I stood on the beach for a while, looking out over the sea. It was night and the sky was partially overcast, the undersides of the clouds illuminated by the light of the city behind me and blurring out all but the brightest of the stars. They were more visible near the horizon, beyond the long rolling of the waves. There seemed to be no one beyond me on the beach so I watched in silence for a while then turned and climbed up the wooden steps to the boardwalk.
I had only taken a few steps along it when a nearby door burst open and a laughing trio emerged, two men and a woman. One of them staggered almost into me and I put out a hand to steady him. I don’t think he noticed, but his companion mumbled an apology in my direction then the three of them set off along the boardwalk. I glanced into the noisy bar they had just vacated but let the door swing shut. I was looking for a quieter evening.
I continued on to the main street and stopped on the sidewalk. Crowds of people walked past me; groups of individuals, couples and families walked along the road past brightly lit shops, restaurants and entertainments. Children ran from a nearby arcade and a couple stopped to buy candied treats from a vendor’s window. I briefly looked at a brightly colored jacket displayed in a window before making my way down the street.
A trio of women came by, laughing among themselves. One of them smiled slightly in my direction. I briefly tilted my head then looked away. From the corner of my eye I saw brief disappointment in her face, then she and her companions were gone. I had a brief moment of hesitation then continued down the sidewalk. It was a night of contemplation, nothing else.
Another hundred steps brought me to the next corner and I crossed the street. There was a park here, a small haven of a few scraggly trees and yellowed grass attempting to grow in the sandy soil. A lone bench sat next to an overflowing trash can and I sat on it, watching the crowds continue to walk up and down the street.
They looked at the shops and restaurants and entertainments. They looked at each other. A few of them glanced at the small park with the trees and bench where I sat. None of them looked towards the beach in those places where it was visible through the buildings. None of them looked up. I did, and saw one faint star glowing among the clouds bright with the light of the city around me.
I wondered. Once these people had looked at the sea, fascinated and excited by what might lie beyond it. They had travelled across the sea, bringing the lights and the crowds, the shops and the restaurants and entertainments with them and spread across all the new lands until they were no different than the lands they left behind. And then they no longer looked at the sea because they knew what was beyond it was the same as where they were.
Then they looked to sky and wondered at what might lie beyond it. And so they set out to cross the sky but found out that it was more difficult than crossing the sea. And so they stopped. They decided that there was nothing beyond the sky and turned back to their familiar shops and restaurants and entertainments.
I watched the crowds flow past some more then glanced up again. The clouds were increasing. Soon it would rain and the flowing mist would reveal the lander despite its protective shroud. I would have to leave by then. But there was time. Time to watch the crowds in the hope that some few of them might still feel the urge to look up.