For as long as I can remember I have had the same recurring dream, sometimes at night, mostly during the daylight hours, occasionally several times a day.
Be me, and picture the scene. You fly around, across and through the entire universe at whatever speed you care to imagine. Your journey begins a billion or so light years from Earth. As you whirlpool about the universe’s edges you zip past the Pisces-Cetus and Sculptor Super-clusters and the voids of Bootes and Capricornus and charge toward Virg0.
At around 100 million light years from Earth you nudge your way through Dorado, Maffei and the unimaginatively named NGC galaxies. When you are five million light years away you encounter all manner of Dwarfs and bump into the Andromeda Galaxy before pushing your way to the Milky Way as you reach the 50,000 light years point.
Inside the Milky Way you give a passing nod to the Arms of Norma, Scutum-Crux, Sagittarius and Orion. Onward you press to a paltry 5,000 light years from your destination and there are Nebulae left, right and centre and Betelgeuse calls out to you as you crawl by. Suddenly you are no more than 250 Light Years away and the bright light in the distance tells you that you are in the Solar Neighbourhood of Vega, Ursa Major and Capella.
Only a dozen or so Light Years to go now as you sail past the stars of Sirius, Wolf, Proxima and Ross, not necessarily in that order. You may well want to do a bit of sightseeing here, as there are some sights to see. A few hundred million miles out you take a quick shufti at Neptune, scratch around Uranus, run rings around Saturn then marvel at the majesty of Mars before being sucked into the atmosphere of your home planet.
Miraculously, you don’t burn up as you gracefully plummet through the nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide then drop through the spheres of Exo, Iono, Meso, Strato and Tropo and into the mix of clouds and bright blue sky. Down the camera goes relentlessly toward its target. High-flying birds are caught in the lens which is soon filled with a mixture of greenery and concrete. You sail over the ground hardly noticing the old lady coughing on the park bench, the small boy running away from the onrushing waves or the seemingly unaware disabled man in the wheelchair.
As you draw ever closer there is a brief glimpse of a human shape, quickly replaced by that of an arm, then a hand, a finger or two, and finally the screen is filled as the lens comes to rest on a small but hugely magnified rusty old screw, the head of which is filled by the tip of a screwdriver being turned anti-clockwise by a nameless, faceless, pointless individual. It is then that the panic attack begins when you become vividly aware of, and not a little disconcerted by, the smallness of it all.