Set the controls for the heart of the sun, Pink Floyd.


All he sees is orange glow. Heat on his face, almost burning. Under his palms, the prickling of grass. The smell of hot fabric, reminiscent of the freshly ironed pajamas of his childhood. In the distance the tiny voices of birds going about their business. This is the final day.

10 years. That is how long it took them. The so-called ‘goldilocks zone’ had finally yielded a planet with the potential to become their new home. Technology had been developed to support the population that arrived there first. Billionaires had competed to pay for the best and brightest to work on plans for sophisticated habitats. They could see the world was finished for humans, all resources stripped, too many people, not enough food.

The distances were almost unimaginable, but most of those who were going wouldn’t experience anything but a few months in space. The real turning point in the search for a new planet was the parallel development of stasis technology – the real hurdle was always how to keep ‘feeding’ people, because even in hibernation, energy is used up. It’s why bears need to get so fat before they huddle into their dens over winter. But humans are nothing if not persistent when there is an urgency to the research. And the speed of ‘thinking’ when AI systems began to investigate the possibilities was exponential, far beyond the capacity of human thought, though initially of course, prompted by that.

Life on earth went on, for nature, though abused almost to death, persisted. There were changes. But as the resources diminished for humans, and once thriving cities began to be abandoned, she crept in and slipped between the bricks and mortar, cracked the skins of concrete and bitumen, wrapped her arms around steel and slowly climbed towards the sun.

Amidst this, the scientists and billionaires and politicians planned. It would not be possible for everyone to go, though the numbers would be significant. Ordinary people knew nothing of this. Their days were bound by surviving, by escapist entertainment, and news of the latest natural disaster that they just had to ignore – no one felt they had the power to do anything, to change anything; so, why worry? The sun was still in the sky, and the sea seemed the same, though perhaps a little closer to the road than before, and the beach a little narrower than childhood memories of it.

He wondered whether there was anything he would miss. Walking through the haze of the day, his steps took him through the jagged crowds, pushing and pulsing with sick energy, plugged in, switched off, slaves to the waves, slaves to the sounds of just a few madmen, slaves to their own empty shells of lives. The crumbling mossy stones of an overgrown churchyard were ignored, crowded either side by half empty monuments to the dollar. And he walked, and looked, and wondered.

He passed a man alone, quietly talking, talking, talking to no-one, staring at a wall.

That last day was warm. The final team had been chosen and all of the preparations, the supplies, the survivors were ready to go. There was just time for one last look, one last feel of the warmth of the sun and the breathing of earth’s air and the sound of earth’s creatures. Perhaps someone would return one day, but it would not be anyone who was leaving on this trip. Perhaps earth would be saved by this exodus, and the vacuum left by those fleeing would cause an implosion as those who remained failed to manage the collapse of industry. Then Gaia would return to her rightful state.


Of course, it was the arrogance of them that led to that final disaster. Pushing, pushing, ignoring warnings that more testing needed to be done. The lone astronaut looked dispassionately at the screen, noting the last winks of light, of life, flicker and go out one by one.

All he sees is orange glow. Heat on his face, almost burning. Under his palms, the slick, sweaty plastic. The smell of hot metal, reminiscent of an ancient forge. In the distance the tortured voice of the ship as it hurtles through space. This is the final day.

He has set the controls for the heart of the sun.


Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun

Little by little the night turns around
Counting the leaves which tremble at dawn
Lotuses lean on each other in yearning
Under the eaves the swallow is resting

Set the controls for the heart of the sun

Over the mountain watching the watcher
Breaking the darkness, waking the grapevine
One inch of love is one inch of shadow
Love is the shadow that ripens the wine

Set the controls for the heart of the sun

The heart of the sun, the heart of the sun

Witness the man who raves at the wall
Making the shape of his question to Heaven
Whether the sun will fall in the evening
Will he remember the lesson of giving?
Set the controls for the heart of the sun