My heart trembles like a poor leaf. The planets whirl in my dreams. The stars press against my window. I rotate in my sleep. My bed is a warm planet.MARVIN MERCER P.S. 153, Fifth Grade, Harlem New York City, N.Y. (1981)
At first it seemed impossible – a radio signal that came not from Earth but from far beyond the nearest stars. But then the signal was translated, and what had been impossible became terrifying. For the signal contains the information to build a Machine that can travel to the stars. A Machine that can take a human to meet those that sent the message. They are eager to meet us: they have been watching and waiting for a long time. And now they will judge.
First Chapter, First Paragraph
By human standards it could not possibly have been artificial: It was the size of a world. But it was so oddly and intricately shaped, so clearly intended for some com- plex purpose that it could only have been the expression of an idea. Gliding in polar orbit about the great blue-white star, it resembled some immense, imperfect poly- hedron, encrusted with millions of bowl-shaped barnacles. Every bowl was aimed at a particular part of the sky. Every constellation was being attended to. The polyhedral world had been performing its enigmatic function for eons. It was very patient. It could afford to wait forever.
When they pulled her out, she was not crying at all. Her tiny brow was wrinkled, and then her eyes grew wide. She looked at the bright lights, the white- and green- clad figures, the woman lying on the table below her. Somehow familiar sounds washed over her. On her face was an odd expression for a newborn—puzzlement perhaps.