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.
“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)