Tonight, Saturn runs circles behind the moon. An occultation. That’s what astronomers call it: a planet, in this case, Saturn, hidden behind Earth’s Moon. Planetary fadeout.
Markitt and I sit gazing from the top window of Boss Whalen’s ziggurat, smack dab in the center of Aldrich City. Being miners, we blink at dusk’s light. Without retino-plates, we’d hardly hold onto vision. We’d stare blind at the night sky. No surprise. We mine the golden quasitell stone on Mars, so many miles underground. Not a glimmer of light anywhere. When we ascend each night from the pits of our labor, we don the plates or burn out our eyes.
This night is special. The second time we’ve witnessed the ringed planet vanish to the dark side of Earth’s Moon. In February 2002, we were still children, long before we joined United Intergalactic Forces, U.I.F., we sat high at the summit of Crowback Hill, oohing and aahing like two lunatics on the loose.
“Ever miss home?” Markitt asks.
“Do quasitell stones come in a variety of colors?” I tell him. We laugh.
Without taking my eyes off the sky, I say how sometimes Earth seems to me a previous lifetime, years I vaguely remember living, how sometimes in dreams I can hear victims screaming, see them writhing in fire.
We got out just in time, Markitt and I, two country cousins, working our earthly bottoms off like moles in the deep dirt. Still, I can’t help but wonder how grand it would be to witness Earth again passing in the sky, doing the Saturn trick of hide-and-seek behind a hungry moon, then looking blue and green again like it did when we were young!
“Look!” says Markitt. “Saturn’s disappeared!” And I think to myself, I hope Mars hangs around for a long long time.#