inessential by Brent Simmons


I dream sci-fi.

Last night I dreamt I was on the Lunar colony, sitting in the big cafeteria eating lunch with Sheila and all the workers there. We're all wearing orange jumpsuits.

Then a moonquake hit.

Not a bad one, but enough to scare the hell out of everybody. Things were shaking. In my mind I pictured the air rushing out. I thought about blue Earth and how there's an atmosphere there. Then it was over.

Cut to... I'm now in the office of the safety director, demanding to know what the safety procedures are in the case of a bad moonquake.

"I didn't even know there was such a thing!" she says.


"Well," she says, "we'll definitely come up with something."

And to think I had been considering signing up for one of the runs to Jupiter's moons. It turns out that people in space are about as bright as people on Earth. Nuts.

Of course, back in real life, I don't even know if there is such a thing as moonquakes. But then, I'm not the safety director of the Lunar colony, am I.


When I was a kid back in the '70s I thought for sure we'd have a permanent station on the moon by now.

But instead we're struggling just to put up a space station.

I figured we'd have hotels in Earth orbit by now. But no.

The thing is, the hell of it is, we could have done it if we wanted to.

I don't know why we didn't.

There's still time, brother.


I dream I'm a sci-fi hero. I've had this dream several times (though not last night).

I'm the leader of three colony ships, the first ever to leave the Solar System. We're looking for habitable planets in nearby systems. We're looking for life.

It's not like Star Trek -- the ships are slow, and there's no evidence of life outside Earth.

So we've just surveyed the nearby stars, a half-dozen systems -- Alpha Centauri and so on. We're all middle-aged now; the trip has taken years. We found nothing. Just childless suns shining for no reason, nurturing no one, warmth and light without purpose.

Another region of space further on has planets that may be Earth-like, our telescopes tell us. They're the right size at the right orbit around the right kind of star. Just like the planets we already went to.

If we go on, we'll be lucky to make it back to Earth before we're 90 years old. We'll be lucky to make it back to Earth at all. We could leave for Earth now and be home in a few years.

Should we go on? It's outside of our mission.

But I can order it.

It's so far, and space is so bleak. I think about my people for days as we orbit another clump of rock slowly turning in the vaccuum.

I look out at the black of space and into the black of my coffee cup.

Will we find anything out there, or just more cold, mute stone?

Finally I order it.

We go on.

The rockets burn simultaneously on the three ships and we are moving again. There the dream ends.