Waiting for Jupiter

“Hey hey hey and goodbye,” he said as he sauntered past, in a daze, in a haze, in a huff. “Not knowing and not seeing are the same things,” he said to me, eyes wide and hands shaking. He’s gone off the deep end this time, i knew, and it was like that from there on out.

He had a theory, you see. A strange theory. He said that we were hurtling towards Jupiter. Yeah, right out of the 100 or so planets in our solar system, WE are the ones hurtling towards certain death. Whatever. How would that happen? We’d been on the same orbit for 500 million years according to our best scientists. Besides, Jupiter had plenty of moons and planetoids to devour before it could even come close to us. And never mind the asteroid belt.

Sometimes, though, even the crazy ones are right. Just because you’re paranoid, a clock twice each day, etc. You know the drill, I don’t have to enunciate or enumerate or elaborate. You get it. And we didn’t.

It started normally. We met with the Cabinet that day and we were in session for several hours with most of the layperson speakers up first, letting their maniacal ideas flow freely. I don’t know why we entertained them.

But him. Him, we should have listened to. He had a fevered pitch, a certain fervor that drove me to really listen and to consider, and to consult the Ministry of Science to see if this whackadoo had some credibility, or at least some validity to his ranting and raving about falling into Jupiter.

I did seek that scientist, and we did some modeling and some calculations, and it turns out, you see, that we ARE hurtling towards certain doom. We are being pulled by the tug of planets, ever so slightly, and when the next 24 planets crash, the gravity of the gas giants will pull us more strongly and push us out of our orbit, outside of Silus 3, trading paths around the star. Trading paths into death and destruction.

We’ve seen many of our brethren perish on other planets. We have had Council meetings to discuss what to do. We thought it just the blind will of destiny that took them and spared us. But it’s not destiny at all, it’s gravity. And now I understand the gravity of the situation all too well, pardon the pun.

And when we changed the variables to account for Silus 3 and the newly discovered tendency of large gas giants to push and pull and change of the orbit of an iron-core planet the size of ours… when we did the math, we stared at each other and sank into our seats.

“The day of reckoning is nigh!” he yelled to all that passed by. Kook. Nut. Whackjob. We called him lots of things, but we didn’t tell anyone the truth. It would just cause a mass panic. We’d done what the other planets had done – we’d refused to give safe harbor to the residents of the other planets that were on collision courses with each other, with the star, or with the giants. And in that, we knew, we would also be denied. So this was it. Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. Just waiting for Jupiter. Waiting to be ripped apart and to fall into the gas giant, falling, falling, until we’re torn to pieces and ultimately crushed.

Jupiter has no surface, just storms that spin and swirl and massive aurorae swirling around the poles from its own magnetic field. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at once.

I shouldn’t be too worried for myself; after all, we think we have another 30,000 years, give or take a few millennia. But my kids, my grandkids, my descendants, all that we’ve built in our civilization… all of it, gone. Undone. Vanishing into Jupiter, another one done, gone down, another one eaten alive.

And, you know, the crazies, they never go away. We tease and poke fun and we mock and we are scornful and derisive. But Jupiter, which appears just smaller than our third moon, is waiting. She’s a sinister, patient mistress, for she has known all along that which we’ve only just discovered. She waits for us as we wait for her. Waiting for Jupiter.

I told my great-grandkids this story in my later years. I told them of the nutjobs and whackaloons, of charlatans and buffoons; they laughed. I died a little inside. I never told them. Never told anyone, but assumed someone would eventually figure it out. They weren’t living – they were waiting. Waiting for Jupiter.