NOTE: Spent a fair amount of time staring at this photo from Rosetta. And got to writing again.
“Now,” Milson said, “for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.”
There was a crackle of static, followed by silence broken only by the sounds of each man and woman breathing.
“But now mine own eyes have beheld God,” Milson continued, his voice sounding far away though he was near to hand. “But not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld.”
Shadows shifted swiftly on the walls of the valley as the wanderers stood in silence.
He turned to Captain Russo. Russo could not see Milson’s face – the glare shields on their space suits were down; in Milson’s all he could see was his own helmeted reflection.
“Who art thou?” Milson asked. “For behold, I am a son of God, in similitude of his only begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?”
Russo shifted uncomfortably.
Milson continued, not moving. “For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?”
“I – I’m sorry,” Milson said after a long silence. “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all of this.”
Elsewhere on the surface of the comet, breathing continued.
“I know you’re used to me being quiet, being the quiet one,” he continued. “But walking here, standing here . . . I had to say something.”
“Would you mind,” Captain Russo asked, “saying it not so loudly? You’ve got a few people a bit nervous here.”
“I’m sorry,” Milson said. “But I’d like to continue.”
Silence from the inhabitants of the comet.
“God,” Milson said into the darkness, in a whisper over the radio, as the distant sun shot its course through the black sky overhead. “Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?”
“I’ve had about enough of this,” Varney growled.
There was no echo of assent, other than the crackle of cosmic rays over the frequency.
“And behold,” Milson continued, “the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said to Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me. And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose, and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.”
Shadows crept through the canyon’s arroyos, up one side and down the other like quicksilver.
“But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you,” Milson continued. “For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.”
There was a long sigh, followed by Varney’s voice. “You’re not one of those nuts who insists the Earth is only six thousand years old, are you?”
“I am one of those nuts,” Milson said, “who believes there is other intelligent life in the universe. I am one of those nuts who believes it is not all an accident. I am one of those nuts who clings to religion not because I’m scared of science, but because I believe God himself is a scientist, tinkering with comets and stars and the dust of the cosmos much as we tinker with atoms.
“Do you believe Moses parted the Red Sea?” Varney asked.
Milson looked from one wall of the canyon to the other. Stars above whirled by, birthed by the lip of the canyon one minute, swallowed by the other lip the next.
“I believe we are the children of Israel, in all their ignorance and stubbornness and promise,” Milson said. “Not destined to the fate of the Egyptians who perished when the parted sea came together again.”
“I’m sorry I have a narrow point of view,” Milson said after a while, after no one spoke and the sound of marching and breathing once again came over the radio as the travelers walked through the canyon, moving around tumbled boulders and easing their way up and down the sides of gullies and through the powder of the comet’s surface. “I’ve studied the Buddhist cosmology, with its world and its gods and goddesses. I know I’m not alone in such thinking. I’m just most familiar with these scriptures, which my father read to me the nights we came home at three or four am, after hours spent staring through his telescope at the stars. We had to go into the foothills east of town, down in one of the dells far from the lights of the city and set up our telescope on a camp table. Our backyard was too light for the Perseids, the other meteor showers. But in the foothills we could gaze up to see the band of the Milky Way and count the stars. Count the stars!”
“And on the way home,” Milson continued, “we’d stop at the crest of the last hill on Lincoln Road, where we could see the lights of the city – three cities – below.”
“’The lights below reflect the stars above,’ my father would say. ‘Never think,’ he would add, looking from the valley floor to the sky above, ‘that we are alone. Some little boy, on a distant world, is looking up into the sky and seeing our sun, perhaps in the constellation they call the Gronkle after some beast on their world, wondering if there’s another little boy looking up at him. Look at the stars,’ my father said, ‘and wave.’”