Before the deep sleep, Gus caught Natalie resting her head on two crossed arms, her eyes full of resplendent wonder at the site of the receding Earth and Moon, alight in their tranquil dance.
“It never gets old,” he said.
She turned, startled, as if waking. “No, I’d suppose not.”
He leaned in to the ship’s side, taking a long look from its porthole. “Have you heard the Wahoo-hoo tribe’s story of the Earth and the Moon?” She shook her head. “I guess they believed that the earth was once a molten rock, smoldering and without hope. Just a lifeless sphere of iron that orbited a warm sun.
“Then one day, a comet the size of Mars spotted our lonely planet, and fell in love. The comet could see its potential, see the life in it. And so, it crashed into our Earth, and the two became one in an explosion of celestial bodies.”
Gus smashed a fist into the palm of his other hand. He had a grin on his face. Natalie raised an eyebrow. “Artful,” she said.
“Thanks,” Gus replied. “Through their love, came the child moon, which circles their union still,” Gus said, bending to the porthole.
“15 minutes to deep sleep,” came the call in a sweet voice over the ship’s intercom.
Natalie stood up.
“You nervous?” Gus asked.
“I guess. It’s my first deep sleep. I don’t know, 14 years. It’s a long time to be out,” she replied. The two started down the metal hall.
“Yeah, but our virtual lives will continue. We’ll still see our families and our friends, if only in our dreams.”
He started a short descent down the ladder. “I guess,” Natalie replied. She caught sight of the moon again. “Say, the ‘Wahoo-hoo’ tribe, they got the story right, didn’t they?”
“Yeah,” Gus replied.
“They were right on with how the moon formed,” she said. “Almost exactly. When did they put this together?”
“I don’t know thousands — tens of thousands, probably — of years before the scientists did.”
“Wow.” Around them, a hive of activity brought their colleagues to their pods, each situated on the outside wall of a wide circular room. “It makes me wonder how, just how they could find out?”
Gus smiled, “Maybe from their dreams. What reality is ours for the next 14 years? This deep sleep will fill our minds with a life indistinguishable from what we know now.” He laughed.
The singsong voice announced 5 minutes until deep sleep.
“The question that will keep you awake, though,” Gus said. “Is how can we tell when our eyes open that our lives are truly real?”