Here is not my home. My mind burns with the impulse to leave, to flee as fast as I can to places unknown and alien. Places where human feet have never walked, where human corruption has not yet distorted that natural beauty of the universe. Where the signs of my own sins are nowhere to be found. I look to the sky, wondering what I would find if I could simply tell gravity to loosen its hold on me.

To float, to float endlessly through the dark and empty vastness until, at last, I find myself in a place where there is no one like myself. Perhaps the hills, the trees, the grass, the sky will all be colors that they could not be here, on this Earth that is not my home. I could wander forever. Oh, the smell of unpolluted, unadulterated air! The cleanliness, the purity, the beauty.

What wonder would I find, wandering that new place? Would it be as I dream, a civilization that has harmlessly integrated with nature? A place that has found something close to true peace and happiness?

I would look to a tree, grab a fruit from its branches, fill my hunger with the taste of something new. Find a creature unlike any I’ve seen before, perhaps something like a bird mixed with a fox. I could spend hours waiting patiently until it knew I would not hurt it, then it would slowly approach me, eat the fruit from my hand, nuzzle its feathered ears into my chest.

As I ponder this, a being appears in front of me, a woman; blue lights glow around her. A glass helmet encircles her hairless head while red robes cover her body, fluttering about in a wind I cannot feel.

“Is this your home?” She asks with a calming voice.

“I do not think it is.”

She reaches out her hand.

“Wander the cosmos with me.”

I grab her hand. The blue light surrounds me, warms me. Faster than possible, we burst free of the gravity that has bound me for too long. We pass Mars, pass Pluto; asteroids rush past us. Nebulae, black holes, protostars come into sight then disappear behind us.

We begin to slow; a planet appears below us. Brown-red continents surrounded by green water. White clouds swirl across a stretch of islands. We burst though the atmosphere, land amid a city grand and beautiful. Hundreds of creatures thinner, taller, and more regal than any human I’ve seen walk along glistening streets, smiles on faces and eyes aglow with joy. Buildings rise high above, vines stretching from each, connecting them to towering trees. The manufactured integrated seamlessly with the natural.

We walk through the crowd; they wave and smile at us. Speak in a language foreign and soothing. Our feet cross from smooth pavement onto luscious yellow grass. A tree, its trunk a hundred feet or more around, casts a cooling shadow over us. Thick branches cover its green bark. Bright, white-blue fruit dangles amid yellow leaves.

Two little ones pass a hovering disc back and forth as their elders pick the glistening fruit off the taller branches. One of them throws the disc too hard and it whizzes past the other. It strikes the tree, bounces off at an angle, hits me in the head, and falls to the ground.

I bend down and pick it up. It’s as light as paper and hums softly in my hands. One of the little ones waves and smiles at me, says something I do not understand, but it must be a greeting. I toss the disc back and it floats gently into their hands. Their elders turn and wave at me, and they walk away with the little ones, nibbling on the fruit.

My companion beckons me to a bench. I sit next to her and we watch the creatures picking fruit, playing games, smiling. A warm breeze shuffles through the grass, gently shakes the branches. Some high hanging fruit falls off, and little ones run to grab it, laughing.

“What do you think?” She asks.

“Beautiful. Joyful. Pure.”

“Like home?”

“Is this not how home should feel?”

She smiles, looks at the crowd, and gently claps her hands. As soon as the sound hits my ears the skin and insides of all in the crowd become translucent. In the center of each, within the chest cavity, a ball made of twisting lines. Somehow, I know it is the soul. And each soul is made of a jumble of light and dark. Of joy and sorrow.

One of the creatures, shorter than the rest, walks towards the tree, picks up a piece of fallen fruit. His soul has but the tiniest shred of light, of joy. The rest is thick darkness. He pulls something from his jacket, points it into the crowd. Light and noise erupt from it. Those in the crowd collapse in spatters of blood, one by one. Screams fill the air.

Tears fill my eyes. She grabs my hand, and we rise back into the sky, leave the atmosphere. I look behind us, watch the planet grow smaller. I can’t stop the tears from falling.

We stop somewhere in the middle of the Universe, floating in the midst of nothing. She looks at me; I try to quiet my sobs.

“Why?” is the only word that escapes my mouth.

“Darkness,” she casts her gaze around us, and I realize I only see the faintest bit of light, off in the distance. “Darkness exists across the universe.”

“But there’s so much of it.”

“Yet it’s not all there is.”

She grabs my hand again, and we speed off through galaxies, past comets and dying stars. We stop somewhere else in the universe, looking on a mass of gas and dust. A nebula. It gently lights up the darkness surrounding it. Before my eyes, time speeds up like a time lapse.

Gravity begins to pull the cloud of dust and gas, and the mass rotates. Faster and faster. Heat radiating from it, it slows, and brightens until it looks like what I always imagine Earth’s sun looks like up close. As its light increases, the darkness grows farther away but never disappears.

My companion squeezes my hand, looks at me, smiles with mouth and eyes. The star glows brightly for what seems like hours before it starts to spread out and dissipate, slowly turning red. The gas spreads out more as something in the center shrinks. The red surrounding it turns into a ring of blues, purples, and greens. The center fades until it is dark.

She looks at me again but does not speak.

“Seasons of dark, seasons of light,” I say.

But that’s not exactly right. During the star’s entire lifespan, there was darkness and light, light and darkness. Not once did the light completely overpower the dark. But the dark never completely overcame the light.

She nods, places her hand on my cheeks, pulls me in and hugs me. A bright flash blinds me, and I’m back in my room. From out of sight, I hear my friend whisper her goodbyes.

I walk to my window, pull aside the blinds. It’s still night. The street below is full of people walking. Shadows stretch out from streetlamps. People laugh, hug, high five. I wait all night, for the terror I saw across the universe to repeat itself outside my window.

The tragedy never comes, though I know it will, sooner or later. But for now, there is light in my city. For now, there is calm in my home.

I smile and go to sleep.