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  • majoki

to the flame

We’ve all heard about light pollution and how the glow from cities and towns obscures the night sky, making it difficult to view stars and planets. Maybe we’ve even discovered how our

luminescent nightlife affects nocturnal animals, migrating birds, and all manner of insects,

confusing them and contributing to their alarming decline.

But from space, oh from space, what a show! What a shiny bauble Earth is! Celestial

bling of the highest order! Often, I wonder if the stunning view of our glittering globe is the real reason I’ve stayed on Titania all these years. It’s certainly not the amenities.

The self-indulgent whim of the world’s first trillionaire, Titania is the only orbital hotel ever completed. First marketed as a stellar cruise ship for the high-end adventurer, it’s devolved over my tenure into a kind of sketchy skid row hostel for failed opportunists and escapists like me.

Not exactly the class of folks you’d want as our planet’s last best chance for survival.

Because that’s what we became when the lights went out on Earth. Our bright, gleaming world went dark. Like moths to the flame, they came. From Titania’s lido deck, it looked like an impossibly large swarm of insects engulfing the planet. Communication earthside went helter skelter. Then ceased.

Amazingly, Titania’s derelict denizens didn’t panic. We woke up, shook off our malaise,

our ennui, our entirely French-forward weariness, and got down to the business of what was

happening. Was it an alien invasion or bizarre planetary infestation? Was it organic or robotic?

Was it planned or opportunistic? Were we next?

We shuttered Titania, powered down to standby systems and waited. And, though there was literally nothing to see of the shrouded Earth, we watched as our sensors registered a mysterious spectrum of energy waves, ionizing the atmosphere. Though the lights were out planetside, the air was humming with electricity. Low-level radiation coursed the darkened skies below.

Was life on Earth being zapped out of existence? Was the planet being sterilized for new tenants? Were we just low-hanging fruit for some kind of interstellar harvest by sentient locust?

No one had an answer, though I had an idea: hormesis.

It’s the adaptive response of cells and organisms to low doses of what otherwise might

be harmful to them, such as allergens, toxins, and even radiation. I’d had experience with that kind of therapy. It’s why I fled to Titania. Suffice it to say that even a snake oil salesman like me had to quickly part ways with a rogue foreign space agency because I didn’t like the kind irradiation dosing I was directed to give their astronauts to bolster their exposure immunity for a secretive Mars mission.

Still, the concept of hormesis was sound, and the more I saw of the atmospheric

telemetry readings, the very systemic increase in ionization, the more convinced I became that our mysterious interlopers were not trying to terraform our planet, but terraform us.

After seven months, just as quickly as the interlopers had come, they (whatever they

were) left. The shroud lifted and Earth once again gleamed majestically below us. We cheered on Titania. But Earth remained eerily quiet.

Once we re-established contact, my suspicions were confirmed. Life on earth had been

changed. We were not what we once were. We were better. Healthier. Less hostile. More

unified. We’d been imbued with a sense of common purpose. As well as an enhanced biological resistance to solar radiation.

From Titania’s vantage, I came to see that our interstellar interlopers hadn’t been

attracted by Earth’s gaudy city lights. Instead, they’d been drawn to something more luminous, something more strangely dazzling in humanity.

They hadn’t come to invade or infest. They’d come to invite.

To coax us from our darker shadows, redirect our light, help us ride it to the stars, and

fan the flames of self and selfless discovery ever brighter.




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