Thing no.32

2006

The cover has a picture of a planet made entirely of water. The Polish science-fiction writer describes a mission to discover what has happened to the crew of a spaceship that has been investigating this liquid world. It transpires that the entire mass of the planet Solaris is a sentient ocean – a massive unfathomable mind that seems to react to the presence of the scientists but with which they unable to communicate. I have just got to the point when the protagonist has discovered the two survivors from the previous mission still orbiting the planet but seemingly driven mad with hallucinations. The book disappears.

Eventually I find another copy but the cover is entirely different. Although I am still gripped by the unfolding story, the book seems to have changed. The bright cover occupies a different space and vibrates with a different note as it waits beside my bed. The main protagonist is now also visited by solid apparitions from deep within his mind. An old lost love torments him with her physical presence. A failing relationship plays out its disastrous suicidal ending over and over again. The dumb ocean-mind, pulsating beneath the space ship, is bathing the vessel in waves of solid empathy, destroying the souls of the scientists by making flesh their imaginings, their memories and the silent longings of their tiny watery minds.

The original copy reappears and now both books sit next to each other on my bookshelf. Two entirely different experiences, from two entirely different objects.