By Margaret McGoverne
The perpetual hazy orange sky during the daytime (as long as fifteen earth days) and the liquid methane rain combined to produce in Marlow a settled melancholy. He was only content when he trekked to the towering dunes along the Southern stretch of the lake and set his imaging goggles to display the methane waves as a whitish-blue colour, the closest approximation to earth waves they could manage. The east-to-west prevailing winds of Titan had produced dunes that rose more than 90 metres, and he would find a stable shelf to sit and watch the restless methane waves that disappeared when he removed his goggles.
He hadn’t found the purpose or the peace of mind he had sought on Titan; this was no grand project of human endeavour, but a shameless cash grab. Back on earth, the scientists were working on a form of liquid methane that could power bio-propellant rocket engines; first ignition tests had been successfully completed, and the inevitable methane rockets would allow mankind to roam the solar system, harvesting yet more methane to fuel further exploration and more wanton use of fuel back on earth.
Donning his goggles, he watched the heavy gas breakers fizz and dissolve into foam as they reached the shore. He and Jenny had loved to watch the boomers as they broke endlessly, endlessly against the sandy shore. Just like our love, Jenny would say, pulling him closer.
No one replied; not even a crash and boom from the methane waves. Marlow stood up, stretching. He wasn’t tired from his trek, and he wasn’t ready to return to the refinery. He had wanted a grand gesture, a triumphant, heartbreaking riposte to Jennifer’s desertion of him, but it hadn’t worked out like that. Even the gravity made him feel ironically light and easy.
He climbed higher up the dunes, aiming to reach the summit. On his journey to Titan he had read up on all the moons in the solar system; he had been surprised to learn there were nearly two hundred of them. One in particular had fascinated him: Miranda, a moon of Uranus (the next planet along, he had thought, as if 900 million miles were a hop on the bus) featured a cliff situated in its Southern hemisphere called Verona Rupes; the cliff face had been measured by the Voyager 2 probe in the 1980s at more than five miles high; the tallest known cliff in the Solar System. Marlow wished he could visit that cliff, maybe hike its lower reaches, and view the grand vista its heights offered. But Miranda had little to offer humankind in terms of resources, and no bases were built there.
This dune he was lightly climbing, as nimble as a mountain goat in Titan’s low gravity, couldn’t offer quite the challenge that Verona Rupes would, but he would traverse it just the same. But when he reached the top, adjusting his goggles through their chromatic scale, the waves below appearing now green, now pink, now black, he felt unfulfilled by the lack of effort it had required of him.
A memory of he and Jenny at the beach rose, unbidden. They had scaled the dunes one balmy evening, then, full of energy and unwilling to walk home, Jenny had taken his hand. They pulled off their shoes, socks, and jeans, and jumped lightly from the dunes, arms outstretched, running towards and embracing the waves. They had staggered, breathless and laughing back to the dunes, covered in sand and then they had tasted each other’s salty mouths. Marlow realised with a jolt that was physical that this had been their last visit to the sea before Jenny left him.
He sent his yearning out over a billion kilometers, wishing she were her with him now to see him, as he dialed his goggles to earth-wave colour and dove, arms outstretched, from the dune to the craggy rocks and the silent, invisible methane waves three hundred feet below.
Author Bio: Margaret McGoverne is currently writing her first full-length novel, while being distracted by short stories, flash fiction and her blog about all things writing.