orbit

you are a satellite. orbiting some gaseous giant since who knows when, spinning and spinning past dizziness in the same cyclical path for eons. you aren’t the only one--there are sixty-odd others, ranging in size from points with radii of just a few kilometers to five thousand kilometer-wide boulders, hurtling through space in near-perfect circles. staggered between the four rocky behemoths and the cluster of small irregular moons, you whip around the central ball of hydrogen in a prograde ellipse.

nearly three billion years stuck in the same dance, nine quadrillion hours spent drawing closer and then shying away from your only god, and you have grown weary. although your path has pulled you past the occasional mass of ice or other sight, the bulk of your time in existence has been spent swaddled in the vast blankness of space with only the unshrouded portion of jupiter to block the void of your surroundings.

of the planet’s worshippers, you are the loneliest and one of the smallest. most of the others orbit in packs, their own cults and sects of gas sphere veneration, but you twirl in solitude. unlike the himalia group, you do not view yourself as formed in the image of jupiter; unlike the galileans, you are not a prophet of the stormy planet and you do not represent the faces and faiths of the rest of the moons. unlike carpo, you do not drag tales of the edge of the satanic vacuum back from the near-outermost orbit; unlike s/2003 j 2, you are not an agnostic enigma that scoffs at the god from a distance.

you are perched on the fine wire between total commitment to the centrality of jupiter and dementia from overexposure to the hollow of space. you are themisto, illegitimate daughter of the sacred jupiter, and lone traveler on the unshakeable track to nowhere.

the god has it all--eminence, gravitational pull, a swarm of followers to be his eyes. these are still your visions as quintillions on quintillions of kilograms of icy stone begins its trek across the expanse of space directly towards you.

its journey takes unimaginably long, of course. by the time the planet is halfway to jupiter, you’ve once again lost count of the times you’ve spun on your axis. bored becomes tired becomes mechanical becomes

numb.

the cold comfort of the dark dotted with pinholes. blanketed and stifled by black. jupiter is blinding.

you have stopped watching and absorbing; you only scan now. there isn’t much to overlook. the same stars pulsate in the distance, the same planets rotate, and the fabric of space swells imperceptibly. eventually time picks up and you no longer notice each revolution around your axis and around jupiter and around again.

one instant you’re alone and the next is so short that you can’t be sure

but you think a fiery flash overtakes your vision and your monotonous spinning

halts.

the black empty is gone and you can feel the ripples in your solid surroundings. absorbed by a rogue planet--why you?

is this what it feels like to be a part of something grander?

time slows again, but this time the pace doesn’t seem tedious. your attention to detail returns as the spacescape passes much more rapidly than before.

new dots. they could be the same dots as before, only scattered in different clumps with different luminosities and rushing before you precariously. or maybe the instability is your protrusion from the rest of the planet, dragging and tugging on the greater mass and losing ground as gravity smashes you into uniformity. and all the while you can’t tear yourself away from the centerpiece, a flame-filled leviathan many orders of magnitude more radiant than jupiter.

later on, after you’ve become acquainted and familiar and intimate with your new-getting-older twin, when you’ve finally rounded out into a sphere, once you’ve memorized your new route around a larger, brighter body--later on is when you realize it: the grandeur of a new god. the allure of an unknown, a place to start new myths and religions and cults.

for a while, the new revolutions and the new temple suspend you in awe. jupiter was hardly a speck in comparison to this deity--undeserving of your praise. you, an adolescent planet well on your way to garnering the years and status of jupiter itself.

maybe someday you can be a god, too.

a hundred somedays later maybe you are. maybe you are an icon for a throng of pebbles. maybe they’ve been circling you since you got here. but you are none the wiser. because although your sun is a sublime blaze, you were dull when you left jupiter and now you are duller still. and although you can’t stop, it seems like you have been for the entirety of your existence. it seems like you’re waiting to break out of your impasse, to careen straight across the scene before you, to never pass anything twice.

how long can this go on? routine uncertainty, grounded apprehension. you are never going to spin out again. you are a god. there are no rogue planets large enough to absorb you and carry you over to some other solar system where—

—where you would lock into worship once again, a god of a god worshipping another god probably dancing around more gods upon gods, twirling in yet another plushy worn patch of space and again itching to lurch towards anywhere but here.

but you’re still here, and you’ll still be here years later. and though the years pass like seconds, there are no more seconds than years in forever. and forever will stretch on until you’ve worn a groove in your path and you’re so exhausted you’re sure you’ll trip out of orbit, but you won’t. because even though you are a god--even though you are a swollen, bloated, singular amalgam of moon and planet sculpted from gravity and ennui--you are still a satellite and you will serve your god until forever.


Competition Information

Former PWG Competition winners




Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software