To wake under twinkling stars is somewhat alarming, but the calming nature of beauty allowed me to gather my wits and contemplate what must have happened. I had left our campsite midafternoon, and I walked with a vigor that had escaped me for years. That I remember. But here I now am in these unfamiliar rocks, the ghostly formations like statues on some alien planet, piercing the night like towering rockets ready for launch.
The sky itself is black velvet, the dots so piercing that even the faintest in magnitude seem in high definition. Some are flared with rays, and are far brighter than any stars I can ever remember. This isn’t where I should be. I can’t say the sky is totally unfamiliar, although the band of the Milky Way seems far too variegated and full of glorious color, and as I search, not a single constellation has made its dotted connection. Where is Cassiopeia or the Big Dipper?
Why am I here, and why on my back? Did I faint? Did I lie down to take a nap and just forgot? The questions are useless. I have no memory.
I have to get up. It is cold enough to zip up my jacket. I then fish in my pocket and find the stocking cap my wife had carefully knitted. It feels warm as I pull it onto my head and over my ears. My wife. Yes, somewhere in my memory I can remember I have a wife, but what does she look like? What is her name? For God’s sake what is mine?
It takes some effort, but soon I stand and gaze at the blackness that surrounds my feet. The sky seems amply bright that I should be able to see my feet, but not until I bend half way down am I able to actually make out the ground. Then I realize my feet are in a shadow, but a shadow from what?
I turn further to the right, and then in astonishment I stare. There on the horizon in the midst of the spires is a planet, and not just some ordinary planet but one with rings. My God it is beautiful, but why is it there? Suddenly I am shaken, to my core now that I think to pay attention. I’m not on Earth, so where am I? I’m dead I guess. It is the only explanation that makes any sense.
It is easy enough to pinch one hand with the other and I’m almost surprised it hurts. It does hurt, and that’s good I guess. I take a deep breath to make sure I’m breathing.
I suddenly realize I had prayed for something like this to happen. My life has been going nowhere. Yes, that much is a certainty. Nowhere from what? I shake my head. I only know that I have worked for years on some silly nonsense that had made sense to me. What was it?
“My name. It’s Jacob.”
I look about. Perhaps there is a place I might sit for at time and try and remember. It is clear that the terrain is anything but flat, and although it seems like it might be bright enough to get about if I were cautious, what is the point? Besides, the night is truly mesmerizing.
I sit after finding a higher perch not twenty feet from where I had risen. It is a high enough perch to get a better perspective. I can tell the terrain is mostly solid rock, the weather worn rock of sedimentary formations. I can make out the lines created by the various layers, the exposed history of the millennia.
The color is vaguely red, or maybe just brown. There isn’t enough light to be certain. The reflection of light from the ringed planet is bright enough to cast distinct shadows, much as moonlight back on Earth. What nonsense. What am I talking about? I close my eyes. How can I not be on Earth?
I open them again and study my surrounding a little more carefully. Is it the type of terrain that I climbed into on my vigorous walk? Not that I can remember. Okay, it is certain I have somehow been transported to a different place, or perhaps to a different time. What? Like Earth would somehow move next to Saturn in a billion years. I scoff.
The shadows appear to drop into the canyons. It is clear that sunlight will give a much better perspective. Right now I can’t be sure that this isn’t endless night, and in that instant I feel a bit of panic. Surely not. Why would I be on a planet with endless night?
Saying the words out loud has a calming effect. I focus my concentration back to the heavens. I’m not a stranger to a beautiful sky with an infinite backdrop. I have avoided cities all of my life, and I also detest light pollution just as I detest so much of what I had wanted to change in a world with a blind conscience. Ah, yes, little bits are coming back. I am one of those men that have campaigned all my life for common sense.
I suddenly realize this is one of those moments. I am blessed or cursed with a strong imagination and an inner eye that peers into unknown places. The idea of being dead makes me sick with happiness. Is this the beginning of deaths long journey, or just a dream from which I’ll never wake?