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Spheres by Scott Johnson



Janice held the page with a shaky hand. The litter of numbers and letters blurred before her eyes. I can’t think straight anymore. I need to sleep. She put the sheet on top of a messy pile of yellow pages and pulled them toward her. She shuffled them into order and a page slipped to the floor and when she picked it up, she saw it. This dismissed page outlined the formula.

On a blank sheet of paper, she copied short sequences from this page. Her hand couldn’t write fast enough. Slow down, brain! She wrote, until finally she slumped back in her chair and held her finished work crinkled in her lap. She closed her eyes. He can’t argue with that. 

*

“A Dyson’s Sphere enclosing Jupiter?” The director leaned forward.

           Janice handed him the file. “Yes, sir.”

He leaned back in his chair and eyed the file.

*

They had already entered Jupiter’s orbit by the time Janice and her crew woke from cryo-sleep. The planet was bigger and more colourful than Cassini revealed, but there was no Dyson’s Sphere. This prompted her to cruise north to the pole, ignoring her pilots’ concerns.

The ship’s close proximity to Jupiter gave her an enhanced view of its cloud layers, neatly divided by their colour patterns and alternating jet streams. The first section she saw was a thick, milky swirl of strawberry ice cream that flowed into itself at the speed of a clock’s minute hand. The next section was a silky, psychedelic paisley mosaic of browns, beiges, yellows, and oranges flowing in the opposite direction. And then, another section. This one was a puffy white billowing cloud, more peaceful and languid. She closed her eyes and pressed her hand against the window. A longing suddenly swelled inside her.

“Captain, we are nearing the pole.”

Janice opened her eyes. The north pole’s aurora shimmered hues of blue.

“What is that?” she asked.

The aurora was swimming over a black hollow—a large hole that penetrated deep into the planet. It dilated and closed in synch with her own breathing.

“Take us into that hole. Steady,” she commanded.

“But, Captain!”

“Proceed!”

The ship entered the void, and the darkness swallowed them whole.

*

“June?”

           The hands and numbers of the clock on the wall slowly pulled into focus.

“June.”

The surrounding space felt foreign for a moment. She sat in a recliner before a coffee table littered with notebook paper. A brown, beige, yellow and orange-striped blanket covered her legs and a sunbeam filtered through the blinds, melting strawberry ice cream in a bowl on the lamp-stand beside her.

“June, your son was here.” A uniformed man knelt in front of her. 

“My son?”

“Yes, Tyson was here. He didn’t want to disturb your sleep, so he said he’d be by later.

*

June held a small paper cup containing a small pill and another cup half-filled with water. She sat in her chair while the man stood at her side, but her gaze remained stubbornly through the window on a pink streak that brushed across the sky as the evening slowly turned darker hues of blue. She closed her eyes. A longing stirred inside her. She worked her hand under her silk scarf and massaged her sweaty neck. She tugged at the knot of the scarf and the swirls of paisley slipped to the floor.

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