Letters from Mercury

by Jessica Schneider


Dear Mom,

I just wanted to let you know that I have been living on Mercury for the past six months now, and things are going well. The aliens are treating me right, and give me lots of food fed through a tube. At first I did not like it but then eventually took to it when I got hungry enough. Just so you know, these are not the same bunch of aliens that visited me at our house while you were still with me on Earth. These guys are different. For one thing, they are proud to own a name.

Mercury is so not like any other place I’ve been. First of all, the surface resembles the moon- (remember when I sent you that postcard?). The hills are rolling and dust-covered, and have been eroded from the constant bombardment of meteorites. At first seeing them drop from the sky used to freak me out, but now I’ve learned how to avoid them. But mom, you wouldn’t believe all the fault-cliffs that are here. They rise for several kilometers in height, and are at least several kilometers wide. The surface of this planet is pocked, and looks like a bad case of acne on some teenage kid’s face.

Also, I need to tell you about the sun. It is about two and a half times larger than on Earth, but the sky is always black because there is no atmosphere. The weird thing is though, that somehow the aliens made it so I could breathe. They have all this fancy equipment that helps them breathe too- they can’t take this air either. It got me thinking that I hope heaven is not like that for you and that you can breathe easily. I’ve been looking for it out here but can’t seem to find it. All I can see when I gaze into the blackness is Venus, which looks cream-colored, and the blue and green Earth, which really is the nicest looking planet. Even though it was not always nice being there, on Earth that is, things are more peaceful up here because there are no pressures to worry about- (both emotional and gravitational). I can say now after having lived on two planets that I am glad to have lived on Earth. Well, I have to get going now because it’s time for supper. Ick, the head alien, is telling me to assist him in the soup making. I’ll write more soon.

Love,

Loren

* * *

Dear Mom,

I wish I could date these letters as a means of indicating how much time has passed between them, but here’s the thing: there is no time on this place. The days are strange and aren’t really days at all, as far as I’m concerned, because it’s always dark. Ick told me that one day on Mercury is equivalent to 176 Earth days. I admit that I’ve felt that way on Earth too- when all the days are the same and unrecognizable from the next. I never liked feeling like that, but for some reason it’s not so bad here. I can manage.

On Earth, there were days that felt like one long stretch of a day. Days that would go on for months. Mostly this happened after you passed away, and I could only think about your hands and how lonely they were, and how you looked right before leaving us. I think the last minute before you left was the most painful to me. What were you thinking about then? Of course you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want. I’ve imagined what you were thinking right at that moment, and I hope they were all good things. And too, make sure in heaven that you have someone to keep your hands company.

Love,

Loren

* * *

Dear Mom,

Today Ick took me for a ride all over the surface of this planet. It really is an amazing place- Mercury is. There are some of the biggest basins I’ve ever seen on this planet- bigger than the Grand Canyon even. Also, what many people wouldn’t suspect are all the lava flows inside the craters. We even got out and started climbing onto some of the cliffs. He always beats me to the top because he has many more arms than I do, but still it’s fun to try. And I don’t want to imply that all of Mercury is this way. There are several parts that are very smooth and flat, and have few craters. When we ride on those surfaces, we can go extra fast and not have to worry about getting knocked over by bumps.

You know, being up here reminded me of a lot of things, but one of the things I can’t stop thinking about is time and how it doesn’t matter up here. Things move slower up here and not everyone is in such a worry. Just listen to how I talk. I say “up here” as though I’m writing from Earth. To me, Earth looks back each time I sleep, and Earth is the place that’s “up there”, while we are the ones who are “down here.” Really, you are the one who is “up there” because heaven is always up. I thought coming out here would help me see you so I could know just where you are, but no such luck. All I see are two planets and a huge sun.

I know that once there will be a day when space flight won’t be a dream, or a thing of the past. Or rather, we won’t be able to remember when it was still just a dream inside someone’s head. But now I guess you could say that whoever’s head that was doing the dreaming, is bigger than the whole Earth and moon and space itself because their dream contained it all. Couldn’t you say that? I think so.

The lights are flashing subtle signals, and the overall atmosphere feels like that after a storm. You know, when the trees are tired from having gotten all that rain, and now lay heavily upon the grown their lush bowers? That’s how it feels here, only the ground isn’t wet when I walk, but dry. But both types of grounds- Earth and here- are the same in that they are soft and make no noise when I step.

Love,

Loren

* * *

Dear Mom, (postcard)

One of the surprising things about this planet is that it’s really not as hot as you might imagine. I mean, sure there are parts that get really hot, but we don’t go to those parts. And just as well, there are some parts that get really cold, like those at the bottom of some of the craters that never see the sunlight. There it can get pretty cold. But for the most part, we are somewhere where the temperature never seems to shift too far away from 80 F. Having it always be the same temperature makes me feel like I’m in southern California, except here it’s better since even though I don’t have an ocean, we have just as many mountains. And at least there is no smog, so that’s good. I hope that’s what it’s like in heaven for you- a nice temperature with no smog.

Love,

Loren

PS- On the front of this postcard is a picture of the Caloris Basin, which is thought to be similar to those large circular basins found on the moon.

* * *

Dear Mom,

Ick tells me that living on this planet will eventually have an affect on my brain. Basically, because I’m not going through the usual time changes I would on Earth, and because of the lack of gravitation like there is on Earth, I might notice myself seeming to get younger. I’m not sure what Ick meant by this, and when I asked him to explain, he said he had all twelve of his hands full. But whatever that does mean, I’m just happy to be here, listening for the Music of the Spheres, and keeping an eye out for you. I figure that if I’m able to live on Mercury and get younger, then you should be able to stop for a visit from heaven. I’ll keep my eyes out for you and hope you’re on the next meteor.

Love,

Loren

* * *

Dear Mom,

When I said I hoped you’d be on the next meteor, I was speaking metaphorically, of course. I hope you did not receive my last letter and assume I meant we needed a meteor shower, because that’s what we got. Ick had to tie up all our tents and put our space ship inside one of the craters that was covered by a large cliff that curved over us. We were protected, but our camp was pretty wiped out. I kept a look out for you, but you weren’t there. I was hoping you were trying to send me some sort of message, because I sure would like to hear how things are going for you.

It makes me laugh to think how people on Earth complained so much about earthquakes. They’re nothing compared to having giant meteors fall on top near you when you’re on a small planet like Mercury. The vibrations are just enormous and the fall of each rock was enough to knock us over. Because things have taken a turn for the worst, Ick says he wants to send me home, because the aliens want to go home themselves, and even though I asked if I could come with them, they said no and told me they had to keep their place a secret. The only reason I was able to hang with them here is because they think of Mercury as our territory, so it wasn’t a big deal. We’ll be leaving in a few days, although I don’t know if that means Earth days or Mercury days. If it’s Mercury days then I know I’ll be here for a while.

Love,

Loren

* * *

Dear Mom,

Ick told me that because of its size, and the way it is curved, I would be able to walk in one direction on Mercury and always be in shadow, as long as the distance I walked in an Earth day equaled the amount the planet had moved. So basically I’d be in the same position relative to the sun. Funny how planets move and shift yet we never feel them changing.

Love,

Loren

* * *

Dear Mom,

What are the days like in heaven? Are they long like they are here? Or are they fast, or just slow like regular Earth days? Please tell me because I’d like to know. Maybe since you’re in heaven you can set a few things straight for me. Sometimes when I’m sad or when it’s night, I hide my face. You know, bury it in my sleeve. Remember how I used to do that? Anyway, what I wanted to know was about the outer planets, like Jupiter and Neptune and Pluto and all of them. Do the outer planets hide their faces in the nighttime too? Do they move like Earth does? I know I’ve learned that they do, but I have yet to see it for myself. I’d like to visit Pluto, and even asked Ick if we could stop there on the way back to Earth, and he just gave me this stupid look, and began lecturing me on how out of the way it was and was I a dummy for thinking of that? And then he told me it was way too cold for even them to manage. And when he got all snippy, I just said forget it. But then he apologized because he told me he didn’t want us to part on bad terms. That made me think about you, and I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for all the bad stuff I ever did, and that I’m glad we didn’t have to part on bad terms. Although, if I could have things my way, I wouldn’t have had us part at all.

Love,

Loren

PS- only a few more days and counting, whatever that means. I don’t know what’s in a day anymore.

* * *

Dear Mom,

Today is the day we will be leaving for good. Ick has us all packed up, and he tells me that he’ll be dropping me off first. I have to admit that I’ll miss him. And I have to say that I’m sad to have not heard from you the whole time I’ve been here. I hope you got the cute picture of me and him standing by the ship. He has one of his arms around me, and my arm is around him, and he is standing there with all his six arms from his right side, and balanced each one of them on his right hip. I told him that if he kept standing like that, that he would look gay. When he asked me what gay meant, I told him it meant happy. And he said he always wants to look happy, so he kept standing like that for the rest of the time he was by the ship.

I told him too that I was worried that too much time has passed on Earth, and that everyone I’d ever known would be dead. But he told me not to worry, and that when I get back, I’ll be surprised by what I find. I am eager to know what he means, but in the mean time, I miss you, mom. And maybe I miss even a small part of myself that will get left behind.

When I think about all the parts of me that have been left behind in so many places, I’m surprised that there is so much of me to go around. I guess that’s why every five years we shed our old cells and end up with a new body. The only way to hold on to ourselves is to make more of ourselves. Don’t get me wrong- we shed ourselves everyday, but someone told me once that it took five years for every part of a person to get renewed. I thought that it took a whole lot longer than that.

Love,

Loren

* * *

August 30, 1987
Dear Diary,

The aliens dropped me off and all that and I ended up home safe. Someone might think that the whole thing was just a dream, but it wasn’t because I didn’t have to wake up from anything because I was just in my room and Adam was coming over to get his stuff he left behind the night before. This week will be the first day of junior high, and I am excited. Junior high means seventh grade for us and even though I was excited I was mad they didn’t drop me off when it was summertime and when I wouldn’t have to go to school and worry about homework and all that.

Ick told me that my age would be affected or something like that but I can’t be sure now because the whole thing just seems so fuzzy. I was glad to see my mom again, though, and when I asked her why she didn’t write me she just looked at me funny like I was some crazy kid. So I didn’t ask anymore and just did my homework and was good all the time. Okay, maybe not for all the time but I was at least good for some of the time. And my mom was proud of me, and it was good to see Adam again because I wanted to tell him everything but I eventually forgot about it all, and it sort of became like the past, but not the past because the past is something you remember, and I got to a point where I didn’t remember anymore. That made me wonder, if you have something in the past and you don’t remember it, is it still a part of your past? Where does this stuff all go? Anyway, I made sure to be good for my mom and all that so she would feel proud, and my dad too. And I made sure to take long looks at my mom so that she would always be in my present and past, and not something I’d just forget. Anyway, I’d like to say more but I really need to get outside because it’s been months since I climbed even the smallest tree.

Phil