]> In Finland

In Finland


Part 9 of 11
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This is a blog of various impressions and experiences during the first of my settled life in Finland, home of my Finnish vaimo, in 2010-2011 and 2013-.


The Rocket

March 21, 2015

It is deep in the dead of night. That time when even the owls and strange nocturnal birds have ceased chirping, and there is no more movement in the underbrush. Silence is absolute. Living things do not stir, nor does it seem possible they will ever stir again. The witching hour.

A crystal chill pervades the air: for it is winter, and hard freeze has come. A wind-blown blanket of snow has rendered the land unto trackless waste, but it is still now. Whatever heat is left seeps from mammalian bones. Hope has been receding for some time and now it is nearly gone. True, the stars shine, but they provide cold comfort.

And yet.

Somewhere, deep in the darkness where none may find it, a Rocket is being fueled. Dhochos is its name. Some call it Imera, and others Dagh, but there are others who say that all these are derivations, and that its true name is Anbar.

Whatever men may choose to call it, the Rocket stands now, tall and quiet, in the darkness. An edifice and a machine at the same time, lit by a single light at its base. Without the light we would not be aware of the ghostly mists swirling lazily around the sides, emanating from fat hoses snaking from points in the ground over and up to attachments on the Rocket. It is cold out here yes, deep winter, but that cold is as nothing compared to the chill that courses inside those tubes. Liquid oxygen, hydrogen. Molecules that normally fly free, bouncing around beyond all restraint, now sapped of their energy until they lie together in a soup, sloshing listlessly against one another.

And yet it is that cold that will generate the hottest fire man has ever known.

The hoses carrying the cold to end all cold snake up, passing over the rise of a great launching pad, built of minerals taken from the depths of the Earth. Minerals that were forged in fires ancient beyond all history, and so are able to resist any heat made by man.

Although it is the only such launch pad in the world some still fancy it has a number, as if somehow to distinguish it from other similar facilities, although there are assuredly none. Not even those fools who think themselves wisest care to voice an opinion as to what that number might be. Yet they cannot restrain themselves from speculating (what fool can remain silent after all) that it is nondescript, like for example the number 39, with no particular qualities to remark upon, and that it may even have a qualifier, like a letter 'A', for instance, to further emphasize its lack of identity. (That such indistinctness in the name of something so significant may in fact render it even more distinct and imbued with personality is something fools would never pause to consider, however.)

Be that as it may, the Rocket sits upon the launch pad being fueled, for, still and frozen though this time may be, processes are in motion. Even now the days and hours are being counted away towards its launch. It is dark now, but it is not the darkest yet. It is said that final, eternal moment is when it leaps to the sky.

***

Time passes. The Rocket has been fueled, the hoses retract away. For a moment, all is still.

***

And then, suddenly, although no visible signal has been given, the Rocket ignites! First one engine, then another, and another, until five mighty tongues of brilliant yellow-orange flame gout forth, scorching the pad. The sound of thunder begins to rise.

At first, amazingly, nothing happens. But soon the character of the flame changes, going from bright orange to purplish blue. Somewhere underground a temperature sensor clicks over, and on the surface valves open, and water gushes out onto the pad's base, turning instantly to steam. And the rocket, slowly but amazingly surely, begins rising.

A few last hoses tear off the sides as it ascends, and it takes nearly ten seconds for the length of the rocket to traverse that of the tower and for the lower fins to clear its tip. But already it is picking up speed. First it separates itself from the giant, billowing cloud of steam that has risen up to engulf the launch tower, and then it surges further upward. Before a minute has gone it is high up in the sky, a bulb and spear point riding a bright tongue of fire. Despite its distance it continues to move visibly, reaching higher and growing smaller, until after a second minute has passed it has dwindled to a point of light and then is gone.

***

To those on board the rocket, however, the story is different. These people, known only as the Suom, lie on compression couches facing up towards the sky. They cannot sit, cannot stand, for the force of the rocket's acceleration would send them collapsing painfully to the floor. Gravity plus-plus. In fact, before that acceleration comes, when the rocket first ignites, they feel more vibration than pressure. But as the rocket tears loose from the pad and begins to ascend, they are pressed at first gently and then increasingly more strongly down onto the couches.

Oak

At first the journey is carried out mainly in darkness. Only every once in a while are there brief glimpses of light. But slowly, as the rocket forges upward, these start to grow longer. This light starts out as a strange deep blue / violet, then a deep red component enters in and begins to brighten.

The blue fades into the background, until soon all that is left is a glowing rose with orangish overtones. Similar, maybe, to glowing embers, but somehow different, telling of new beginnings rather than a fading end. It is a light that speaks of the dawn, of fires of the forges of creation rising in the distance. It tells of hatching, of growing. Above all it speaks of life.

Snow as White as Pearl

The red-orange glow is only there for the briefest of moments, but in that time it imbues the hearts of those who ride on the rocket with a sacred trust, a faith in the eternal resurgence of life, that is capable of overcoming the dark, frozen night already being left behind below with a sure, steady strength that will not fade or falter.

It is still cold. Although the rocket is surely insulated the cold still seeps in. It is still possible to die even now, to be gripped and pulled back down by the fingers of cold to a long dark sleep, and the Suom know this. They cannot relax but must keep their energies about them.

Earth Goal

The red-orange glow is gone, and now the periods of light (they are no longer as brief as flashes) have taken on a pale blue quality. They are noticeably brighter than before as well. There is something of the nature of sky in their color, of open space, the beginnings of possibility. After a while a red component begins to come again as well, but this time it brightens quickly to a burning orange, then yellow. For the first time it is light almost as much as it is dark.

The Leveling

For a while now the pressure from acceleration has been getting lighter and lighter, and now it disappears completely. In fact there is no force at all pressing the Suom down into their couches; if it were not for the straps fastening them there, they would float away. The rocket is turning, flipping end over end to face its mighty engines in the direction towards which it travels. It is a time of absolute peace inside the capsule, and yet it is now travelling faster than it ever has before.

The Burning

With that speed comes a corresponding increase in the growth of the light. Now the sky is bright well more than half of the time, and with each flash it grows noticeably longer. A sense of overflowing abundance begins to grow.

Now the yellow-orange color begins to fade, replaced with white-ish blue. It is incredibly, brilliantly bright, the light firing through the windows like sweeping lasers, eradicating shadows in all directions. With the light comes also warmth, and the Suom start to peel off layers of clothing. Where their skin is exposed to the sun it drinks in warmth, but in the shade it still grows rapidly cold.

Opening Labors at Summer's Dawn

Now the rumbling has started up again; liquified fuel courses through pipes of steel, accelerated by whining turbopumps and then heated around the edges of the nozzle until it is ejected, screaming into gas, into the flaming maw itself. The rocket is firing now in the opposite direction, pushing to blunt the blinding speed it has acquired.

Still the light is growing. The white-ish blue is gradually deepening. Through the windows of the sides, beyond the ghostly blue flame of the rocket, a point of light is becoming visible, set alone against the black vacuum.

Gradually this light expands. It is not clear what it is -- less brilliant than a star, but brighter than a planet; energies stream out from somewhere beyond the universe that we know.

Standing Still

The rumbling begins to soften, and then it dies away completely. Pure, unadulterated light streams through the windows at all times now. It is brilliant white, and yet at the same time carries the character of deepest blue. It is brighter than it has ever been, and yet it has lost all of the harshness it had when it came first bursting through the windows during the Burning.

Now the rocket is turning, turning once more, and soon it is noticed that there is again a pull of gravity. The turning stops. A sharp clunk, then a rocking settling. The straps release, then retract into receptacles on the sides of the couches. The Suom are free.

Silence. Then the doors swing open.




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