The time has come once again. It’s a Friday night. To most that might mean going to a movie, going out with friends, or staying up to binge watch that show you’ve fallen behind on via Netflix. To me it means I get to continue my journey, continue my exploration of this never ending universe Sean Murray and his team at Hello Games were so kind to create. I’ve put in well over 150 hours to date and I don’t see myself slowing down any time soon. When not simply the world, but the universe is at your fingertips you tend to stick around for a while. So it’s Friday night, dinner has been had, the wife and child are in bed, and I have my drink and snack of choice in front of me. The game loads up. I look around to remember where I had left off…
Through the Looking Glass
I do not remember the way out of this cave system. I know I came down here to get out of that infernal heat on the surface of Scortuna VII. That part is hard to forget. However, I just had to go exploring didn’t I? No idea where I am now. Damn this memory of mine. I can memorize the entire table of elements, I can remember the atomic weight of Pleridium, but god help me when it comes to directions. Speaking of which, god knows I hate this planet, which must be why it stuck so many resources here that I need to repair and upgrade both my suit and my ship. Unfortunately all the Kredatine and Borphorus I need is only on the damn surface! Getting lost down here, in the dark, stepping in who knows what, tripping over these rock formations–pretty sure I twisted my ankle–it’s just getting to me. Oh well, such is the life of a lonely traveler. I’ll just keep walking until…wait…this pool of acid water looks familiar. My luck may have changed for the better! I think I know where I need to go to finally get back to the surface. I should grab what I can of the needed resources and get back to my ship quickly before my suit melts into a puddle on this rock-strewn orb of fiery hatred.
Hopefully I was able to gather enough. This ship I call “Home” has seen better days. Thankfully those merchants I get most my parts from don’t ask too many questions about my “adventures” as I like to think of them. It’s hard to explain to those I come across in my travels why I do what I do. Honestly, it’s hard for me to understand. Exploration is a natural thing I assume for most species. But me? I have a calling. It’s like an unexplainable desire or yearning I have to make it to the center of this god forsaken galaxy. The worst part is I don’t even know why. No, I take that back, the worst part is not knowing my own name or who I was before this journey of mine started. The earliest memory I have is of waking up next to my ship, completely alone, on an unfamiliar planet after what felt like a normal night’s sleep. But I wasn’t frightened or panicked as much as I was simply confused. It was as if that’s all there had ever been. My head empty of memory or even much thought with the one perplexing exception being that of “get to the center”. Yet at the same time I knew how to fly my ship and use my multi-tool. Hard to explain is an understatement. I’ve been at this for what feels like a lifetime. Realistically though it’s probably been around three or four orbits around a star. Keeping track of time while traveling through space is more than a little tricky. In all that time among the stars, on new worlds, I finally had to settle on telling those I come across to simply call me Traveler. The Lonely Traveler is a moniker I use for myself. One might think the ‘lonely’ part I add simply because I am traveling by myself. It’s not wrong to think so, but it’s also not the main reason. In all this time, planet to planet, system to system, I have met many a strange new folk. Yet none I have met have been…of my kind. As far as I know I truly am alone in my species.
I have often thought about what it would be like though to finally meet someone like me. I can’t imagine that’s something any other species has to burden themselves with. Burdens seem to be all I have going for me lately. Burdened with having to not only find proper resources but also gather them without dying. Burdened by trying to figure out what the hell all these other species are saying as I try to make deals with them. Burdened with not knowing my past, or why I’m truly doing what I’m doing. But one thing at a time, day by day, and all that I guess. Currently I am burdened with flying “Home” to the nearest space station in order to do some much-needed repairs on both suit and ship. I want nothing more than to fly straight up and off this damned planet, but due to some of my…less than ideal parts being used I need to spend as little amount of time in space as possible. So I’m stuck navigating halfway across this burning sphere of death in order to get closer to said space station before exiting atmosphere. What an existence, waiting and being burdened. Waiting while my hyperdrive gets me where I’m going. Waiting in lines to sell goods or buy goods. Waiting to figure out what god-awful planet I get to travel to next to make it one more notch closer to my goal. Waiting for…
Seeing is believing
…wait! Did I just see? No, that, that can’t be. But what if? What if I did just see what I think I saw?! Am I shaking? Why am I nervous? Ok, get your shit together Traveler! Deep breathes. I have to go back and check right? If what I just flew over is what I think it was, then I have to go back. I need to get close. This damn planet is too hot for me to just be walking around without having a plan. But I can’t get too close either. If I scare him away before finding out…I’m not sure I could live with myself. Not after this long. Ok then. It’s decided; I have to loop back around and find a spot to land with a little bit of distance between us. My god, I haven’t been this nervous and excited since the first time I met another intelligent species. I saw him a ways in front of that cave entrance, so a bit away from that location over here looks like a grand spot to land. Here goes everything.
He was right here. I know he was. Surveying the area while landing my ship I don’t see him though. Shit, he’s got to be in the cave. The entrance can’t be more than 500 paces from where I am currently hiding behind this giant crystal of Borphorus. No better time than now I suppose. Walking briskly towards the cave opening I can’t keep my mind straight. He–he looked like me. Not a carbon copy, not a reflection, not literally me of course. But one like me, of my…kind. I only got a quick look during my previous flyby but he walked like I walk. He was my size. I swear to god he had a multi-tool like I do as well. If I find him in there, what do I do? What does one say to the first being of their species they’ve ever encountered? I was hoping to see some footprints leading up to the cave, but that was just wishful thinking with this rocky, sandy, windy terrain wiping away any trace of would be footprints that once were. Trying to look into the dark cave while standing in this torturous sunlight is quite useless. In I go then. Slowly. Slowly as if I’m sneaking past one of those nasty beasts I encountered on Phreyy-L a few months back. I hope he isn’t as angry to meet me as those bastards were. Anyway…focus.
Fully inside the cave now, after my eyes adjust I duck behind the closest rock large enough to hide me. I don’t see anyone from here, but I do spot what appear to be footprints a few yards off. Carefully making my way over I can see that they are, clear as day, boot prints nearly identical in shape and size to my own. The pattern on the bottom of the boot is different, but other than that I would have guessed I had been here before. They lead further in the cave to my right. Carefully I follow where they lead me. The cave is already getting darker but I stick to the shadowy areas even so. The last thing I want to do is to come charging up on what might be my one and only chance at meeting another…whatever I am. Maybe he has met others like me. Maybe he knows what planet I come from! Maybe–maybe one step at a time here Traveler. Every so often there are spots of light shining down from holes leading out to the surface. I assume made by some terrible animal that calls this place home. Just past one of these beams of light I see him. Or, his shape at least. He…I’ve just realized I keep referring to it as “he” when I truly don’t know if that’s an accurate assessment. Oh well. He’s a ways off there so it’s hard to make him out in this horrific lighting. He seems to be examining a large vein of the cave crystal. His suit is not identical to mine my any means, but I would now bet my life that he is one of my own. My heart is about to beat out of my chest and through my suit straight onto this stony cave floor. I better do something before that happens, or before he spots me and thinks I’m spying on him. Well, I guess I am spying on him, but not for nefarious reasons. No better place than here, no better time than now I suppose.
I stand tall now. Slowly but deliberately walking towards him. He’s still just past the closest beam of light with his back towards me. I set my multi-tool down. I hope that wasn’t the dumbest thing I’ve decided to do today. He must be extremely into his work because he hasn’t heard me walking up to this point. There can’t be more than forty feet between us now. I really don’t want to get too close before he notices me thus scaring the shit out of him. Almost instinctually I clear my throat. Jerking his head around he’s clearly startled. I don’t blame him. I would have had the same reaction. I’m breathing heavy now, getting light-headed. With my obviously fantastic decision that startled him, he quickly spins around to see who or what made the noise and falls right on his ass. I put my hands up in the almost universal gesture of “I mean you no harm”. Once his eyes finally focus on me I assume, his hand now instinctively comes up to his face to cover his mouth in amazement. Or at least it would have if not for the space helmet and all. He slowly stands up as I’m now too overwhelmed by the situation to even speak. After what feels like an eternity of the two of us just standing in this dimly lit cave staring at each other I finally decide to speak the first words I will ever speak to another one of my species.
“Uhh…hello.” I say with the confidence of a young child. Nailed it Traveler, nailed it.
I can’t see his face because of the beam of light between us. He slowly walks forward. Stopping directly under the light. I can now see a smile on the face of the first of my kind I have ever seen in my entire known life. A smile I will never forget.
“Hello” she says.