Older and wiser, we slow from lightspeed,
yet Earth is older and wiser still. More
than a century has passed there, though we’d
spent a decade in frozen sleep aboard.
We are ghosts out of time, lost to all, spoil
of earth’s war against extinction and loss.
We gather on the bridge as our ship slips
through the heliopause, watching our new
home appear lamp-bright from the blackness — Ships!
Flitting here and there, swooping from and to.
The heavens are alive! A thousand lights
welcoming us to their alien realm.
Give me the protocols for first contact,
says the commander. The pilot and I
stare at him blankly, too stunned to react.
Our minds must still be frozen, we’re tongue-tied
and from the shock our wits have taken flight;
our sense of wonder has been overwhelmed.
Before we can speak, every screen lights
and there’s a human face filling each one.
People! I am open-mouthed at the sight
The pilot begins to swear in Russian
One of the faces, female, gives a smile,
says hello, and greets each of us by name.
The commander finds his voice: Greetings, he
tells her with interstellar gravitas.
We are from planet Earth. But so are we,
she says, and her grin lights up the screen’s glass.
This sounds strange but we’ve been here for a while,
building a new world here until you came.
FTL? the commander asks in awe.
The woman tells us she used the wormhole.
Not our wormhole? we ask; this one onboard?
How can that be? We’ve yet to reach our goal.
And she says to us: bear with me, it’s weird –
the maths is complex but it all makes sense.
You left Earth, she says, a century past
but you are only ten years older and
that’s time dilation as you went so fast;
so the end of the wormhole left behind
needed one hundred years to open here.
This much we know, and we nod in silence.
The end of the wormhole on your ship, though,
it arrived here after only your ten
years, and from that moment we could step through –
as if for a decade it’s been open
from the Earth to our world. It sounds bizarre
doesn’t it, she says; we think it’s odd too.
The commander says: but- but- but… how could
you use the wormhole to beat us to this
place? You’d have popped out in the ship; you’d
have been in here with us. You can’t exist!
Again she laughs. It’s just the way things are –
we travelled through time just the same as you.
This brave new world is not for us, we fit
neither as heroes of the present nor
travellers from history; stuck betwixt
one and the other – myself, commander,
and pilot: late to the party, never
to leave. Out of time… in every way.
… see part one here …