most of the work.) But still, the crew of the WolfSoul did long for more excitement. After all, how could studying planetary anomalies compare with zipping around the outer reaches of space seeing things no one else ever has? This jealousy led Mid-Spacers to refer to Deep-Spacers as Deep-Sixers in a vain attempt to belittle them. Yep, they are definitely humans! [smile]

But let me get to the story, lest I lose your interest! Shortly after completing a planetary study, the crew of Middleship WolfSoul observed some unusual energy emissions. (I have come to call the ship 'WolfSoul' because I feel that it is a kindred spirit, and because I could not read the language the crew used, nor did I know exactly what the crew was saying.) At any rate, the ship was not equipped to study such things as interstellar energy emissions, but since no appropriately equipped ships could be spared for a mere Middlespace energy burp, the crew of the WolfSoul was sent to study it.

As they approached the energy emission, the crew of the WolfSoul made some surprising discoveries. As if discovering definite patterns in the emissions wasn't odd enough, some of those patterns were disturbingly similar to old linguistic codes. The patterns never emerged long enough for the crew to come to a definitive answer on the subject, but even the mere possibility of it set the crew on edge.

Then, with arrival at the source of the energy emission eminent, life went instantaneously awry. Only two things remained the same for the crew of the WolfSoul: the WolfSoul itself, and the energy emission.. Even the background tapestry of space changed, and the MidSpacers of Middleship WolfSoul found themselves very far from Middlespace.

Various crew members checked the ships location a total of 11 times before anyone even began to believe what the computer was telling them. The WolfSoul had been transported beyond the most distant Deep-Sixer ship. They were even further out than the 'Way Gones' would be when their ships dropped out of n-space, and transported them to their even farther reaching missions. No one aboard the WolfSoul wanted this new found excitement.

Even the Way Gone ships with their highly advanced propulsion systems would have been unable to get the crew of the WolfSoul home from their location. And the WolfSoul was not the epitome of cutting edge technology! But perhaps the shock of traveling so far instantaneously wouldn't have been so severe if it weren't for the other ships . . .

Ships. Thousands of ships. None of them made by the human hand. And all of them occupied the region were the WolfSoul had been transported to. Some of the ships were more massive than human space stations, but were obviously designed to travel through space. It was absolutely unfathomable, and equally frightening. And yet, despite all of the ships, there were only scant remains of the occupants of those ships. This was all the more frightening.

But still, the ships gave the crew of the WolfSoul some hope. Perhaps one of those ships carried the secret to getting home. It was certainly a slim hope. If the ships had been able to transport their crews home, surely they would have been commanded to do so. Still, some of the crew members couldn't help but believe that at least one of those huge, wondrous ships would be able to take them home. Such is the nature of hope.

Most of the crew put their hope in something far more wondrous than the derelict ships though. These people believed that the only true hope of getting home lay in trying to figure out if the energy emission could take them back to where they started. (They assumed, of course, that it was the energy emission that had transported them there in the first place.) Besides, the energy emission was far more interesting than the other space craft.

For not only did the energy emission continue its peculiar patterns, it appeared in those same patterns. And what did it look like? Remarkably like a human. But not nearly so human that you would pass it on the street and say 'hello' to it! There was really nothing to it, which added to the wondrous nature of it. There was nothing so physical as an atom to mark the place the emission occupied. Instead it was only light that came and went. It might be best described as a massless human shaped nebula. A blue one.

There was a great deal of discussion about a wafer-like object deep inside the 'skull' of the emission (for the whole thing was semi-transparent). I must admit though, that I could not make heads nor tails of what the crew was talking about. I wish I could have, because it seemed to be the topic of some heated conversations amongst the crew members.

The crew realized, just as I did, that the emission must have been able to 'see' them somehow in order to mimic their form, so they took to calling the energy emission an entity, and I certainly don't dispute them.

The crew learned much in the time that followed, but virtually nothing about the entity. They couldn't even determine if the entity left their region of space when it wasn't visible to them, or if it was elsewhere in the universe when it wasn't visible. But much was learned from the derelict ships. Most of the information available was beyond comprehension, but what the crew could decipher was spectacular.

Spectacular or not, nothing helped them figure out a way home.

There were a great number of debates aboard the WolfSoul about what to do. Some advocated heading towards home even though they knew that they would never make it alive. They argued that at least they would be found sooner, and their fate would be known to their people. Others argued continuing farther out into space, just for the sake of going. The majority was convinced that remaining where they were was the best option. This logic seemed to be supported by the thousands of derelict ships. There was little point in going anywhere anyway. Besides, the crew could spend thousands of years studying all of those ships and never learn everything they had to tell. It would be more interesting to stay, so that's what they did. They stayed, and they learned. On and on they stayed. More and more they learned.

I do wish I could report a happy ending, that the crew eventually found a way to get back home, but alas I cannot. Even with all of their new found knowledge, the crew never found that magical way home. They learned, they grew old, they grew cynical about what their advanced technology had gained them, and how it had failed them. Many of them cursed the one way ticket they had gotten.

But always, they learned, even to the very last one of them, in the very last instant of life. The person who saw for the briefest of moments, the new ship that greeted her death.

She knew in that instant that those folks were also doomed to die, but she wished their expanding species the best of luck and wisdom.

[To Lore Page]