Written with and dedicated to Shane, the most wonderful space rock out there.
This is the tale of two space rocks. Two tiny space rocks in the immensity of the universe.
Of course, everything is tiny in the universe. To us, those two rocks would have seemed quite large at the time. To us, those two rocks would have been a stone meteoroid resulting from the collision of two asteroids and an iron object orbiting around a short-period comet.
But to themselves, the two rocks were just two tiny rocks racing through space and looking at other rocks going by. Big rocks, small rocks, round rocks, long rocks, hot rocks, cool rocks and weird rocks. Tons of rocks that lived their rock lives.
They were long and busy lives. This one had helped a young sun receiving its first planet. That one had seen a little white star wrap itself up in its cold dark blanket and fall asleep slowly, rubbing its eyes. Another bragged about barely making it past a greedy black hole that had almost swallowed it whole. Our two rocks hadn't lived such things, but as soon as they would see another rock go by, they would ask it to tell what it had seen.
The two rocks couldn't see each other often. They had to obey the Great Gravitational Law, that decided where they'd go, when and at what speed. They had to follow larger objects and attract smaller ones. It was always the same thing. But the two rocks ended up meeting each other, one day, between two orbits.
"Tell me your story," they had both asked when they saw each other, and both had been surprised. They were usually the one to ask that question. So, they both started, and stopped at the same time. They started to laugh.
"Do you ask this to every rock you meet?" asked one.
"Of course. You?" the other said.
"Always! Have you heard a lot of stories?"
"Plenty! And you?"
"Tons! Tell me one first, and then I'll tell you mine."
And so they did. The two rocks told each other stories, one after the other, until the Law separated them. So they promised to do it again whenever they'd see each other.
It became a habit. When they'd see each other from afar, even from very far, both rocks cried to get the other's attention, and started telling storied from so far away they had to yell to be heard. And when it was time to go separate ways again, they tried to leave as slowly as possible, so that the moment would be longer. Since there could be decades before they saw each other again, they often had a lot of new stories to tell each other. But after several meetings, they eventually ran out of stories to tell. So one of the rocks had an idea.
"The planet that was blown up by that huge asteroid, what if that was where the little comet I told you about came from?"
And the other added, stunned. "Of course! How many moons did it have, remind me?"
And the two rocks suddenly had an infinity of new stories to tell, not stories they were told but stories they imagines, inspired by what they knew. When one didn't know what to come up with, the other rebooted the whole thing with a new idea, funnier and more interesting than the first one. The two rocks shared a universe of stories, so numerous and different nobody remembered what was true and what wasn't.
But then, one day, as one of the rocks saw the other and cried out to it to come and join it, it realized the other wasn't shouting, that it was going slowly, that it was sad.
"What's the matter?" it said when the other was close enough to hear.
"Every time I go around this system," the other explained, "I slip past a little planet, a little bit closer each time. Last time, I barely made it. Next time, I am sure I will crash into it, and I won't be able to see you again."
The rock didn't understand at first. Then, when it understood, it felt overwhelmed with sadness. "That's not possible! You could try to avoid it one more time! Just once!"
"I'm sorry, friend, but it's probably the last time we are together."
So, for the first time, the two rocks spent their meeting in silence, going as slow as possible, gazing at each other and praying to see each other again. The meeting was way too short, and soon it was time to go separate ways again.
"Goodbye, friend. Remember our stories, alright?" the rock said before leaving again.
And the other rock, the one that circle around a comet, just refused to say goodbye. Instead, as it saw its friend leaving, it dug deep into its own strength and, in a desperate attempt, disobeyed the Law to take the same direction the other had taken. It didn't want to lose the other storyteller.
The other rock saw it follow, amazed but glad to had its friend with it. "You are going to be in trouble!"
"I don't care!"
And this is how the two storytelling rocks, one following the other, started their last trip around the Sun. They joked about being two rebels trying to overtake the unfair power of the Law and the merciless reign of the Sun. They told each other someday anarchy would prevail in the universe, and all the celestial bodies would be free to go wherever they felt like going and to follow whoever they wanted to follow. Everyone let them dream, since they wouldn't live for very long anyway. Nobody ever heard again of the rocks that fell down.
Soon, too soon, the two rocks saw approaching the little blue planet they were going to crash into. It was pretty, from afar. It had a single, pale, tiny moon that greeted them both when they raced past it.
"I'm scared," one said.
"Me too," the other said.
"So it's over?"
"That's a shame, we knew so many stories. Nobody will hear them now."
"Maybe there are other storytelling rocks out there, and we didn't meet them."
"Maybe there are two just like us, and they are both in orbit around a planet, and they are always together."
"Maybe they'll actually manage to rebel against their sun."
"Maybe they'll break the Law in the entire universe."
"I love you."
"I love you too."
And as they said this, both rocks felt irresistibly sucked down by the gravity of the planet its inhabitants called Earth.
No space rock knows how painful it is to get through an atmosphere. You're surrounded by millions, billions, millions of billions of atoms, too small to be seen, yet so many they scratch and scratch the surface. It burns like a sun, it harms, it hurts. The two rocks, as they fell, sincerely thought they were dying. They felt themselves burn and crumble away, leaving behind them a trail of bits of themselves, like two little comets.
Then one of the rocks hit the earth, and the pain slowly fainted. At first, it was surprised that it was still alive. Then it looked around. There was sand around it, and other rocks, big and small, and even rocks that didn't look like rocks. But it looked weird itself now. It had burned so much while going through the atmosphere it had become tiny, ridiculous, a speck of what it used to be, and it was all black now, like coal, and on the white sand you could only see it. There was liquid water, a little further away, and it started to dream it could bath in it to cool off after its fall.
The other rock was gone. Maybe it had burned completely. Maybe it had fallen somewhere else. It didn't know. It was alone. All alone. Had it had eyes, it would have cried. It thought it could stay with the other until its last moments, but now it was alone, without any way of finding it. So the rock didn't say anything. And let itself live quietly on the white beach.
Time went by. Sometimes, the planet's inhabitants would come on the beach and walk around it. It listened, in silence. One day, a child picked it up and sat it at the top of a sandcastle. It wasn't the first time. But then, when the sandcastle crumbled apart, the child found it again and brought it back to their grandmother who was reading in a deckchair. And the grandmother agreed to keep it.
She wrapped the rock in a handkerchief and dropped it inside her pocket. The rock could see anything anymore, it was even lonelier, and the tissue wrapping it up was rubbing against it and reminded it of the time it fell into the atmosphere. It hoped it wouldn't last for too long. But when the grandmother eventually freed it, it wasn't on the beach anymore.
She set it on a dusty shelf, above a desk, in a small bedroom. The walls were beige, the curtains were blue, and the wooden floor would shine every morning when sunlight flooded the room. There were a computer, books, a globe and picture frames. On the shelf, around it, there were plastic trinkets, seashells, an old varnished chestnut.
In that bedroom, people came and went. Usually, they were young. Their nose in papers. Staying awake even when the moon greeted them through the window. Never more than one at the same time, but they never stay for too long. One year, two years, and they left. The grandmother that came to clean up every couple days ended up leaving as well. The rock wondered where she had gone but never got an answer. A younger woman replaced her. When the room was empty, she would come inside to cry, sometimes. The rock felt sad for her, but still kept quiet.
The young people coming and going through the bedroom knew a lot of things. The rock was curious, and from its shelf it could see everything they did. Some struggled with weird symbols on white boards and drew on squared paper. Some compared tree leaves pictures and carried around cages with white mice in them. Some knew very long words and what they meant. Some used very long words to mean something. And the rock listened, and learned what they knew. After all, what else could it do on its shelf?
One day, one of those young people noticed it. He took it in his hands and looked at it up close. "Ma'am," he said to the woman. "Isn't that a meteorite?"
"I don't know, maybe?"
The rock thought it was a pretty word to say it came from space, but it was still easier to just say "space rock".
"It looks nice, you should put it in a museum."
"Is it worth it? It's just a rock."
"Maybe to you, but it would be of more use somewhere people can see it, instead of locked up in a student's room."
He put the rock down, and it thought the woman was probably going to accept. Which was good for it had never seen a museum.
The woman took it there one week later. As the grandmother had done before her, she wrapped it up in a handkerchief and put it in her pocket. The rock thought earthlings had really weird ways of carrying things around. When it was free again, it was blinded by the white light of a small lab. A big man with a mustache and round glasses was staring down at it from behind a huge magnifying glass. He examined it for a moment, then wrote something on a notebook before putting it in a plastic box, with other rocks.
The rock wondered if that was really a museum, it didn't look at all like what he'd imagined. The room was empty, there was nothing to see. But the big man eventually picked up the box and left the lab, and this time it really was a museum.
They followed corridors, climbed up stairs, and the rock wondered where they were going like that. It could see things behind windows and tiny tags, but it still didn't talk. The big man eventually stopped inside a small room with dark walls and planet posters. He opened the box and took the rocks out, one by one, to set the down on different shelves, behind different tags. And when he was done, he left without looking back.
No rock talked in the room. Rocks are not usually talkative, but these ones seemed to have forgotten they could speak. So the rock kept quiet for it didn't have anyone to talk to.
Soon, earthlings started getting in and out of the room. They looked at the different rocks. Some had big curious eyes, and some looked bored. The rock was bored too. It missed the other storytelling rock. It had been years since they'd talked. It wondered for a second if, like the other rocks, it didn't know how to do it anymore.
Then it suddenly hear a familiar voice cry in the room.
"I've known black holes that weren't as boring as this place!"
Most people in the room started looking around, wondering who had said that out loud. It was quite funny, but the rock didn't pay attention because it knew who the voice belonged to.
"Is that you, friend?"
"Yes! Yes, it's me! Where are you, friend?"
It was the other storytelling rock's voice. The rock couldn't believe its ears and scanned the shelves. "Here! Here! The top shelf!"
"I can see you! Can you see me? I'm right in front of you!"
And the rock did see, on the shelf right in front of it, another rock like it. Had it not talked, it would have never recognized it, the poor rock had also become black and tiny, like a piece of coal. But the rock was filled with joy from having found its friend again, even though they had to yell to hear each other, from either side of the exposition.
"What happened? Where were you?"
The rock told it fell on a beach, just like it. A child had picked it up and brought it back home. It was set upon a fireplace, and for years it saw the life of a happy family. Everybody told jokes, parents and children alike, and everybody loved each other. And one day, the eldest daughter had noted this black rock, sitting above the fireplace, came from space and could be useful to a museum.
It had spent several months in this room before cracking, that day, mad from all the silence. Good thing it was also the day the rock had arrived.
It told its story as well. They had so many things to say, so many things to tell. Earthlings were amazed by their conversation. Slowly, they feel silent around them, captivated by the storied the rocks told so well. But the two rocks didn't care, they had finally found each other again.
They told each other old story, invented new ones, and earthlings would come in numbers to listen. Some wanted to take them back to the lab to know how they could talk, but protests rose from the visitors. Soon, the people in charge of the museum gave them their own exposition: the two rocks, together on a small table, stressed by a pretty white tablecloth. They kept talking, and earthlings kept listening to their stories. The one that had spent time in a student's room had learned many things and made the story believable. The one that lived in a family have discovered humor and made the stories genuine and enjoyable.
They loved each other more than ever. Sometimes, they'd stop telling their storied and just compliment each other, tell how much they loved each other, how happy they were to be together again. And they laughed together from how cheesy they sounded, and kept inventing stories, always new, for a public that never grew tired.
And sometimes they'd stop talking together and didn't speak for an amount of time, and earthlings wondered if they didn't love each other anymore. Earthlings were wrong, they still loved each other and would probably love each other until the end, for it was a love that didn't depend on anything, not even themselves. Sometimes, they just didn't want to talk. So they kept quiet together, and in the end, it was like talking. Talking or not wasn't important, as long as they had the choice to do it or not, that they were together and could decide to say whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.
They were never separated again. They stayed together, in that museum, talking and not talking, forever. When there'd be no more earthlings to listen to them, they'd still be there. And when the sun would die, millenniums later, taking with it all of its closest planets, the two rocks would still be together, telling the thousands of stories they imagined.