Without the benefit of perspective, it looked as though the Voyager satellite was crawling though the stars at a glacial pace. In reality, it was travelling at over 35,000 miles an hour. The dish was pointed into an oncoming oblivion, and the spider-like legs trailed gracefully in its wake. The sights it had seen painted across the constellations in it's journey from Earth... Quasars, black holes, red dwarfs, and white giants. It simply watched in sublime silence. The aging satellite had not altered course for almost 20 years, and the chances were good that it would not alter until it flew into a black hole, or was received...
He had looked so peaceful in death. His skin had not yellowed into the wax mask of mortality, and he may well have been sleeping. He was still Carl. She felt the eulogy from earlier that morning had missed that. It had been full of praise for the great Sagan, the astronomer who had audaciously reached for the stars. It had missed the Carl who had reached for her shoulders in moments of stress, or a dish cloth in a messy kitchen. Ann Druyan sat in the silence, on a dusty couch in a dusty living room. She had heard the cliche that the house would seem bigger without him. The space he once took up would be cavernous; that the sorrow would echo from wall to wall, and she like a giant bat, would follow them hungrily. If anything, it seemed as though the opposite was true. The cottage seemed suffocating. The faded rug sprawled to the skirting board, and folded up like a wave. Somehow, the walls seemed too full of pictures. She couldn't believe she had never noticed it before. The wooden paneling was smothered with spiral galaxies behind dusty glass panes. The only relief was the occasional window, where the rural Ithaca sky was visible, which was really no relief at all; more stars. She let out a slow deep breath, and got to her feet. Everything in the cottage screamed Carl. The floor creaked as she shuffled from the living room into the hall, past the giant dream catcher that they had made in the summer of ’72, and into their bedroom. Dusty charts lay curled up on an oak desk, which was so close to their old bed, that Carl had always had to squeeze between them to get to his side. She looked over at where he used to lie. The sheets were still tousled from when he had climbed out of them earlier that week. She did not consider herself prone to sentimentality, but she had been unable to smooth them out.
‘It’s still our bed!’ she thought to herself. ‘If that’s how Carl wants to leave his side, then who am I to ruin that beautiful mess?’
A familiar flush of heat.
The sting of tears.
The humiliation of a sob in a silent cottage.
It was the height of weakness for Ann, but the feeling of loss was tangible. It was the first time since Carl had gone that she felt truly alone. And the prospect of tussling those sheets… She turned on the spot, and made her way down the hall. Breaths, shaky, uneven. The back door creaked open, and she strode onto the grass, expertly avoiding the missing third step which Carl was going to fix every summer. By now, tears were freely flowing, and her nose was beginning to follow. She gently lowered herself to her knees. The damp began to sink through her jeans.
‘It's not fair,’ she whispered bitterly. She looked up at the sky that had been their playground. Venus was blazing above the western horizon...
… ‘Are you ready, Ann?’ Carl asked, his hand on the keyboard of a boxy 70’s computer. Behind him, the New York sun meandered through the window, bathing the otherwise bland Bellevue Hospital room in a warm orange light. She nodded. He tapped a button and walked over and clasped her hand.
‘For this to work, you need to have… I don’t know… loving thoughts,' he smiled awkwardly. She loved him for that awkwardness. He was not classically handsome; a high hairline, and thick eyebrows, and dressed in a red turtleneck. But that was Carl, and she loved Carl. Behind him, the soundwave of her brain activity began to register on the screen. He turned and watched for a second.
‘I hope you’re not thinking that I’m a goof!’ he smiled indignantly. ‘We’re sending this recording into space, and I don’t want some intelligent life to find it one day and only learn that Carl Sagan is a fool!’
’They’ll learn both, my dear.’
He gave a crooked smile.
‘It really is something though,’ he said, all mirth disappearing, and a sudden earnestness taking it’s place. ‘We are documenting all of humanity and sending into space… Mozart, Chuck Berry, whale sounds, thunder, and love. Our love on record, flying through space for someone to hear one day.’
He was miles away from the drab white hospital room.
‘I hope someone will hear it one day…’ he mused.
Ann looked over at the golden vinyl record sitting on the bench. In a few days, this would be pressed, and loaded onto a satellite.
‘I just like that it’s immortalised,’ she said softly...
On it flew. Against a backdrop of stars which spread out across the galaxy like sand, it silently carried on. Beneath the dish, in a transparent box, sat the golden record of the best humanity had to offer; Rock’n Roll, nature, and love. The vinyl would occasionally catch a ray of light and shine in the darkness, waiting to be understood. 10 million miles away, Ann Druyan brushed her knees, her eyes, and walked inside to make her bed.