“You were born in the rain.
In one of the first rains that ever fell on this land. One could say, really that you and this world were born together…”
Ardan Levitan loved to hear his father tell the story about his birth. In a gentle, deep voice, each word gave him a feeling of comfort and safety in which young Ardan, a curios baby boy could immerse himself completely and drift away to worlds beyond his bedside.
“Your mother…” upon hearing the word, the child would twitch softly under the covers and his heart would leap a bit. “…your mother wanted to be here. To see this sky and these clouds, to feel this new rain above the fresh ground…” the father’s eyes blurred in the fog of a heavy memory.
“She sacrificed everything for this world. To make it become a reality, she put it above her life’s work, above me, and even above herself.” and his eyes focused back on the crib, where the fascinated gaze of his child made all of the haze vanish.
“But not above you. Not above her children.” he gently stroked the baby’s head. “In fact, she did it all for you. For the desperate desire that at least one of her children would be born here in a new land.
And I think…I know that on the day you were born, she organized the expedition knowing you would be impatient.
She used the rain as an excuse to descend and take on the ground measurements. She knew how rare and crucial this weather was for the land to generate its own ecosystem and sustain itself.
As mission leader, her decision could not be contested or postponed, not by me, nor by anyone else.”
Young Ardan seemed captivated by the story, completely able to follow and understand the events his father described, despite not being able to acknowledge or contribute in any way.
Although in perfect physical and mental health, the young boy had yet to speak his first word. At an age where other children could sustain basic conversations and even recite verses from memory, with functioning ears and vocal cords intact, seemingly able to understand the language spoken around him, it was concluded that Ardan consciously chose not to speak.
Perhaps, his father thought, we was waiting for the right words to say. That is why Darwen Levitan spent every free moment he had at his youngest son’s bedside, reciting stories about the world and people around him, hoping each time that his son would recite back.
“So we landed not far from the tree-line beyond our house.” he looked out the bedroom window at the tree crowns just barely visible against the evening sky. “Me, your mother, Captain Miron Solemn, and two surveyor units.”
Despite the unrivaled fascination of his son, Darwen was in fact re-telling the story to himself, trying, for the hundredth time to put it to rest.
“And it was beautiful…The sky was boiling with dense tidal waves of a giant thunderstorm sweeping across the horizon. Lightning bolts were blazing across an angry sea, seeking a path of least resistance, but never touching the ground.
And in the rare patches of clear sky, the myriad of lights in perfect alignment, like inter-twined snowflakes in the night sky, of the world we were leaving behind.
This is the truth Ardan. It is what your mother saw on her last day among us. On the day you were born.”
At this point in the story, Darwen found himself missing the visual tricks of the modern world used to accompany words with holographic projections that could render the events described in a minimalistic stage of pixel-dust.
In this New World, however, he would have to rely on his son’s quiet imagination to catch a glimpse of the daunting memory rippling through the father’s mind.
“We were observing the storm through the large front entrance of our outpost, made of resilient crystal woven glass. The two surveyor units were just outside the outpost, going through the standard calibration process. I was to navigate one of the units, so I moved back to the control console that stood on a platform above the entry way. This new unit would calibrate quite quickly, and after a few stretches of my hands and feet, its mechanical movements accurately synchronized to my own.
The second unit was operating under autonomous control, mostly following the lead of its counterpart and doing a lot of the sampling work.
The primary task of these units was to take measurements of the outside environment and run them through the standard algorithm that would determine whether it was safe to move to the second stage of the mission, which was human introduction into the environment.”
Suddenly Darwen realized that he was describing the event as if he were in front of a debriefing commission, rather than his baby son’s bedside and that he would have to change the tone to a more personal key if he hoped to get a reaction from the boy.
“See, we sent these machines that look a lot like us, but are not alive and fragile like us people, out into this world to find out if we could live here with them. See Ardan, we were creating this world for ourselves, but this was a hard thing to do and it was something nobody had attempted before, so we had to be very sure before stepping out of our safe house, that this world was not too hot, or too cold, and that the air was clean enough that we could breath, and we could walk safely on the ground without bouncing off into the air.”
He used his hand to impersonate a figure jumping on Ardan’s blanket and ricocheting back into the air.
The change of key appeared to work, as the young boy seemed amused by his father’s puppetry.
“And the big glass doors would only open for us if the machines calculated that we could go out safely.
Your mother was glued to the doors, anxious to see the results and to be allowed to go outside. I could only see her from the corner of my eye, because I had to look through the eyes of the machine, to see what was outside beyond the door.
I saw that the air was clean enough for us to breath, but the storm was very heavy. The winds were very strong and hard to predict, moving in circles across the land, then rising up with enough force that they could almost lift a grown man, let alone a small baby, like you.”
He said, pointing at Ardan’s forehead, encouraged by the child’s apparent engagement and self-recognition.
“And the lightning was nothing like the ones we knew from the past, the ones we could predict and guard against. So all things considered, it seemed like we would not be allowed to visit the world ourselves on that day.”
He took a pause to look outside the bedroom window, where a long, uneventful night was silently unfolding in the very same place where not so long ago, the ski ripped in half and descended with the whole magnificent force of terra-formation.
“So much was happening all around me Ardan…The violent weather I had to keep a robotic eye on, sensory data that I had to analyze and compare and confirm, the unit’s limbs that I had to maneuver around the blurry obstacles of this rough, unprocessed world… I didn’t see her…
I didn’t see how she strained her entire body to mask the spasms that came and went ever more frequently. And I didn’t see how in between the moments of sharp, ruthless pain, we was initiating the emergency outpost evacuation sequence…”
Another long pause in the father’s heart.
“I remember hearing warning sirens through the sensors of the outside unit. I turned the machine around to face our outpost and try to identify the source of a potential hazard. And I saw her, with both hands pressed hard against the glass, gazing with persistence at the lens receivers of my unit, and directly into my eyes.
The look on her face…the determination and will, I will never forget them.
And I understood what she had been planning from the beginning.
The main hatch burst open and in the next instant, the silence and safety of the control chamber became engulfed in the violent, chaotic weather of a chaotic world.
It was all over in a few seconds. By the time I disconnected from the control console, she had limped across the threshold between our chamber and the outside.
With the rain and winds pouring from the outside in, she nearly vanished after only a couple of steps, but I still saw the pain that was coursing through her abdomen in the way she stumbled.
How could she have hidden all this pain for so long?
I ran as fast as I could towards the open hatch; all I had to do was just make it across before the doors closed again and I could find her, I could grab her and pull her back, kicking, screaming, gushing with pain, but safe.
I was one step away from the threshold, I could feel the brutal weather beyond; howling winds, sharp freezing raindrops spiraling down and strange lightning endlessly echoing across the dark sky…it was completely terrifying.”
The boy’s eyes flickered, as if experiencing a fraction of the angst his father described.
“When the door closed in front of me, everything went quiet again. I couldn’t hear the raging world outside any more than she could hear my desperate screams inside. The realization that she was all alone out there petrified me.
I could do nothing but watch her blurry silhouette as she took a couple more steps away from our capsule, before collapsing to her knees in a puddle. With her back towards me, never looking back, she finally allowed the pain concealed deeply under layers of space suit and infinite inner strength to surface and overflow.
She was screaming into labor.
Through the thick rain and deafening thunder and loud winds and triple layer super strength glass-weave I could hear her. And that awful sound sprung me out of lethargy. I knew what I had to do.
I leaped back to the life-line control console and quickly synchronized with my drone.
Through its eyes, I could see that she was close. I guided it next to her and took her into the robot’s arms. She looked up into the drone’s lenses, trying to make eye contact, but the pain shot through her again, and her head fell.
I carried her with the drone, searching for the nearest place of shelter in the vicinity, knowing all too well that with the mission commander outside the landing capsule, there was no possible way to reopen the hatch doors.
I found a lily bush that was tall and thick enough that she could be sheltered underneath.
I set her down gently and commanded the second drone to approach from behind and shine a light upon us. Her water had broken.”
The father stopped to catch his breath. Telling the story was taking a toll on him, much like the recollection and guilt of the memory had been silently chipping away at his physical and mental health for too long.
“And all of a sudden, a calmness and clarity came down upon me…” his voiced changed to a more positive tone, as if the evil in the story was finally about to surrender.
“Although I was operating remotely through soul-less machinery, on that moment, I truly felt like I was there.
For the first time I felt the energy emanating from this new world; a clear, pure, single vibration. I knew it was the premonition of life about to be born.
For the first time in my life, the constant chatter of The Array faded out, and I heard each drop of rain crashing into the lily leaves, the wind whistling through new branches. The absolute freedom of a new world becoming self-governing.
My hands felt your mother’s warmth, her heavy breath, her body contracting and finally, like in the most vividly beautiful dream, a baby’s cry.
That sound was recorded by twin microphones on the drone’s sensor array, beamed at light speed out into space and caught by an orbiting control station running circles far above our heads before being shot back down into the surround speakers on the control helmet I forgot I was wearing.
But I swear Ardan…” the father looked dead into his son’s eyes while gently but firmly grabbing the boy’s chest. “…I swear that in that moment, there was nothing between us. We were all right there, all three of us. Together.”
Tired by the late hour, the baby’s eyes slowly closed and perhaps he could listen no further. But the father had to finish the story. In a trembling voice, he continued.
“When her heart stopped, all manual mission controls were automatically overwritten and emergency life preserving procedures commenced.
My control over the surveyor unit was disabled and the drone switched to autonomous life-conservation mode.
It began emergency resuscitation procedures on her body, even as it was carrying her back towards the outpost.
The second drone picked you up and enveloped you in a protective silicone shell before following the same direct route back inside.
Emergency alarms fired off everywhere and yet again, before I could react, the drone carried your mother to the emergency evacuation capsule that sealed, igniting a stream of energy that projected it at high velocity through the angry sea of clouds, and it disappeared in an instant, like a shooting star in reverse.
The second drone, however, was not in such a rush. Your vital signs were perfect, even despite your premature and highly unique birth.
So it pulled you gently out of the protective shell, all cleaned up and brought you to me.
A healthy young baby boy. My youngest son. My life…”
The father caressed the boy’s head again, watching him sleep in silence and at peace. And in doing so, he felt the peace descending upon him as well.
After the longest wait, he felt it was finally time for forgiveness.
“You see Ardan…” the story was coming to an end. “Because you were born outside the outpost shelter, you became the first true inhabitant of this new land a first settler to claim it as his own. Your birth is what allowed us to build and settle here and become everything that we are today.
And that was your mother’s sacrifice.
Never forget her Ardan. Even though you have never met her, you must never forget Aloris Levitan. Her legacy is yours and you can sleep assured, forever knowing that this new world belongs to you.
So good night, my dearest son.” and he reached down to kiss the fragile, calm head of his sleeping boy and instantly after, fell into a serene slumber beside him.
The night descended quiet around the two, but within the deep silence that follows a hurricane of demons laid to rest, a fragile voice emerged
“Good night, dearest father…” the boy whispered, having at last found the right words to say.