Entry 6.0 "The Lightkeep of Precipice"
The new year startled me awake and granted me an excess of unsolicited motivation to create. Still days away from our next landing, it felt like the perfect time to rest my body and quiet my mind, but the insistent whisperings of yet unformed ideas coerced me out of bed, bare feet to cold floor.
My quarters aboard the Wanderment were small, but comfortable, and stars passed outside my viewport in white streaks I could never entirely get used to. I settled in at my desk and began to sketch, but the passing stars spirited my concentration away much like every window in any classroom. I tried to focus my eyes on a single star to see how long I could keep it in view, but it was never long before I blinked it away. Gone in a blink - a distant sun that could provide warmth and life for an entire spinning system of planets. Sometimes I wondered why I was fortunate enough to see it for even that long. I wasn’t an astronaut, or a scientist; I hadn’t amassed any remarkable amount of wealth. I was an artist, maybe not even the most gifted aboard my own venture. In the eyes of some, my work was completely nonessential, and many even told me so — from the comfort of digital anonymity, of course.
Speaking as someone who displayed the temperament and sensitivities common in artists of any time, at first, I internalized criticism and let it overpower praise tenfold. I would often let fear of disapproval or rejection dictate important professional decisions. There were many times in my life when fear would've rendered me powerless to even rationally consider this very mission as anything outside the stuff of dreams. But it wasn’t until I read an old quote with new eyes that I found a self-remedy for crippling fear and insecurity.
“Beyond the bounds of fear, waits longed-for dreams and a view unseen by the tethered.”
The quote was carved artfully into a plaque that hung in my Grandfather’s office for as long as I could remember. It collected dust and was dusted; collected dust and was dusted again for uncounted years before I really read it with the intention to understand. The quote was credited to Min Gallagher, the first lightkeep of Precipice.
Min Gallagher wasn’t among the “greatest minds” on Earth who had discovered a way to harness vast amounts of energy to rip a hole in the fabric of space. He didn’t celebrate with elites after unmanned probes proved “The Link” (as they named it) was stable and transversable. He was, however, a pilot astronaut who had a reputation for conducting himself honorably, keeping uncommonly cool under extreme pressure, and performing his missions without a physical trace of fear. The latter two of the three qualities were most important to those holding power and giving the orders, so resultantly Min was selected to be the first human to transverse the Link from Earth-side into the Throughworlds.
“Space” had not reacted passively to our immensity of earthly tampering and the Link’s broad entryway, a golden ring set in the black abyss of space, perpetually protested with storms of blinding electric fury encircling its perimeter. Nevertheless, Min’s one-man ship (he unofficially named the Die Trying) shot like a bullet through the frenzied aperture and into the unknown.
Immersed in the exhilaration of genuine discovery, Min felt what he later described as an “intoxicating fulfillment of purpose.” For his bravery, he was rewarded the first glimpse of the majesty of the Throughworlds and forged the way for countless subsequent transverses and the exploration and eventual colonization of an entirely new galaxy.
Upon return to Earth, it was said that Min had an adverse effect to the fame his mission awarded him. He eventually used his “living legend” status to request a post on the other side of the Link and was assigned a command on the first Through-side space station called Precipice.
Still under construction at the time, Precipice was built into a massive cave-riddled asteroid that was forced into orbit around the Link by its insistent gravitational pull. Like lighthouses of old, the station acted as a navigation beacon and a watchtower keeping careful vigil over treacherous seas of untamed space and those who traveled it. It also acted as a communication hub, a spacecraft carrier, and, of course, an armed defense outpost.
Years passed and Min was provided little explanation as to why he was continually denied missions to explore deeper into the untamed Throughworlds; that is, except the famous line regrettably uttered by General Allander into a hot mic, “Dead heroes are hard to explain.”
Though prestigious, Min found his command post as “Lightkeep” to be confining and exhaustingly bureaucratic. Upon completion of his daily obligations, it was said that Min would watch ships transverse the Link for hours from a solitary cave above the metal bones of Precipice. Those that were close to him said they watched everything that made the man great slowly fade, replaced with bitterness and regret.
When asked by the media what he planned to do after his final day of service, Min claimed he was finally ready to return to Earth. But despite a planned presidential welcoming ceremony, he never made it home. No credible witness ever reported seeing him again. Gold-plated accolades lined cluttered shelves in his abandoned office untouched by the departed. Only one thing was found to have been missing from a hanger just shy of becoming a tomb: the Die Trying.
My wristwatch, still set on Earth-time, was the only evidence that the “day” had passed. After I added generous gilded light to the rings of Gallagher Prime, I roughed out the silhouette of the Wanderment, black and small, high above the Link that Min had first transversed over 30 years before.
I knew the first Lightkeep of Precipice was not there to witness the Wanderment ‘s grand entrance into the Throughworlds, but out of the respect for the inspiration he had given me, my new artwork still depicted it that way. I imagined mine was the last ship of thousands he saw before making the decision to shed every expectation that was placed upon him. I wanted to capture the second he chose to chase his “intoxicating fulfillment of purpose” leaving only his legend in a wild wake of stars. Untethered, we follow.