Out of all the planets Aitne had seen, Sol was different...
Aitne had led a tormented life. Two things were her constant companions- an unbearable, lonely ache, and a curious, tickling pull. A pull to somewhere in this universe. Somewhere in this endless mass of bright pricks in the cosmos. Pull and Ache had accompanied her for many, many years...
-Three centuries ago-
Aitne woke. She was lying on a flat white stone, in a world filled with a cold sort of beauty. Warm gas clouds swirled in delicate patterns around her, in hues of blue and brown she had not seen before.
She looked around. Where was everyone?
Then, who am I? Why am I surviving?
She felt the tips of her fingers. They were raw and scratched, but very much whole and human.
Human… why did she know that word but not her own identity? Languages. She knew them all. She knew all about these humans.
Memories flashed through her mind, but they were not hers. Only fragments of knowledge gifted to her from God knows where.
A bustling city, full of creatures who looked just like her. Space probes that did not scratch the surface of the vast expanse of the universe. A flurry of birds screeching into the air, disturbed by a passing car. And these humans food. Hot French onion soups, sugared apple pies, steaming stir-fries, tacos and gyros, sushi, and pasta.
So they must exist, right?
Aitne looked around her bleak surroundings. A human could not survive on this planet, she knew. Her eyes softened. It was a very serene planet. Crisp and cold and unforgiving, yes. But the soaring white cliffs were a wonder to behold. And the hurricane-like clouds that sailed high above her were hypnotizing in their never-ending circles.
Aitne could sense the moon’s light, dazzling as a thousand diamonds just outside the gas layer. She longed to see it.
And just like that, she was there, hovering with her toes just barely skimming the thick clouds of gas. The stars shined bright, billions of them lighting up the sky. But even brighter were the moons. Varying in size, shape, and color, the only thing they had in common was the great white glow that edged its ragged silhouettes, clinging to them like desperate blankets.
Space dust hung limply in the air, in shades of purples, pinks, oranges, even golds. There were colors out here that no human had ever experienced. Human. Aitne frowned. All hopes of being human had been quashed. Yet why did she long for their company so?
She reached out her senses. The next planet was not far. She could sense it, revolving around its golden star.
An image appeared in her mind. A child squatted next to a model solar system.
“Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars…”
Aitne gripped fiercely onto the memory, picturing that solar system in her mind. It was where her kin lived. She would find them.
She willed herself to the next planet over. She hovered over the ball of twisting gases, looking out at her birth planet. It would need a name. She stared at the moons circling it. Tsukichikyu, she decided firmly.
Now to find her kin.
It took Aitne a full century to find Earth. It was a tiny, blue planet with an equally small moon. She willed herself closer but allowed herself to go slowly. It was an instinct by now. Aitne always took time to appreciate a solar system’s beauty, no matter how hurried she was.
She bit her lip. This was it. Her kin. She had her memories of them, but what if they were different than she imagined?
She landed softly on a patch of yellow grass, her toes scrunching up at the touch of the scratchy organism. Smog filled the air, thick and obscuring. The sun glowed red, a perfect orifice patched into the choking sky.
She floated forward, pushing apart the smoke with her pale hands.
Where was everyone?
Akari and Ren rolled around on the grass, laughing. The smog was oppressing, muffling their shrieks of joy and laughter.
“You are such an idiot!”
“You’re more of an idiot if you actually believed me!”
Akari giggled, wiping a tear from her pale green eyes.
“You know we shouldn’t be out here at this time. The smoke’s way too bad.”
“No one’s out here. It’s a perfect time.”
Akari snickered, shutting him up with a soft kiss. Then her eyes widened as she stared over his shoulder.
Ren paused, looking behind him.
“There is someone out here,” Akari confirmed. She stood, brushing grass off her dress.
A figure floated out of the smoke, coming to rest gently on the ground. Her eyes glowed a gentle white, like a mother’s milk. Her skin was dark and smooth, without blemish. Her hair danced behind her, floating in the air like it was syrup. Her lips curved in a heart shape, a pale, strawberry pink.
She was beautiful in an innocent, sad way.
Akari placed her hand in front of Ren’s eyes.
The woman smiled at her. “My kin. Yes?”
Akari frowned. This woman was strange. “People around here usually wear clothes, in case you haven’t noticed.”
The woman smiled. “Thank you, my kin.” She closed her eyes for half a second, and a long, flowing dress appeared around her, decked in colors Akari didn’t know how to explain. She had never seen anything like them. Gossamer threads of fabric flowed behind her, all of the colors of the rainbow, and more sparkling like it had seen a million suns.
“What...are you?” Akari asked.
“I am not sure,” the creature confessed slowly, her hair swimming in circles behind her. “But I think you are my kin. I do not know why.”
“You aren’t human?” Akari asked, frustrated and confused. Who was this lady?
“I am from a distant planet called Tsukichikyu,” the woman in the dress said. “My name is Aitne.”
Akari burst out laughing. Ren chuckled beside her, deep and soulful sound.
“You expect us to believe you’re an alien?”
Aitne frowned. “You do not understand me.” She murmured. “Are you truly my kin?”
Akari ignored her. What a freak, she thought. “Come on, Ren. We’re going. She’s obviously on drugs or something.”
Aitne called out from behind them. “Please, answer me this before you leave!”
Akari rolled her eyes. “Fine.”
“Who has caused this smoke? This parched grass? This noxious air?”
Akari turned back to face the woman, marching up to jab her finger into her chest. “Listen, freak, I know humans are miserable little creatures, but just because you’re in a drugged-up haze, don’t go thinking you’re better than us. You’re human too.”
She turned and stormed off through the smoke, feeling only slightly guilty.
Aitne watched the girl’s back as she faded into the smoke. She had found her kin. So why did the ache not cease? Why did pain not cease to gnaw at her lonely heart?
She was afraid. What if she never knew happiness? What if she was destined to be alone? What if she never found where she belonged?
Was this her existence? Endlessly searching for something that wasn’t there, with no way out?
She looked up at the stars and willed herself to the brightest one. She found herself skimming the surface of a cloudy, mud-and-orange-colored planet.
She was tired. So, endlessly tired…
But she knew there was no way out. Not for her. The pull in her heart would not let go. The pull from this universe would not let go. She loved these worlds too much. She loved the beauty of it too much.
She placed her hand over her heart, where the ache was strongest. Then she looked up to the stars.
She willed herself to the next star in the sky. And the next. And the next.
On that day, after a century of searching already, Aitne made a vow.
She might not know what exactly she was looking for. But she would never stop until she found it.
Out of all the planets Aitne had seen, Sol was different...
The planet was in the farthest reaches of the universe, and after years of searching and memorizing each of the planets and solar systems and stars, Aitne knew something was different. Something was strange.
It was a white and yellow planet, surrounded by rings of meteors. The white was from snow, and the yellow was to be credited to bright flower fields. A vision flickered through her mind.
An endless plain of iridescent, yellow flowers, twisting around each other in a tangle that covered the planet. The sun was warm and yellow- bright, too.
Aitne’s heart nearly stopped. This was it. She paused. Ache and Pull hadn’t felt this pronounced since she had visited Earth.
She approached slowly, three hundred years of habit taking over her. She knew what she would call this planet- Sol. It was her radiant sun, come to end her suffering and pull her towards the light. She could hear a voice- just snippets of a song.
She recognized it- it was a human one. Excitement roared through her. She moved forward slower still. Was this creature singing like her? Not human, but with human memories? She had to know. She paused, sitting to listen to a meteor.
“What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see?
Someday I’ll find it,
The rainbow connection…”
Aitne sighed, resting her head on her hand. The voice was radiant and beautiful, soft, and thoughtful.
“Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices?
I've heard her calling my name…”
Aitne smiled for the first time in her long lonely existence. She could wait and listen a while more. After all, she had waited three hundred years.
For down there was her soulmate.