Brad wrote all the initial music for this one, so I'll let him discuss that. I'll just say that I loved the tune immediately when I heard it. I vaguely recall throwing out a challenge to write with quartal and quintal harmonies instead of the usual tertiary stuff. Brad stomped that challenge nicely.
I wrote the first draft of the lyrics, which Brad also gracefully repaired so they flowed better. The lyrics were inspired by a short story be Kyle Deas called Flare. I first heard it on the Escape Pod sci-fi podcast. I've pasted the story below, along with a link to the podcast, if you want to listen to it. You'll also notice a number of NASA and other space audio samples. NASA has kindly made all their mission audio available and there's a ton on the Internet Archive. Some my recognize the very end of the song as Sputnik.
What struck me most about the story was not just the tragedy portrayed, but the idea that the event was already in the past by the time our main character sees it. I've spent many hours staring into the night sky, awed by the universe. It hurts my brain even more to think that everything I see out in space is in the past. The deeper into space you look, the farther into the past you see. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it. It's reminder that we live for such a tiny sliver of time, and we can only live in the present - the even smaller fraction of time that keeps passing us by. So when it's all done, will you fade, or leave one last flare for someone to see.
I was the kind of boy who always stood evenly on my feet. She was the kind of girl who nibbled on the ends of her pens; she’d have made a great smoker if she hadn’t been brought up so well. She was beautiful. We were sixteen. We got off to a clumsy start; this would prove, for me, to be a theme. But we adjusted quickly to this new thing, to this sudden mingling of our lives and activities. We kissed often, and happily, and in a variety of inappropriate but suitably dim places. We talked for hours; I can’t imagine what about but I remember being interested. And when we had problems we spoke of them in hushed voices and felt very mature, and we delighted in our troubles, and in ourselves.
When she told me she was going on the colony ship to Titan, I was devastated.
“But what about us?” I said, and in the silence she shifted uncomfortably. I felt sick.
“It’s a big opportunity for my dad,” she said. “You think I want to go? I don’t.”
“Then don’t,” I said. “Stay here, with me.”
“I can’t,” she said, and she was right.
We made plans, of course. I was only three years from legal age, and there was always work in the colonies for engineers. She would get her teaching credential, and when I arrived we would marry and work until we had enough money for the return trip. The first year would be the hardest, really: during the journey, when she was on board the ship, it would be too expensive for us to talk. And it was hard. She sent the occasional postcard; they didn’t say much, but it was nice just to hear her voice. But I suffered keenly in her absence, and from her tone I knew she felt the same.
I fell into the habit of sneaking out at night. If there were no clouds, and the lights from the neighbors weren’t too bright, the ship was easy to find. Sometimes I would bring my binoculars, fix them on that dot of light in the sky, think about her out in the darkness. Where are you, I would whisper. Come here. I miss you.
I was one of the few, then, who actually saw the explosion. It was a late-autumn evening, unremarkable save for the chill in the breeze that spoke of winter’s approach. One moment the ship looked as it always did and then there was a pulse, so bright that hurt my eyes. I cried out and dropped the binoculars. I fumbled in the darkness, cursing, then found them and brought them back up to my face. The ship was gone. I searched the sky, frantic, but there was nothing. I screamed and threw down the binoculars, turned and ran toward the house. I had to call someone, tell them what had happened. I had to help her. But a part of me knew that there was nothing anyone could do to help her. The explosion was already minutes past; it was only the flare that still existed for us to see.
It took some time for the official explanation to emerge. A freak accident, they said, a softball-sized bit of flotsam that hit the fuel tank just so. It didn’t much matter to me. I don’t have to sneak out anymore. My parents think that letting me have the run of the place will help the healing process. I don’t know about that. But still I leave the house at night and stand under the stars. I fix my eyes on the spot of darkness, where once there was a spot of light, and I whisper, come here. I miss you.