No Man’s Sky: Tales from the Euclid Galaxy
No Man’s Sky is a game about being a very small thing in a very, very big place. At times it can be stunningly beautiful, at others unsettling and desolate. It also does a very good job of presenting things to your eyes and ears that allow your brain to read between the lines, as it were. To fill in the gaps of the hollow digital world around you, and imagine the stories taking place inside it. These are some of those stories.
I clear a forest of blood red trees at the foot of the hill. Heat rises as morning creeps in, hot enough now to cook me alive without my suit. I turn and look out over the crimson sea behind me. A ship soars overhead, its engine making my bones vibrate. Sounds like a trader class, a big one, though it’s hard to see from down here. I scramble up the hill, breath loud in my visor and sweat running freely, until I reach the crest. Below me is a sheer drop, at least a hundred feet down. A vast fiery waste of ochre soil stretches out beyond me, at the end of it this system’s blazing sun. Although this place would destroy me in an instant, I feel a calm come over me. Haven’t seen another living creature since landing. Blue sparks in the distance clash against the landscape, drawing my eye. A downed pod. I step off the edge.
The air blows so cold I can barely move, a blizzard stripping visibility down to arm’s length. I shunt myself along with coughs of the jetpack. Suddenly there’s a wall in front of me. I’ve come across of one the Gek’s shelters. Skirting the building, I clamour inside through the airlock. A startled salesgek looks up and barks at me from their desk. Composing myself, I walk to the corner and go about my business on the galactic link for a time. Make some trades.
Storm shows no signs of slowing. I look over to where the gek sits. They’ve occupied themselves with the console, not emitting any particularly foul smells. So I sit. Gek tells me they’re here harvesting and selling the strange floating non-sentient growths that hover about on this planet. Suit died, they say. Took cover here in from storm, same as me. So we share rations and talk for a while, them helping with my somewhat shitty gek dialect along the way. Dawn comes eventually, the winds having settled now, and we part ways. Told them I’d say hi to their friend up on the station in orbit.
Plains are eerily still, tall trees standing stiffly, all except for the cluster of awkward-looking bipedal creatures shuffling about me, bleating happily to themselves. I’d come across them in this alcove after landing nearby, searching for ruins. They were cautious at first, but brightened up once they realised how much grub I had on me. Got a few young ones out with them, too. Seem pretty acclimatised to the bone-chilling cold. I take my time feeding them well.
Hear a deep grunting above us. Something big approaches, a mass of scales centred low to the ground. The creatures scuttle about behind me. They seem fearful. I move towards the thing, which shuffles quickly over the hill. On the other side, it’s joined by a friend. They grunt, emboldened by each other’s presence, and move towards us. A sharp burst as I send a bolt into the ground in front of the biggest one. Rock melts and hisses, and the beasts startle, rushing away. Heading back, I see a few young bipeds playing in the shade, tumbling about and yelping at me for more food. Notice another with them, about their size, but a different shape. It’s one of the beasts’ young.
My ankle buckles and I slip on a stone, its surface covered in something not unlike lichen. I stumble, but regain my footing quickly. Panting. Every molecule of this festering moon seems to want me dead. The air thick with a soup of toxins, the bizarre flora that towers above me, splaying outwards like some grotesque mocking sea creature. A stench manages to make its way inside my suit somehow. The beacon had pointed me in the direction of an old manufacturing facility, parts of it possibly still in tact. Now, the structure is ahead of me, half a klick down this ridge. I tense as my eye catches movement in the twisted vines. I wait. Nothing.
I descend, but stop again as I’m almost at the prefab. The doors to the place stand ajar, no light coming from inside. Broken electronics spark around the entrance. No movement. Cautiously, I step up the ramp and through the busted hole in the wall. The stench grows stronger. Thumbing the suit’s controls,my headlamp shines on to reveal the wall, floor and ceiling covered with a glistening growth obviously native to this rock. It’s completely still inside. Any machinery that was here has been long stripped. A sudden flicker of movement to my right. Inching round the doorframe, I take a look, struggling to parse what I see. A hand. Part of a pressure suit. A mandible. There was someone under that growth. Maybe more than one someone. I crane my neck toward the ceiling, only to find an eye staring back at me from underneath the viscous stuff. It blinks.
Light and space bend around me like a kaleidoscope, streaming past the cockpit. I take my hands off the controls and shut my eyes. Try to clear my mind. It’s hard to keep focus in these moments, hurling myself between stars, with little but the frame of my ship between me and the endless void. Hard not to let that void in sometimes, let the idea of it fuck you up.
The ship’s dash pings me. We’re almost there, arriving at another nothing star with a nothing name. Endless colours give way to static and unfamiliar stars as the ship slams out of hyperdrive, but the shape before me immediately looks wrong, all angles and straight lines against the sprawling miasma of space behind it. Decelerating hard, the force shifting my organs about, I drift for a moment to take in the monolithic rhombus. Its core is red and pulsing. It calls out to me, pinching at some animal part of my brain. The pinching spreads outwards, calming. Numbing. The feeling cuts away at the void in my mind like a knife. It brings meaning where there was none. A small smile touches the corners of my mouth. I nudge the throttle, heading towards the thing’s core. It flowers open, welcoming me.