Studying the Sunseers of Titan

A young woman prepares her canoe. She has a name, but not one that can be easily written, so it will be omitted here. Her people communicate only in a language of gestures, having abandoned their vocal chords while designing their new bodies so many generations ago. She finds a tall, straight pillar of water ice from where they naturally grow and fells it with an old carbon blade that hasn’t dulled after a century of heavy use. She shapes each end to a conical point and then slides it into the methane river by the side of her community’s settlement. No one helps her. They don’t even look at her, don’t acknowledge her. It is out of respect. They don’t want to taint her achievement. She must do it on her own.

She straddles the icy javelin and paddles down the river, following the current. She is soon out of sight. The fog is thick coming off the shore. While she’s away, no one will mention her. They pretend not to recognize her sign. But she told me of her journey in the weeks before preparations began.

She would follow the river to where it feeds into the Kraken Mare, and cross the narrow channel to the Mayda Insula. The island is not settled, untouched save for the ritual. Alone, there she will stay—and stay alive—until she can see the sun directly on a cloudless day. The disc of the sun rarely visible, but I’m told the conditions around Mayda make it possible. Then she can return home as an adult; what they call a Sunseer.

Most people here are considered children, though physically they may be full grown and even have children of their own. The Sunseers, who have the rights and privileges and respect of adulthood, earned their status voluntarily. Though most do not return.

My departure is scheduled in three days. If I postpone, it will be a minimum of seven more months on Titan. But I think I may. I believe she will succeed, and I wish to see her again.

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