The Abyss Gazes Back

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The abyss gazes back

The cafeteria at the Space Telescope Operations Center (called “STOC”) at NASA Greenbelt was, at best, unexciting.  As was 99% of the work at STOC.  For the full 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 265 days a year, the staff, received, processed, examined, and analyzed all 57 gigabytes of daily data.  The supervisors told them they were on the cutting edge of space exploration, peering all the way back into the very edges of the putative Big Bang.

For all the blasé statements of agnosticism, even atheism, about the existence of a supreme being, or about his/her/its role in the creation and day-to-day operations of the universe, it was a thrill to look back and to approach the dawn of the universe.  Late night bull sessions in this same cafeteria over horrible coffee and stale vending machine sandwiches speculate on the God-being, and where has it been, and at what point will it decide that its creations, humanity, is so fucked up that it has to step back in, kind of the overtly religious version of, “Don’t make me come back there!”

Gregor Crenshaw leaned against the cafeteria door and questioned for the thousandth time this month his commitment to one of the most boring activities in existence, when he noticed that Nandar Chan was really absorbed in something, running back and forth from terminal to terminal.  Gregor could see that he was running one segment of images through various processors.  Chan froze, then ran out of the room, leaving puzzled looks in his wake.

Dahlia al-Lebanni was leaning over the image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 that Chan had analyzed, when she jumped back and looked around, a mixture of fascination, excitement, and terror on her face. “They blinked. The stars blinked!”

Submitted: August 18, 2022

© Copyright 2023 Rick Hoppe. All rights reserved.

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