'The Egg Party' will now be a name stored on a USB stick that will be sent to the sun. It is the Parker Solar Probe. You too can go to the sun, in spirit.
I think this ticket relates to the story. I talk about the sun often in my first attempt at space mythology.
Thanks for reading. It is a bit all over the place. I am a shit editor.
Note: This is an album I push often. But I think it suits the piece. It is a reminder that we should not look at Russia as an evil caricature. It talks of their achievements during the space race, alongside the US ones. It has two tracks, Gagarin and Valentina, the first man and woman in space, both Russian:
The Race For Space: Public Service Broadcast
- The Egg Party
The Cosmic Dragon
By The Egg Party
Yuli’s funeral was in the morning, early on a Wednesday, a day which happened to land in the final week of the Kvant-73 mining mission. These two factors created a mixed atmosphere in the space station, one of anticipation and sadness. In the time between the death and the funeral, many of the crew had settled into bipolar patterns of grief. In the afternoon post-ceremony, most were in the dining quarters, lounging on the walls without propriety.
The dining room was the largest in station and was a common choice for leisure time. It was more popular in recent days as many failed to cope with the claustrophobic solitude of the bunks. All were physically present in the room but remained alone. There was no interaction. A tense silence had settled as each thought on death. Everyone had seen Yuli’s suicide note, passed throughout the small station. Left pinned to his sleeping bag, it containing the simple message:
Before, the only thing in life I cherished was home. Now I only dream of space. I wish
Yuli had left airlock with the intention of committing suicide, aiming to drift off into the black. His body was detected by one of the debris drones — small robots that worked autonomously, detecting anything near the station that could cause damage. The drone retrieved his corpse and shoved it into one of the resource storage units.
It took a significant time to find Yuli and dig him out from the ore. The retrieval team suffered the worst. Roman was the unlucky one who uncovered his grubby face. He became practically mute, only speaking a handful of words since the event.
The Rosco protocols for corpse disposal were modeled on NASA's "Body Back" program. Initially, they dumped the bodies in space. UN charters eventually outlawed this practice as it technically counted as "littering" under the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines from the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
Yuli was sealed in a Gortex bag before being put in the airlock to be frozen solid. One of the stations robotic arms then violently shook his frozen body, shattering it into a fine powder. The burial process was known as promession. This crystalised human dust was often scattered back on Earth. In Yuli’s case he was cast out of the station, above the largest viewing window, as everyone gathered to watch Yuli receive his last wish: to stay in space, scattered in a fan of microscopic asteroids.
Such was the mood when Captain Surayev arrived later in the evening, laden with the last of the alcohol stores.
“It is done. Yuli has been scattered. Dead and gone. Drink.”
Each man took his share and for a time Surayev floated in the middle of the group, drinking and ruminating. As he thought he had shut his eyes. Suddenly they blinked open as he addressed the crew.
“We do not need another silence. I want to give a eulogy for Yuli. There were moments when I truly saw Yuli, a version of him that appeared when he took reprieve from his melancholia. It happened when he told stories of home. He would transform into a bard, a passionate one, one who revealed the whites of his eyes.
“My baba told me, during funeral for my deyda, that after death the human soul remains on Earth for forty days. I did not ask what happens when you die in space. Could be that has Yuli will remain on the station to be with us in our last moments aboard.”
Creases appeared in Surayev’s brow. His left hand squeezed out a few orbs of liquid from his drink straw, to float away slowly in the air. After taking a deep, focusing breath, he manoeuvred with the overhead rails to the switches by one of the room’s entrance tunnels. He turned a small knob and all lights went down save the center floor light, which brightened. The Captain pushed back to his previous spot but now was illuminated from below, shadowy daggers thrown across his torso. He looked to each man, all eyes and moustache.
“This story was told to me during my first Rosco mission, when it was still Roscosmos. I was an entry miner. To this day I still see myself as a miner. That is what we are, in the end, dwarven fools. It is the sole reason this station exists, to claim riches. It is undignified work. It is especially hard for those who dreamt of space in terms of exploration, excitement and intrigue, only to find themselves mindlessly pressing buttons. Remember, all of you risk death and that is dignity enough. This tale attempts to ease the difficulty of this work, to present new meaning for life in space.”
Surayev unconsciously looked at this wristwatch.
“We are home soon. I ask that you suspend your conflicts, your resentments. On Earth you can do as you wish, see your colleagues again... or not at all. Take a break and enjoy my story. This is a tradition, passed down through the Cosmonaut Captains, one that I want to continue.”
The crew focused on his words, most listening, some nodding in acknowledgment.
“One tradition cannot hurt,” said Vasily.
Surayev took a drink while looking Vasily in the eye. “Painless, I would say. And our pain tolerance is practiced,’ he said, wiping the back of his hand on his mouth. “This was told to me by Captain Alyona Brzezinski, my first captain. If you haven’t heard of her, shame on you.
“As it happened, there was also a pair of suicides during our first mission together. The crew struggled... deeply. Suicide is intensely contagious, especially when you share the same air. Old Brzezinski told stories to keep us sane. Told them when we sat in our own dark silences. She had her fill of old tales, from the old countries, and created her own myths. Space myths. Myths to help miners comprehend the kosmos. And for us, the future served a better tool than history, with helping us understand.”
Surayev removed a square control unit from the inside pocket of his yellow bomber jacket.
Pressing a few buttons, the circular floor light projected a disorientating constellation of lights over the room. As the image adjusted, the collection of lights appeared as a messy explosion. Clouds of energy and matter filled the room. The captain interlaced his hands in front of his chest, forming a pyramid with index fingers. “This myth could only be created off the planet, away from the stronger influence of gold. It is the story of Brzezinski’s Dragon, the Cosmic Dragon.”
Surayev coughed out a single laugh.
“I start at the beginning. Once upon a time there was a lifeless world, spinning around a bright sun. It was a desolate, unclaimed rock; a miner’s dream. It came into existence after the first explosion, the bang, which shattered the timeless nothing, littering matter through the unnamed universe. This matter is at the heart of all our tales.”
The hologram swirled inward, expanding on the rocky planet. It revolved amidst the crew.
“The world continued relatively static. Over time it was bombarded by meteorites, those impacts bringing gold, a rare material that did not occur naturally on the planet, for is gold created and expelled during the death of a star. It is the remembrance of a supernova, a souvenir of death.”
The planet flashed brightly as each meteorite left a new crater.
“But the gold was not merely a relic. It was a seed. The seed of a dragon.”
Surayev’s eyes darted left then right before he opened his mouth, showing a rare smile, flashing a gold incisor. He touched that same fang, resting a thumb on the tip.
“The basics elements for life began collecting on the surface, in murky pools. Glimpses of order appeared in the chaos. Liquid water, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus, all gathered like kids at a school dance; none was willing to make the first move. Energy was needed. Scattered specks of gold dust, which settled on the upper surface, in those same pools, acted as the dance conductor. Gold channelled lightning into those molecules, sparking life. The gold did not act altruistically, it wanted the change, wanted life in the world, to give a chance for the evolution of a being which would want to collect all the gold on one place.”
The projection began changing, the planet surface altering through the eons of extinction and growth.
“The vast majority of the gold waited, deep underground, with the patience of a rock. Species rose and fell. Finally, the homo genus appeared, an animal that gold wanted. In the end, all the others within this branch of life died save one: Homo sapiens. That was it, the moment the planet changed. Where it entered the formation phase, where the golden egg was fertilised. It is the point where we come into the story.”
Surayev pointed to Pavel, before pointing to a different crew member in turn.
“We, who find the gold.”
“We, who mine the gold.”
“We, who horde the gold.”
“This craving for gold existed within almost all human civilisations. But this love for gold is a tortured relationship. Once humans have it they do not enjoy it. Because then the possibility exists that someone might take it away. That fear turns possessive: we store gold under beds, in banks, in vaults, in holes marked X. We form communities around it, build walls to protect it. We strengthen families to pass it down to, husband and wife, bound in gold, creating more kin to protect the treasure. Huddled tight, those communities become villages, towns, cities, nations, each a miniature El Dorado, growing, millions strong, the bigger, the better, for it meant more gold. Stockpiles grew bigger every year, bigger and bigger, as the movement of gold became increasingly complex. And the gold rejoiced! It wanted to be united so that it could form into a golden egg.”
Pavel interjected, “What the fuck is this shit? Gold? We collect it to exchange for girls and drink.” He said, grunting.
Surayev nodded to him, “And I drink water because I am thirsty. But thirst does not cover all the reasons I drink water. We are driven by a deeply instinctual desire for gold. Starting with the formation of those first single-celled organisms, we have all been designed this way, with a goldlust so strong that we pull the metal from very the sky. As we do on Kvant.”
Pavel bristled but remained silent. Many resentful eyes rested on him.
The planet reached at point where it resembled Earth of their time and as the hologram’s time-lapse slowed, the day and night cycles became distinct. Webs of electricity grew and withered in the shifting shadows of the sun. The planet did not stop there as it began spinning faster and faster, green and blue hues fading to dull greys and browns. The extended planetary transformation acted as the story intermission, each quietly drinking as they watched the world change into an exaggerated dystopian version of their reality.
Surayev eventually began again, as he ran a hand over his rough chin before pointing to the image.
“This is what Earth will be. You see here,” he said, as his finger neared a faint yellow glow emanating from underneath the colourless North American continent, “once an individual collection of gold reaches critical mass, the gold will unify and enter an incubation period, forming an indestructible ovoid. This golden egg is the genesis for the Cosmic Dragon. Brzezinski never gave the dragon a true name, only calling it the Cosmic Dragon. As good a name as any. It is a strong name, which is appropriate, for it takes strength to consummate with the very Sun.”
Surayev slapped a hand on his thigh.
“I rush. Apologies Alyona,” he said, pausing a moment to drink. “The golden egg begins to affect the rich few that are in the near vicinity, causing madness. The affected individuals draw together, consolidating more power, gold, and insanity. Some say these people will begin to appear like minions of the dragon. They grow scales as their blood cools, sleeping coiled up on piles of personal wealth. They become lizard people.
“These midwives of destruction nurture the egg, protect it, feed it, as it absorbs the energy of the planet. Through the shell, layer by layer, it consumes all life, inevitably, irreversibly. The forests will gradually die, the water will recede, the air will poison. At some point, it will cause the cessation of all life on Earth.”
“We have arrived at the point in human history of three simultaneous phases: end-stage capitalism, the second space race, and the formation of the dragon egg,” he said, rubbing his belly. His voice lowered for a moment. “Capitalism, a truly draconic system. Our Russia tried to reject that spell of the dragon in 1917, without success. But these political stories are old tales. The next part, the progression from egg to dragon, can be as you imagine it. A glorious moment in any story. What is next? How does this tale end?”
He scratched his head. “What I find curious is that in history the dragon myth is reversed. The Cosmic Dragon is no collector of gold, the Cosmic Dragon is of gold. The golden egg gives rise to a creature with gilded wings.”
The planet surface tuned a mottled black before the hologram quickly zoomed out once more. From the tiny planet, lines jumped from the surface to land on other planetary bodies around the room. “These lines are hypothetical, dependent on us becoming a proper space-faring race. Someday, with significant hard work and suffering, we might spread life elsewhere. We,’ he said, rotating his finger, ‘are one of those steps towards this goal. There can be other worlds for us. We must get off Earth to discover these new places. Either way humanity chooses, the dragon will hatch, undisturbed, on a dead Earth.
Surayev stopped a moment. He stretched his shirt neck to reveal five golden scales, interlinked above his heart. “Each scale represents one of my trips off Earth. You all are now dragonkin. As Yuli was. You are miners of old, digging too far, as you bring back more gold for the dragon. You, who understand the potentially disastrous consequences of going to space.
“When the Cosmic Dragon bursts forth one day, it will rise from the Earth to join with the sun, to consummate with the star, causing another supernova, as the cycle begins again, gold shooting forth to other parts of the universe.
“Take from this as little or as much meaning as you like. I know that this story gives me comfort because it serves as a reminder that I am doing my part for the survival of the human race.”
After a few moments, Pavel spoke again. “I know exactly what I’m doing with my gold, not fucking collecting it.” He pushed off to exit.
None interjected as Pavel left except Roman, who leant forward for the first time, muttering, “Yes, go get company from that unoccupied sex robot.”
Pavel stopped at the door for a moment, head lowering slightly, before leaving.
“Right,” said Surayev, watching Pavel’s back disappeared. “Crew, listen... I am addicted to space. As a young man I wanted to see how much space there was. When I saw the vastness, the wonder, I wanted all that I could get. Might happen to you. Yuli may have had the same problem. In the end, he couldn’t resolve his internal conflict. Because loving space equals leaving home. As we prepare to return and you must remember that you too could feel the same powerful draw of the universe. All I will say, in the end, is that space is the only, final answer. We need to escape before Earth expires. Outside of the dragon, this statement remains true. Please, please, do not resolve these feelings in the tragic way that Yuli chose. When we return to Earth my home remains open to you all. I will see any man here who needs or asks for conversation and help. Even Pavel.”
He grabbed his drink that was floating around him and all the men raised their plastic vessels to join in a salute.
“Yuli... you be missed, you will be remembered. Pokoysya s mirom. Ura! In gold we trust!”
And the crew repeated, “Ura! In gold we trust!”