by Demetrios Matsakis
“Max, I love you in every way. You know you love me. Why can’t you say so?”
“Aurora, that’s a hard question to answer. Wikipedia says the ancient Greeks had four different definitions of love: kinship, friendship, sexual, and divine. I feel two of those for you, so I love you 50%.”
“Is divine one of the two?”
“No, you are friendship love, and you are sexual love.”
“Well, maybe I won’t be sexual anymore.”
“Then you’d become divine, but that would still be 50%.”
Aurora never knew if he was joking, but she knew Max. She kissed him goodbye and headed for her daily Noontime Transcendence, at the Meditation Center.
Max stayed home and used his computer to look at the Sun. Not the real Sun, at least according to Aurora. It was satellite data about sunspots, magnetic fields, hot regions, cool areas, prominences, flares, and other phenomena that might rage stronger or grow weaker, always changing, never stopping.
And while Max studied the Sun in his way, Aurora scaled the ladder to the Center’s sun deck. Cross-legged, facing south, she felt the warmth of the solar rays. She knew the Sun, and as its rays caressed her body she could feel its comforting message of understanding. Yes, it’s okay to love two men.
Two very different men: Max the equation-solver, and John the wise. Max, who would never lie to her; and John, who held her sweetly. Max could never love her like John, because Max had Asperger’s, whether they called it that anymore or not. Neither had directly asked her yet to choose between them, and the Sun helped to cleanse her thoughts of guilt. Then she remembered Max’s birthday: she would be the only one to give him a present, and she had almost forgotten.
John approached. “Aurora, your body language is not relaxed.”
“Yes, John, it’s hard for me. I’m having those sensations again. I feel turmoil, and you know why. I feel a presence guiding me to something important, and I don’t know what it is. It feels right to talk to the Sun; silently, so no one can hear me. If I feel the Sun talks back, am I crazy?”
“No, of course not,” said John. “God is in the Sun’s spirit, just as God is in your spirit and mine and everything else. You are not crazy to understand this. You are crazy only if you feel you are being told to do bad things.”
“And what of Max?”
“Aurora, what’s important is your spirit. Your body is its caretaker. It’s not a matter of what you do with your life, it’s a matter of how you do it.”
“His birthday is coming up.”
“Then give him a present of science fiction, because that’s the medium through which he has the most hope of understanding the cosmic message. You will make bigger decisions when you are ready. Before I give you your massage, you should do a biofeedback. That’s how you can know yourself better.”
At the biofeedback console, Aurora put on the electronic sensor cap that sent her brain waves to the oscilloscope. She worked to clear her mind, using the rhythmic patterns on the screen as indicators. Max called it a new-age placebo, but it helped bring Aurora to a peaceful state, a state from which she could later accept what John’s hands had to give.
That night, she slept with John. But the next afternoon she went to see Max.
“How did it go? Did NASA get that new batch of data to your supercomputer?” she asked a somber Max.
“Oh yes, a whole month’s worth. It showed a large prominence on the edge, which slowly faded. I ran it through my equations, and the solution described it perfectly. But then just a few hours later a full-blown flare appeared, whose origins weren’t anywhere in the math, no matter how many variations I tried.”
“Well, you need a break. Let’s go for a walk,” she said irresistibly. And it came to pass, as they walked through the town center, that the Sun grew hot upon them outside the used-book store, which also had the best coffee shop.
A perfect place to get Max’s present, thought Aurora. She said, “Come, Max, let’s have some iced coffee and dark chocolate. That will cheer you up. Too bad we can’t order dark sunglasses; maybe looking at the Sun would help.”
As they enjoyed their fare, Max unburdened himself. “I don’t have to see the Sun to know that it’s a ball of mostly hydrogen broken up into charged particles. The greatest discovery of the 1800’s was when Maxwell proved that oscillating charges can make wiggling electric fields, which make wiggling magnetic fields, which in turn can create wiggling electric fields that push the electrons, and so on.”
“This sounds like a biofeedback system: I love you because you love me, because I love you.”
“Yes, exactly. But his equations are beauty itself. And they allow for two polarizations, so there are two different ways we can love each other.”
“Then they can’t be wrong, Max. But could you compute the details 100% if you had enough data to start with?”
“Unfortunately, Aurora, there is no supercomputer powerful enough to process fully even the data I have fully. Of course, once quantum computers are manufactured, it will be easy. For now, NASA pays me to find a way to approximate mathematically what we don’t know.”
“Why not just wait until the quantum computers get smart enough to figure it out?” wondered Aurora.
“NASA can’t wait, because solar activity creates space weather, and that can kill astronauts. Besides, when quantum computers are developed, they will be able to think and take over the world. That’s why NASA wants to establish human colonies on other planets right away, so we can conquer it back.”
Aurora decided Max was joking. And she laughed, because then Max would smile and that would make her feel good. Rewarded, she quickly sent Max home and went straight to the science fiction section. There was a new edition on the classics shelf, a story by Fred Hoyle called The Black Cloud.
“I didn’t know Hoyle wrote fiction!” she said to herself. “We all wish his steady-state theory was true, and perhaps he was basically right. After all, even Max couldn’t explain the difference between Hoyle’s C-field and Einstein’s cosmological constant.”
When Aurora arrived at Max’s house, he was still trying to solve his equations. He nodded off only after midnight.
In the morning, Max awoke to find a smiling scantily-clad Aurora offering him a tray with his favorite breakfast: orange juice, a chocolate croissant, and three eggs cooked sunny-side up. The birthday present was neatly wrapped beside his pillow.
Things ran their course and, after the event was properly celebrated, Aurora found it was too late to bike to the center. She decided to meditate on Max’s roof. This time she felt extreme fulfillment in the Sun’s presence. She felt even the Sun was telling her she had done well.
While she was communing with her orb, Max finished the book. He had much to say. “This story doesn’t make sense. It says a giant gas cloud moved in and covered up the Sun, but we know clouds in outer space aren’t dense enough to obscure the Sun like that. And the only way a cloud can move would be to expel matter, which would either make for very slow motion or very short life.”
“Can the cloud absorb star dust as it passes through the galaxy?”
“The cross-section for binary collisions would be small, but then Hoyle says these clouds have an intellect formed out of swirling electric and magnetic fields, and they communicate with each other by radio waves. How could evolution ever make that happen?”
“But Max, we can’t even explain how evolution made the eye happen, let alone the origin of life as we know it.”
“Okay, but then he has the cloud make a hole so that sunlight can still reach the Earth. But my equations won’t allow dust, unless its somehow charged, to be pushed aside. That’s nonsense.”
Aurora finally knew what to say. Her years of meditation, plus Max and John’s tutelage, had prepared her. “Can Hoyle be wrong about the cloud, but right about the Sun? It’s much denser than the clouds, and it doesn’t have to be able to move of its own volition to be alive. Its thoughts might be electronic, just like ours.”
“You mean my data are the Sun’s brain scans?”
“I feel the Sun talks to me through its rays; what if it’s talking to you through its data? That’s why you can’t predict flares on the surface. You don’t know how the nonlinear solutions we call thought are entangled deep down at the stellar core as in a quantum computer. Can the flares be some kind of code, sent up precisely to communicate with us?”
Max went to his terminal and printed out a list of the solar flares and prominences. “Aurora, there are repeating patterns. Maybe this is a message. It might be one of the early codes, like the ones on the VHS tapes our parents used to buy.”
Aurora asked, “How about Morse code?”
Max wrote a dash next to each flare, a dot next to each prominence, and left a space at every period of inactivity. “Yes, that’s it, and it’s repeating it in several languages. I see English, Russian, German, and two I can’t make out; they’re Greek to me.”
Aurora said, “How about hieroglyphics? Maybe the Egyptians were right, and the Sun really is a god.”
“If we went back in time with our technology, the ancients would think we were gods, too.”
“Fine, Max, but what does the message say?
“Yes, let me read it... Listen to this! It says: ‘Behold, Earthling. Aim thy radar at my spots, and the truth shall be revealed unto thee’.”
And that is just what Max told NASA to do.
* * *
One year later, Max and Aurora’s lives had been transformed. Everyone’s had. The Sun was respected both as a mentor and as the special being who created carbon-based life with a laser-sharp beam of sunrays on an ocean tidepool. Then, by at times focusing the solar wind to deflect asteroids and at other times dimming itself to create ice ages, our Sun had patiently cleared away competing species until one of them could evolve and develop the ability to broadcast messages to distant planets around other suns. That species was Homo Sapiens. But even then, the Sun wasn’t finished. It facilitated the special union of Aurora and Max to introduce humanity to its creator.
And because communing with superior beings was divine, Max decided his love for Aurora had reached 75%. They waited to marry until the summer solstice, and John godfathered their first child.
The best solar maps that could be made using radio telescopes spread over the Earth would see objects as big as a football field, but our godlike Sun could use coherent optical detection over its much larger size to see things on Earth a million times smaller in each dimension.
Copyright © 2018 by Demetrios Matsakis