Life in Molniya Quarantine

I wake up on the designated sleeping side of the cylinder. I’ve coded the ambient lighting to respond to my breath and activity, because ‘wake up’ is maybe a misnomer; it takes a good half hour for me to roll out of my bedding. It’s only out of hard won experience I’ve had over the last nine months that has me make the bed. I’ve had to revise a lot of the minutiae of daily life that weren’t part of the astronaut training program everyone had before they were stuffed into these titanium cans and catapulted into orbit to live out the next few years as humanity’s contingency if things turn out really bad earthside.

I roll to the exercise side. I’m just in time for my friend Pamela’s streaming yoga/flex routine. We’re both in similar eccentric 12 hour Molniya orbits, so our daily routines sync up nicely. In the beginning there was a lot of support from earthsiders to help us maintain ourselves and stay sane, but a number of factors have increasingly made us grow into mostly relating to our peers out here in the black. Cultural drift in the need to relate to others having similar experiences is already differentiating us. And there are practical concerns: exercise routines have had to be reinvented to make up for the insanity-inducing Coriolis effect of this habitat. Back-of-the-envelope math tells me that you’d need at least a 12 m radius cylinder to comfortably simulate gravity. For us? We got 4 and were told to make it work. It’s been quite the journey to keep our nutrition paste in our bellies.

And besides the practicals, there is the deeper emotional needs having to be met. Pamela doesn’t guide me through her routine with words about feeling the support of the earth under me; she and I are both primates gracefully being centrifuged against outer titanium shells, our only protection from being flung into the black void.

After Pamela’s nervous system calming routine - I think I’m developing a minor crush on her - it’s time to sit and meditate. There isn’t much freedom of movement up here, but I’ve finally arrived through trial and error at a hack for my meditation where I can get the full outer space experience. The gold standard here is to be able to look down on the Earth. The Overview Effect is a luxury afforded by spacelife. But because what everyone needs for long-term survival is gravity. Those elite astro and cosmonauts of the 20th century? They spent an inordinate amount of time keeping everything including themselves squeaky clean and clear, because even the slight detritus of everyday living becomes a huge liability if it’s floating in free space.

So the cylinder is rotating, and that dizzying spin can kinda ruin the majesty and tranquility of gazing at the great Earth. And just stabilizing it digitally feels like cheating. We want to be able to view it from the central porthole. So with a bit of help from my friends and a frivolous expenditure of maneuvering fuel, I’ve found a way to align my cylinder on a particular part of my orbit and spin my body counter to that so I can see the whole earth, stably, for a full hour at perigee.

As I watch the Earth in seeming calm stasis while the rest of my world spins around me, I digest the snippets of expressions, cries into the void, coming from the Random Access Forum of Thoughts. I often can’t tell if they’re from earth or orbit. They help me feel connected in the microwave background of my melancholy.

I listen and feel the presence of all these others as my own. And the overview effect has its way with me, and I open a channel and speak to the RAFT.

For the Love of Emptiness

When the walls close in,
when being seems too much to bear
when life is like a raft lost on the endless sea,
consider what truly is unfolding.

The future, where everything possible is probable,
there are so many possibilities that any one of their existences are as close to impossible as anything can be.

The past is where all possibilities collapse
into a singular story,
written in ink that cannot be rewritten;
the ink slowly fading, smudging over the page.

Between the certain and the impossible,
between past and future,
is the boundary of existence.
As it shifts and transforms,
all things come into being.

This cross-section is the experience you’re having;
no more and no less;
unbounded by your perception;
your own personal ice cream cones cutting through spacetime,
meeting and being met with distant millisecond pulsars and blazars at the edge of the observable.

Close to the boundary, cause and effect wiggle and leapfrog across each other,
quantum foam on the universal latté.

This boundary is where there is something to say and do,
the only time there is any influence at all on reality.

The experience machine in the middle between the light cones of past and future,
soft tissue in a bone container.
Hearing these words is a tangle of particles rearranging themselves,
propagating and sustaining tiny waves across the quantum fields.

Primate brains connect through quantum enabled tunnels,
electrons propagating miniscule waves through circuits,
turning to coherent photons traveling between distances,
activating back into electron waves,
becoming photons hitting a retina,
turning into meaning:
a superposition between two states of being
blinking into and out of existence.

These tangles of particles sitting degrees away,
turning around crusty ball of fiery magma
itself a mote of dust floating through vast emptiness.

Even in our separation
there is intimacy,
because there is no thingness to things,
only intimacy between.

Existence is precious.
Existence is limitlessly strange.
A tiny set of whirling eddies and bubbles on the latté,
anomalous knots in the smooth fabric of vast emptiness.