girlfriend, then her old lover decided to hitch along, I’d be shitting myself. He really doesn’t seem to care. I mean, where are we going? and what are we planning to see? Is it a tourist trip, or is he some kind of secret agent who needs a cover? Maybe he’s more into Ann than he’s willing to admit. I mean, she is kind of dreamy …

She is kind of dreamy – exquisite Ann, with her long legs, slim waist, and finely-chiselled cheekbones – but she is already far behind him. Bruno is so many miles away that they would be difficult to count in conventional numbers. He agreed to everything, went along with every absurd plan, knowing all the time that none of them would come to pass. As he lies on the cold steel of his starship berth, he does not think of the three people he has left behind because his attention is entirely fixed on the wonders of the universe he is entering. Cold, lifeless wonders, perhaps – symphonies of stars, vast interstellar collisions – fire and ice, unattainable flame in the empire of the frost.

Then there is planetfall. Again the cold dark corridors of metal and the functional bunks – but outside, as soon as he can go outside, there are the wonders of a bounded dark horizon ringed with rock and light. Mars, Titan, Triton, Io – these are the places he stops at before heading outwards once more to some unimaginable destination in the stars. Already these near-light speeds have left behind him all the remnants of human connectedness he once had.

Did Ann and Julie and Joseph go on living together in the streets of Space Wheel Four, until they went off in their separate directions? (No, that wasn’t it. Joseph died eventually of his illness, his nagging lung disease. The other two arranged his funeral, then left, still together, still lovers, for a home Earthside. Julie burnt her diary, but kept up her susceptibility to hommes de passage. Ann mourned her lost love for a while, but recovered her poise with time. The two of them had no child).

And Bruno? As he travels on in the darkness, in the sidereal time measureless in days and hours or even years, he ceases to think in terms of duration, but simply experiences the infinity of sensations and sights as they arrive. You see, he cannot sleep.

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