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AT THE SHORE / Carter Scholz "To myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and again finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." —Sir Isaac Newton At the shore the concordance of times is more vivid than elsewhere. Here future breaks foaming against past, erodes, reorders, casts hot spray into the fitful air of the present. In this record I speak of and speak in a long diminuendo of prose, by which I wish you to understand that my voice is failing, my resources running out. What doors open onto anything but more doors? None I know. I am surrounded by static, silence, charge, change, noise: whose structure can encompass any form. You must also understand that you sent me here—you are responsible. Dr. H. Rosenbloom, his initial a breath, his surname a mockery, late of the Wily Cypher Institute of Advanced Communications, approaches the speed of light in a starship christened Tn m'. The frequency of his communications with Earth is in chronic decline, due to increasing velocity and distance. His last transmission was a week ago, at a Doppler-corrected frequency of 11.32 megahertz. He is not sure that his next transmission will reach Earth at all, owing to increased interference at the lower frequencies, and especially owing to the wideband noise that Jupiter smears through the solar system around 10.5 megahertz. The feeble peep of his signal could be easily lost in this leviathan's wake. The given purpose of the mission is to study the effects of lightlike velocities on the mechanisms of communication. In this, Rosenbloom is supernumerary—the mechanisms themselves conduct the experiments, and record the results. But the agency insisted on his presence. As an expert on information theory, specialist in language, his presence was, they said, invaluable. Rosenbloom shrugged. Perhaps he looked forward to some isolation in which to pursue his own work; perhaps his whole field was at a standstill, and he would welcome the advances made in his time-dilated absence. No matter. He signed on. The ship was launched, some time ago, in the direction of the Big Dipper, up from the subtropical latitude of lift-off in the direction of Dubhe, Merak, Phad, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar, Talitha. These stars, blued and blurred by Doppler shift, he might have seen through the slit of the forward port had he cared to look. He has kept the port closed for weeks. The Missouri Review · 202 In a dream that night he ascends to the bridge of the ship. The ship in fact has no bridge. He has confused it, in the dream, with a house he used to rent in Berkeley, with a skylight in the bedroom, through which he could see the stars. The stars streak past like rainbows, blue in front, red behind, and each speaks a word as it flies: medium, shift, content, variance, domain, range, limit. Next morning he rises to receive his daily instructions from the ship's computer. He does not remember the dream. These instructions are either inspired or insane. Today he is directed to: record static from a certain direction on a certain frequency, transmit the recording in the same direction at twice the frequency an hour later; under acceleration, bounce a rubber ball against the back wall, timing it with a stopwatch; transmit the allemande of Bach's Third English Suite in the direction of Epsilon Eridani; sit without moving and observe the edges of things. He wonders if velocity has garbled the ship's systems, but there is no way to confirm or dispel this doubt, none of the expected signs of malfunction, and no way to speak with Earth but through the suspect systems. So Rosenbloom sits in his spartan chamber awhile and watches the march of nines across the velocity meter. He is accelerating, further from muddy Earth than any et cetera. A yawn. His thoughts are somewhat depleted, centered as they are on the mission, itself centered on a reductio ad absurdum of inquiry. (Linguist R. notes the root...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 201-217
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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