Friday, September 16, 2011

AP: Suspended Animation, the conclusion

I have been talking about first contact for years. Ever since I was a little kid I had dreams of what it would be like to meet an alien, to travel to other planets like Captain Kirk. But everyone knew that if we ever did meet intelligent life, they wouldn’t look anything like the aliens on Star Trek. Life in the far reaches of space could take on forms that we would never even recognize as living things. Or it could take a form that was horrific to us.
Since the success of the DOR 8 the nation has been on a rollercoaster of relief and shock. After decades of rationing tightening restrictions on birth rights, when word came that a new world had been found, suitable for human life, the entire planet rejoiced. But the latest discovery has divided the people of the world.
When Archie Petrovsk returned from his mission in February of 2053 he was publicly declared to have died in hibernation. Conspiracy theories surfaced but few people took them seriously, including this very publication. I wrote an article in the 2053 March issue in which I personally denounced some of the more popular theories. The only proof that Dor 7 had returned with alien life were low quality photos that experts said could have been easily doctored, and even then it only looked like a cheesy sci fi effect dreamt up by a film student. Infamously horror filmmaker and photographer Darnell Reiner recreated the photographs using Hollywood special effects, which he documented and spread through viral videos on the internet.
Petrovsk’s death came as a soft blow in the light of the mission’s success, and he was lauded and memorialized as a hero who died ensuring the future of the human race. But his escape from government prison was an even greater shock. Last month we published the horrific story of the torturous experiments conducted on him, his daring escape, and the weeks he spent hunted like a monster by the government and civilians alike. His survival is a testament to the adaptability of the alien life form that has fused with his body.
This month we met with Petrovsk in his first public interview. He is still locked away for his own protection, kept in a secret location guarded by hundreds of his sympathizers. He must live like this to escape the millions of people calling him a threat to humanity and crying out for his destruction. In person, though his appearance is strange and frightening, I did not feel threatened by him. He appears as a dark, opaque blob, with a surface that shimmers with an oily swirl of color when it reflects the light. When he moves in front of a bright light, it shines through the substance of his symbiote and one can make out the vague human structure within, curled up in a fetal position like a child in the womb. His skin is transparent, transformed and merged with the flesh of his symbiote, showing the intricate web of veins, muscles flexing around the dark silhouette of his bones, the only thing blocking the light.
When he speaks his surface blurs, the smooth edge taking on strange contours as it ripples against the air to produce sound, though it perfectly recreates the sound of Archie’s human voice. The sound that emanates is directionless and seems to come from a person standing right beside me. I was told that If I touched his symbiotic skin that he could communicate directly with my nervous system, that he would be able to see and speak through words and images directly into my head. I was admittedly too squeamish to try this, though I saw it performed by some of Archie’s close friends. As they touched him they fell into a deep peaceful calm, and they later described the experience very similar to being in a lucid dream. Archie always appeared as himself in the dream, always accompanied by a woman with exotic Indian features who went by the name Isadora, the chosen name of the symbiote.
For whatever reason Isadora would not speak out loud, Archie spoke for her. Though Isadora seems to identify as a female, the symbiote seems to be genderless, seeming to take on the identity of the ideal mate of it’s host. For this interview I focused on interviewing Archie, but by next month I hope to gather the courage to have a much more intimate conversation with the Symbiote itself.
SA: How did you become a host?
AP: During my mission I came across an alien distress beacon. It turned out to be coming from a crashed alien ship. Upon further investigation I found the ship held many samples of alien species, but all of them seemed dead. I could not get into the rest of the ship. After leaving, some sort of life raft followed me. When I took it on board we found alien life forms inside, the blobs I called the Tarball. One of them… well it came at me and I thought it was attacking me and I wounded it. We were investigating it but it got out of the specimen chamber and somehow got onto me while I was in hibernation. It was able to reprogram Dor, so that had something to do with it.
SA: How did you feel about it?
AP: I was… really upset. I didn’t know what it was doing to me, what it was planning to do with me. I could only assume it was malevolent because it had done this without permission. I went back and forth between feeling this intense rage at being violated and then having powerful suicidal urges to kill myself, ironically because I wanted to preserve the person I once was and not be changed into something else. But, I guess like any other sudden change in life that you can’t control, eventually you are forced to accept what happened and learn to go on living.
SA: How do you feel about it now?
AP: It’s hard to describe the intimacy you gain from sharing a body and mind with another intelligent creature. But over time I guess I’ve become attached to it. I’ve started to call her Izzy, which is short for Isadora. But Isadora was someone I knew before I left on the journey, someone I cared about, and I don’t feel right calling Izzy by the same name. I don’t really believe in being forced to be with someone, so I’m always reluctant to admit this, but I do love Izzy. I stopped being mad at her a long time ago, she’s shown me her mind and feelings in a way that let me actual experience them, and I understand that the fact that she joined with me was a raw biological need that she couldn’t help. I feel like we were both victims of circumstance, thrust together. But we’ve been able to accept that circumstance and learned to find comfort in each other’s company. Companionship. The amazing thing is she loves me too, and maybe it’s all biological but… I’m happy being with her.
SA: What are the benefits of being a host?
AP: Well, I never get hungry, I never have to go to the bathroom, and I don’t need to breathe. Izzy is an extremely efficient organism and only needs sunlight and now and then a few minerals to live on. More than that I have access to very heightened senses and a broader range of them. I can sense electrical impulses, heat, ultraviolet light, humidity and pressure differences in the air, and sound, feel, taste and smell to a much higher degree than usual. I can sense and see the world in a way that is far beyond the normal human experience, more than I could ever describe to you in words. The last major benefit is the ability to communicate mind to mind, not only with Izzy but with anyone I touch. The feeling of connectedness to other living beings that results from knowing the innermost part of another person is incredible. We can even talk to animals.
SA: What would you say to other people thinking of becoming hosts?
AP: It’s not something to be taken lightly, and until there is broader acceptance I would definitely not recommend it. I know that the majority of the world thinks I need to be destroyed, and I even thought the same myself at first. You’d have to be able to accept a complete transformation of everything you know, doing away completely with your concepts of self, of privacy, of beauty… everything changes. But I don’t want anyone to think that this is the answer to hating the world or yourself. It’s a change that one should approach with love and readiness.
SA: How do you feel about the groups calling for your extermination?
AP: I completely understand and empathize with their fear. To them I represent the destruction of humanity, and I certainly may be something that could change humanity forever from it’s current form. But only for those who choose it. The thing is, humanity needs to change. We’ve been over consuming and destroying our planet and each other for far too long. We’re lucky we were able to find another planet this time, But that doesn’t mean we can continue living as we have been. If we continue at the previous rate we’ll use up the new planet’s resources within the next thousand years and be faced with extinction yet again. And that’s if we don’t kill each other first. The impulse in people to destroy me is the same impulse, the same fear of the unknown, that causes people to go to war and kill each other. Need and scarcity breed greed and insecurity. It’s possible that the only way for humanity to change is if we get help, and as frightening as it is, that’s exactly the sort of change Izzy and her kind offer.
SA: What do you think the relationship between Humanity and the Tarballs will look like in the future?
AP: Let’s not call them Tarballs, it’s an ugly name that I came up with in my initial ignorance. I’ve been trying to think of something better but it’s difficult to translate my understanding of these creatures into such a condensed linguistic form. I’ve been toying the idea of some simple word implying a conncection between two things, like links, bonds, or hybrids. So maybe step one to helping our relationship grow is a nicer sounding name. But really I feel that Humanity and Tarballs will join, if not physically, than in an alliance. I think once people can meet me, speak with me, connect with me and really get to know me and Izzy, the thought of becoming a host will become much more attractive. Many people here already want to have what I have with Izzy. And I think that’s wonderful, not something to be afraid of. But I also think it’s wonderful that much of humanity will not want to and will remain unchanged.
SA: Will we have to go to war with the hunters?
AP: I sincerely hope not. I have already seen how easily eradicated they are by our military might. Surely they will want revenge on us, and my heart pours out for the pain they must feel at the loss of an entire planet. But… war for them would be suicide, and we must do everything within our power to prevent that. They are a people not much unlike ourselves, and we need to focus on what we have in common. At worst I believe they will realize they have no hope of warring with us and will form a treaty out of necessity, but I truly hope we can come to a real open understanding of one another, without any resentment or guilt.
SA: If you could be human again, would you want to be?
AP: That’s a difficult question. To be honest I still feel I am human. And yet much more than that, I’m now able to connect with humans in a deeper and more profound way than was ever possible for me before. That is, given that a person is willing to accept me as I am. As a scientist the potential for creation with the uses of my extended senses and abilities excites me to… well I’m extremely excited to see what I can create from it. So… no, I wouldn’t go back given a choice, but at the same time I would not be sad if I had to, there’s nothing wrong or inferior with being human. I’m just happy with who and what I have become.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

AP: Suspended Animation, chapter 6

Departure Date: Sunday, July 14th, 5:21 hours, 2046
Ship Log-(7 years, 220 days later) Wednesday February 19th,  2053
I woke up sitting in my bedroom again. Except I knew this time it wasn’t real. I wasn’t at all surprised to feel Isadora beside me. I let my hand slide over her smooth bare skin and warmth, but now it was artificial. It reminded me of the disassociated sense of touch you experience if you hold your finger tip to someone else’s, then pinch the backs of the fingers between the thumb and index finger of the other hand and rub over the skin. You simultaneously feel another person’s skin and your own in the same stroke, but you feel the touch twice on one end and only once on the other. It feels as if part of the sensation is missing. That’s how her skin felt.
She pressed closer against me and I took a deep, tense breath. Some of that tension was sexual, I admit, but most of it was fear, almost terror. She was an alien thing in disguise, like a cancer growing in my memories out of something once healthy, now turned against me. She held me and wrapped her hands over my chest, shushing me gently, but it rubbed me the wrong way. Who did she think she was, to coddle me? I shook her off. “Don’t touch me.” I growled.
“Baby…” she cooed, sounding wounded, and I pushed away and jumped out of bed, turning to face her. I could damn her eyes for looking at me with such believable love. “Don’t baby me. What the fuck are you?”
She sighed and sat up in bed, curling her knees to her chest self consciously, struggling with the question in shame as if I had just discovered an infidelity. “I’m… a living thing. Not that different from you.”
“Not that different?” I shouted, nearly cackling in revulsion and disbelief. I was panting on the edge of rage. Suddenly I closed on her, widening my eyes and snarling, “Get the fuck out of my head.”
She winced and shrunk away from me, and I stood back up, feeling a pang of guilt. But the fact that she made me feel guilt only made me angrier than before. Her chest was heaving and she wiped her eyes, on the edge of bawling tears. “I didn’t want to hurt you Archie.” she whimpered pitifully.
I lunged back at her and grabbed her by her arms and shook her, making her scream with fright. “Shut the fuck up. Don’t say my name.” I growled, shouting a roar as I threw her away from me, sending her tumbling off the bed with another painful cry. “You don’t know me, you’re not my fucking friend. You’re out there… eating me fucking alive!” I was shaking, screaming at her in indignation. I stood over, balling my fists and panting through my nose. I felt lethal.
“Archie, please don’t.” she cried, curled on the ground and looking up at me, begging. I kicked her in the stomach, then again in her hands as she moved them to protect her body. But the body wasn’t real, just a show. She coughed and gagged, sobbing in pain as she struggled to regain her breath. I stepped back, calming a little, feeling disgust at myself. I hated this thing, I knew it was just manipulating me through my memories and emotions, but I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t kick it, looking like her. “Fuck you.” I spat with disgust, my lips quivering as tears streamed down my face. “Fuck you! You’re not her. You’re fucking disgusting. You’re nothing like her!” I kept backing away until I bumped against the doorway, staring at her, how real she made her pain seem.
“Archie, I do know you. I see who you are inside.” She stammered weakly, summoning her strength to push the trembling words out as she pushed her body up. One of her wrists was really hurt. She lifted her eyes to me, covered in a film of tears that streamed down her cheeks. “I wanted to be her for you.” she pleaded. “I wanted... I want you to be happy.”
I was so furious that she could act like she was acting in my best interests that the rage pushed up from my stomach like lava from a volcano and I pushed out a violent scream, rebuking this thing that was violating me, body in mind. I screamed and screamed, then picked up the nearest decorations and threw them at her. But not really at her, I pulled the throw to the side, unable to bear hurting her again. Polished clay and glass shattered against the wall behind her as she ducked and covered her head, shaking and whimpering. I sobbed hatefully as I caught my quaking breath.
“You can’t have me… I’ll kill you. Just like before. I’ll keep killing you over and over.” I said, barely conscious of what I was saying, the words pushing out of me from some dark place. I felt like I had to do what I was saying to defend myself. I saw myself move towards her and grab her and pull her by the hair. I slapped her face and made her mouth bleed, lost behind a numbing haze of hatred.
“Archie! We could be happy! Please, stop!” I couldn’t listen to her. Nothing she said was real. I brought her to the airlock, then hit the button to close it. She screamed no and ran for me, but pulled back at the last second, cowering and backing away in fear as she covered her naked fear. I could make out some of the silent words her mouth repeated. “Don’t do this. I love you. Please.” She shook her head convulsively and trembled. I hit the switch to open the airlock only because I couldn’t stand to look at her anymore, and I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to watch her be sucked into space.
Pain dug into my chest like an icy claw wrapping around my heart, and I fell to my knees, moaning a wail I could barely recognize as guilt and pain and self hate tore me apart. I cried and sobbed for god knows how long, the most poisoned, painful tears I have ever given rise to. I never wanted to get up, I couldn’t face it, I couldn’t look. I thought to myself over and over again, “I want to die.”
Eventually I caught my breath. That was the first thing I managed, once I realized I had forgotten to breath after pushing all the air from my lungs in a whine. I rocked my body to the sound of my deep breaths, sucking them in and hanging onto them, clinging to those breaths in my lungs before letting them go with finality. Then I opened my eyes and slowly stood, sliding my hands up over the door of the airlock. It was empty, and at the other end was nothing but outer space.
“Archie.” It was Isadora’s voice, whispering over the ship speakers, the ones Dor usually spoke from. “Listen to me, please.” I gasped and sat down heavily, clinging to my chair. Her voice brought me such great relief as the weight lifted from my heart, no matter how much I struggled to hold true to my resolve. I just wanted to hear her voice again.
“I was on the same mission as you. To find a new world to live on. I’m not a parasite like you think. We’re symbiotic. Without a host we’re nothing but a shell, no feelings, no soul, nothing. Just endless longing and loneliness. A host gives us meaning, understanding, love. But you’ve shown me things I’ve never seen in any other creature. You make me feel more whole than I’ve ever felt, you’re kindness, you’re intelligence. I can’t imagine ever leaving you.”
“Please stop.” I whimpered, her words sickly sweet. “I can’t. I won’t be some freak plaything for you!”
“Please, listen. We’ve spread across the universe, encountering many species who served as our hosts. And they’re happy. We produce our own food from the sun, and our bodies produce almost no waste. We are self regenerating, and prolong the life of our hosts. They no longer need to struggle and compete for food and space to survive. We are able to breed our hosts and reproduce through them. We-“
“What? Breed us?” I shouted in shock.
“It’s… very fulfilling for our hosts, and for us. But... we encountered a species that saw us as you see me. As a plague. They slaughtered us Archie. My entire race, nearly whole galaxies filled with my people have been wiped out, eradicated. We are peaceful creatures. Those of us on the ship you found were the last, but the hosts we brought with us, our future, all dead. We were all trapped in miserable hibernation, knowing that our hosts would eventually die, and then we would be helpless until the hunters found the remains of our ship and wiped us out. I had no choice but to use your ship to strike back. I was able to communicate through the circuits of your ship with your AI, much the same way I communicate with you through your nervous system.”
I listened, taking deep breaths. It was incredible, fascinating, but deeply disturbing as well. “Maybe they were right, maybe you are a plague. I swear, if I can find a way to keep you away from earth, I will.”
“I told you, we are a peaceful people. We’ve taken over one of the Hunter’s planets but there are more. Alone we can’t possibly survive, but with the military might of your people we could survive.”
“So you could enslave us all.” I said accusingly.
“No… there’s no going back for you, but if your people did not want us, we would leave them alone. But just think. No more famine, no more war, no more prejudice. There would be a golden age for your people and ours. We would allow you to live on so many uninhabited planets, surviving in the open air, worlds that would poison you or crush your bodies or roast you alive without us. Even on your home world, you could thrive in harmony with the other races. Morseso, you would communicate with them, through us. That is, the ones that are left. Your people have already destroyed so much…”
“Don’t even think about judging my people.”
“I don’t, I only wish to save you from more loss. Once you are joined with us you will have no need for space. Your planet alone will open up in all directions. We could live in the waters, in the arctic, and the harshest deserts. Underground. And in great, fruitful masses, pressed together in the most deeply rooted sense of community.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and shoot my head, pressing the heels of my palms over my eyes. “Shut up.” I groaned. “I won’t do it.”
“I’m afraid there’s not much choice. The course is set for your planet and… we are frozen in hibernation until that point.”
“We’re in hibernation right now?” I asked in surprise. “That’s impossible. My brain would shut down.”
“My body is extremely resistant to extremes of temperature. I’m currently shielding you from it, though my outermost edge is frozen. I cannot move, I’m paralyzed and so are you, but I can preserve our higher brain functions to allow us to communicate and dream together.”
I took a deep breath. So we… I hated thinking of myself as connected to the thing, but what else could I say. We would land on earth and when the scientists opened the ship they would see a black goo. Would they even release me? Would they kill me right there? If they didn’t I might be able to control my body and stop myself from spreading the tarball to them.
“I won’t reproduce without a willing host.” She said with sudden prideful conviction. “I know you probably don’t believe me, since I took you without your permission, but that was after you killed my host. The loss was unbearable, when we are empty… it’s a biological need I cannot help. Even then, I feel terrible for joining with you without your permission, and I had only hoped that I could make it pleasant for you, that you would accept me anyways. I don’t plan to use you as… patient zero. I need you to be my ambassador. A diplomat to your people.”
“There’s no point. Even if I got the chance, they would never listen to such a freak.”
“Well… what else do you have left? You have to try.”
My lip began to tremble again, I felt so violated and alone and helpless. Every part of me wanted to lash out at her, defy her, get revenge upon her, but… I was stuck. I was stuck with her.
“Do you want me to come back?” She asked, her voice full of a mix of hope and compassion.
“No… no I need to think.” I said. “Please just let me think.”
I don’t know why but eventually, when she asked again. I let her come back, and I let her hold me and clung to her like a child while she stroked my hair. Later I fell asleep in those arms, so exhausted from all the rage and sorrow, the raw emotion. The truth was… I was so lonely, and I wanted Isadora to be real so badly. It was hard to give up the material comfort of her presence, to spurn her longing to please me and bring me happiness. We had all the time in the world in the dream and I decided I could just pretend that it was real.
Now and then she asked me what we would do when we got to earth, and it always upset me because it reminded me of what she really was. But… I felt she really did love me. Maybe more than anyone or anything ever had, enough so that in our shared fantasy it was impossible not to start returning those feelings. It was inevitable that I would finally agree to be the diplomat for her… for our people, that I finally accepted my fate as a host.
Cards and Crisis:
Ø  2 humanity: Stowaway (My Elderly Mother, My loyal black lab Sadie)
o   Let them stay and risk the mission, discover void (Will we go to war with the hunters?) and discover star (Serve as an ambassador to the tarball)
Ø  1 void: Sensor readings (Is Isadora real?)
o   Response: Discover void (How do I stop the tarball from controlling me?)
Ø  1 star: Incoming transmission (Return to earth to transport colonists)
o   Response: Accept new directive, discover star and lose humanity (My loyal black lab, Sadie.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

AP: Suspended Animation, chapter 5

Departure date: Saturday, January 13th, 4:00 hours, 2037
Ship log – (9 years, 182 days later) Saturday July 14th, 2046
I had a dream that I was trapped inside an eggshell, surrounded by viscous fluids to cushion me from the hard edged womb. There was a terrible cold outside that was slowly seeping in, and I realized that I was a baby penguin, forming inside a shell that had rolled away from it’s nest. I tried to scream for my mother or father to come save me, keep me warm, but I couldn’t make a sound, I didn’t have a mouth yet. I tried to break from the shell but I hadn’t formed feet, or arms, or a beak. The cold seeped in towards me, just a lump of flesh with a vague form, an unfinished fetus. I couldn’t even shiver against the cold, and it seemed to go on and on like that, slowly getting colder and colder.
Then I woke up, much before I was meant to in the wake cycle of the SAC. It was still cold inside, my arms slow and hard to move. My body felt wet, covered in thick slippery sweat, and my mouth tasted awful, thick sticky mucous coating my tongue and teeth. I tried to scrape it away with my tongue and swallow it but I couldn’t get it off, and the taste just lingered. The chamber slowly warmed and feeling returned to my limbs. I reached to the lid and left a thin layer of smeared fluid where I touched it. For a moment I suddenly had the distinct sensation I was melting, that I had turned to ice in the chamber and as I was being thawed I was beginning to liquefy like a snowman.
Somehow I could hear Isadora’s voice through the chamber, and I saw her face through the fog of frost on the window.”Good morning sunshine.” She cooed, tracing her finger in the frost to draw a smiley face over her own. I took a deep breath and felt better, smiling back at her, but my breath fogged the glass again and she disappeared. The chamber opened and DOR was playing the same song I was thinking of. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey.” sang the recording from the speakers. I smiled again at that and asked DOR for a situation report. “All systems normal.” she replied.
I saw Isadora at a terminal and asked her, “How far are we from earth?” She snickered and replied mockingly without looking back at me, “Are we there yet? I swear if you start asking me that every ten minutes I’ll turn this ship around.” I snorted with a grin and bent to kiss her cheek. “You can’t, I’m the pilot.”
“I might kick you out first.” She threatened with a small smile. I rolled my eyes and asked, “Why did Dor wake us up if we aren’t there yet?” Isadora waved a hand back at me dismissively. “Just a little maintenance problem, no big deal.” I leaned forward to see what she was typing and she swiveled around in the chair to face me, pushing me away gently. “Why don’t you go wash up and get something to eat,” she offered compassionately, “I can handle this.” I grinned and tried peeking over her shoulder anyways, and she smiled and put her hands on my face to pull me into a kiss. Then she shoved me towards the showers more forcefully. “Go on. Get out of here.” she commanded.
Showering was much easier with artificial gravity, it used to be that you showered in plastic bubble, pulling floating blobs of water against your skin. As I watched the water falling I could almost imagine it standing still, the streams of water freezing in place, scattering and bouncing off the walls if I waved my hand through them. They shone in the light and magnified it, sending bright little dots all around the room like a disco ball, if it could be broken into a hundred pieces and still work. As they bumped into each other they would reattach, slowly growing larger and larger until it was a nearly man sized globe floating in air. I stood across the room with my hands together in the form of a spade, pointed over my head, then leaped down the length of the room as if launching off the high dive. I slipped into the sphere, the water surrounding me with warmth, then I curled into a fetal position inside and looked out through it’s skin, seeing the rest of the world distorted around me.
I wondered what it would be like to become liquid.
“What’s your name?” the water asked me. It sounded like Isador’s voice. “Archie.” I replied, honestly.
“Where are you from?” it asked.
“Earth.” I said, thinking of it’s warm sun and fresh air. But it wasn’t so fresh anymore was it?
“Where on earth?” asked the water, it’s edges vibrating softly. It sounded almost synthetic.
“Czech Republic.”
“How old are you?” it asked. It sounded like DOR now. Maybe it was DOR?
“I don’t know. I was 43 when I left. Now… if you counted hibernation, I might be over 100.”
“How many fingers am I holding up?” IsaDOR asked. I realized my eyes were closed and opened them. I was laying on the floor of the shower, water dripping down from the faucet, the sound of the water drumming against the plastic floor resonated louder in my ears with each drop. Dora is watching, is a door, is… I shook my head, my consciousness fading for a moment, vision springing back ultra bright as my eyes reopened to see Isadora watching me. My whole body felt slippery and wet with soap, and for a moment I thought if the ship turned I would slide away and fall right out of an open airlock. Dizzyness and vertigo washed over me at the thought of falling through open space. Naked, I would freeze instantly.
I realized then that I was shivering uncontrollably on the floor as Isador held me and rocked me and told me with fear in her voice that I was okay. I was freezing alive, ice crawling over my skin and up my veins as my limbs and muscles grew rigid, and the shakes became more violent. If I shook too hard I would shatter into a million pieces and float around the room, then I would melt from floating too close to the lights, and bounce off the walls and merge into larger blobs. Isadora was helping into my suit. To keep me warm, to keep me from shaking too hard?
It was so hard to breathe the recycled air. I told Dora I needed to be outside and go for a walk and feel the sun on my face and I brought her with me into the air lock and I got Sadie’s leash but Isadora didn’t want to go and I held her and then she was shaking instead of me, and when I depressurized the airlock she cried and her eyes grew bloodshot and she couldn’t breathe and she was freezing and then when the airlock opened on the other end she was sucked out into space with me just like in the movies. She looked into my eyes long and lovingly through my visor and never looked away as we floated through the lack of air and that’s when I realized she was dead. I lost hold of her and realized I was holding onto the ship and she floated away and melted into the black nothingness and then I let go and fell into the black, and I was surrounded by it and it was her and I wanted to be inside of her and I started to take off my mask.
When I found myself able to breathe even as the oxygen poured out of my lungs and the dark void rushed in I knew I must be dreaming, and I wiped away my frozen tears and reminded myself that none of this was real and I was only in home in bed. I just needed to wake up.
And then I did. Everything was still black, it filled my eyes and my ears and my nose and my mouth, thick inky black. I felt perfectly relaxed, like after a dozen masseuses had worked me into a blissful stupor, and then I had taken a handful of muscle relaxants. I kept trying to open my eyes but my lids felt stuck together, then I realized they were stuck open. I began to notice though, that even though everything was black, the black had shape, silhouettes overlapping silhouettes. I leaned closer and as I moved the silhouettes suddenly were given depth and perspective, slipping into 3D relief. The more I moved the more I could make out the outlines of things. I moved effortlessly, gliding along, and I realized I could feel the shape and structure of things beneath me.
I called Isadora’s name and heard a voice that wasn’t my own speaking, a thick and wet vibration that slowly formed itself into pitch, then round and sharp sounds, then vowels and words. No wait, it did sound like me, once I got it right. “Isadora?” I asked messily, but only DOR responded. “Sir? Are you in need of medical attention?” She sounded concerned.
“I’m… not sure. Where are we, what are our current orders?” I tried to get closer to a terminal or viewscreen and realized that I didn’t have the strength to stand. “We are at coordinates 6825,11172,-950, in route towards coordinates 0,0,0. Current orders are to undergo quarantine procedures or face termination. Emergency override was attempted by HQ but failed due to a conflict with code HS2009-8F CX8315-8 Alpha.”
I felt dizzy and panicked. Quarantine? What had happened? I couldn’t remember. And where was Isadora? “DOR why do we need to be quarantined, and what does the code conflicting with the emergency over-ride do?”
“DOR 7 is under full quarantine due to crew infection by an alien parasite code named “Tarball”. Code HS2009-8F CX8315-8 Alpha states that final authority is switched from HQ high command to you.”
I felt panic washing over me. The thing had gotten on me, in me, I could feel it, no, I could feel what it felt. Maybe it was too late to remove it. How long had it been? What had I done? What did it make me do? Somehow I felt in control now. I moved to my storage locker, to the mirror that hung on its door. I felt sick, as I saw myself quiver and tremble and cringe at my own sight. I was a thick translucent black ooze stretched over a limp human form. Under the black, jelly-like outer layer I could see blood red and blue veins tangled around human muscle fibers, my skin practically dissolved. My arms and head dragged on the ground, flopping and rolling inside the slithering mass like they were made of rubber. My own eyes were glazed and seemed lifeless, though I did not see through them but somehow through the tarball’s skin. When I spoke my mouth gaped limply, but the tarball’s skin made vibrations that mimicked the sound of my voice.
“Dor, I need you to… remove the Tarball from me. You’ll have to… freeze me and then use the cutting lazers like before. Maybe you can do it while I’m under suspended animation.” I felt a sudden rush of fear rush through me, then guilt. Then a wave of the sudden relaxation swept over me, making me suddenly drowsy. The thing was sedating me. “DOR, cancel flight path, follow orders to quarantine the ship. Ignore all further orders from me. I’ve been infected and can’t be trusted.”
“I’m afraid those orders conflict with my programming. Flight path cannot be changed and quarantine orders are disregarded. Removing the Tarball would threaten your survival, I cannot do that either.” I puddled on the ground pulsing dully as I felt myself slowly lapsing out of consciousness, the shadows of my vision blurring and DOR’s voice harder to concentrate on. I focused on the stasis chamber and dragged myself towards it, flopping end over end, leaving a trail of slime.
“DOR… don’t wake me from stasis. Even if we land on Earth. That’s an order.”
“I’m sorry sir, but protocol demands I wake you in the case of an emergency or landing. I cannot comply with those orders.” Said DOR, calmly and emotionlessly. I started the Suspended Animation Chamber’s Stasis warmup procedure as I clumsily slithered into it and quivered inside. The lid shut and locked as I vibrated out in horror, begging, “Don’t wake me...”
Cards and Crisis:
Ø  2 void: Crisis alert (How do I tell the difference between reality and dreams? Is Isadora real?)
o   Risk greater danger for respite, advance void (How do I tell the difference between reality and dreams)
Ø  2 humanity: Stowaway (My elderly mother. My internet lover, Isadora.)
o   Neutralize them as a threat, lose humanity (My internet lover, Isadora)