*Author’s note* While this isn’t part of the main story arc of Interplanetary it does contain spoilers. If you haven’t read chapter eight then it’s best to avoid. It’s also a bit of an experiment with stream of consciousness. Enjoy.
Eyes opened, lashes obscured my view for just a moment. Memories flashing behind eyelids faded as the real world came into view. Faces of people I’d never see again, faces that belonged on Earth or on a ship somewhere in the darkness that surrounded me.
The darkness was outside, it was everywhere and stretched forevermore. Nothing outside. Well, nothing nearby. Thinking there was nothing made it lonely, the very feeling I wanted to escape from on Earth. Imagine being the only person in all of space. How sad would that be? Lonely, I guess, not sad. Although maybe if you were the only person you wouldn’t know it because you’d always be hoping to bump into someone else.
Maybe I’d bump into someone else. Maybe I’d see Scarlett. Earth was so fickle, they’d say they want to do one thing but then decide to do another. Rather than going home maybe she was sent out after me. That’d be cool. We were both excommunicated yet we somehow managed to find each other. Bit much to hope for though, and a bit cruel to wish. She wanted to go home, to see Earth again and breathe its oxygen…
Oh, oxygen. Would I run out here? How was it working? I didn’t want to suffocate. It should be fine. It should. It should. All ships recycled air, churning out oxygen to support whatever life was in it.
Anyway, Scarlett. She wanted home. Being sent back was a kindness to her. A kindness she deserved.
What if I bumped into someone who wasn’t Scarlett? Maybe it would be someone else sent out ages go and they’d found a way to survive so they dedicated themselves to saving anyone else sent out to suffer the cruelties and mercies of space. Oh, oh. Maybe it’d be an alien. That would be great!
Pain in my knee. I bumped it against the steering controls. Leaning forward, inspected the flashing lights on the control panel. Fell back against the chair. My movement the only sound.
No movement outside. What’s behind me? Window glass exceptionally clear. Stars shone distantly, they never seemed close. Something red glinted, a bit bigger than the rest.
It was Mars.
The Red Planet.
Defiant face framed by dark hair. The last time I saw her as I waved goodbye. Was she ok? How was the war going? How long had I been out here? A pang of pain and guilt stabbed relentless and guiltless as I played back my last moments with humanity. I dragged her into this mess and she was paying a price that should never have been hers to pay.
Fell back in chair, uncomfortable, claustrophobic. No room to move to stretch. Can’t lie down.
Lie or lay? Can’t lay down. Can’t lie down. Lay….lie.
Can’t be horizontal.
Oh, why do you even care? Time was slowly ticking to an end, there were more important questions to ponder, ask and answer than grammatical ones. Shifted weight. Deep sigh. Shit, no sighing – oxygen was limited. Scarlett said something like that recently. Shook head, they didn’t mess with life support. Oxygen wasn’t an issue, sustenance was. Well, oxygen would be an issue if the craft was damaged.
Sustenance. What a weird word to say.
Sus. Ten. Ance.
I had to hit something eventually. Each second brought me closer.
Throat dry. stomach empty. Creaking pangs of hunger. Stabbing throb of thirst. Rummaged through supplies, everything empty. It was rationed but with no way to tell the time I had no idea how long I’d been here.
Pangs again, trying to tear through. Heartbeat faster, palpitating. Deep breath, calming. Shit, oxygen. No, that’s fine. It’s everything else that isn’t.
There was no heat, temperature was kept bearable, but sweat dripped, feet fidgeted, thoughts collided.
Something outside, so far away but large. It passed by, the two of us like ships in the night. Well, more like a container ship and a fishing boat. A meteor, a comet, a spaceship in disguise? Craft remained steady, kept on going. Fear trailed me.
Terra’s big adventure. Dull and featureless. Nothing to see. A big joke.
Cramp. Stretched leg, pain intensified, muscles refused to play nice. Pain in my back too, well, more of an ache really. A lot of aching. My whole body. In wasn’t comfortable in here. Yearned to stretch my legs.
The stars always stayed in the distance. Twinkling merrily away, taunting, teasing.
Twinkle, twinkle little star…
The lights inside twinkled. Green, red, gold. The dashboard positively shone. My own personal constellation.
Eyelids met, drawn together like magnets. Sleep heavy in the air. Sharp stab of fear. The sharpest I’d felt.
Eyelids sprang apart.
What if I didn’t wake up?
I don’t even know what that was from. It better not make a habit of it.
Nails scrabbled at the panels, fingers stretched trying to pry it open.
Somehow that set my back off, a lance of agony flashed through it.
The panel came off, easier than expected. Fell back against my chair, again, dropped the metal panel. It clanged painfully against the floor.
Not much help.
Was it a warning?
They were tangled together. Like Alexander’s Gorgon Knot. No, that wasn’t right…Gordon…nope. Uhhh, Gordian. That’s the one. Like Alexander’s Gordian Knot. If only I had a sword. But who in their right mind would bring a sword into a space battle.
Maybe cutting through them wasn’t the best plan. All the same colour. Not even a note to help. Years ago, in a hangar, Squadron 14, including Vert, studied a craft. Wires and all. The memory floated behind my eyes. Just out of reach.
The answer was there.
Was it counting down? When it stopped would there only be silence left? Only death?
Heart fluttered again. Panic grew. Craft cruised onwards unaware of the person aboard.
The wires were useless. I couldn’t think. Didn’t know what to do with them. Why did I take the panel off?
What is that?
Panic rose, flooding my brain. Feet danced uncontrollably. Tapping against the panel. How was I going to put it back on? Shouldn’t’ve bothered. I’d just have to live with the beep.
It wouldn’t be for very long.
Deep sigh. Filled my lungs, pleasant ache as capacity was reached. Let it out again. Stomach cramped trying to find something to digest. Nothing.
That’s all there was anywhere. Nothing outside the craft. Nothing to be done inside it. Nothing inside me. Just these thoughts, floating about, switching direction.
Another breath. Deep and long. Crap. Oxygen. No. Mustn’t worry. It’s fine. Although, maybe it’s not…
What was I thinking? Where was I going? There was something I needed to check.
It was distracting.
Deep breath. Hard to breathe.
Mind swimming. Eyes struggling to stay open. Too difficult.
How would it happen?
There was no getting out of this. My adventure was my last hurrah. Must keep eyes open. There had to be things to see.
It can’t be empty forever.
Would it be thirst and hunger? Would they envelop me in their tight, deathly embrace? Oxygen. Would it disappear? Would I suffocate? Perhaps a crash. A collision course with a planet, a meteor, an asteroid belt? Would I be found, rescued dramatically at the last-minute.
It was blurry now.
Didn’t even make sense.
Rescue would be good. Not too keen on the alternative. Although it wouldn’t be much different to now. Stillness, silence, nothing.
Deep breath. Had to stop palpitations.
No, not a problem.
Unless it was.
Eyes sliding closed.
Head drooping forward.
Breathing more difficult. Painful lungs. Foggy head.
Eyes snapped open. Not really seeing anything, at least not clearly.
There was something there. Something bright.
How long ago did I close my eyes?
It grew brighter.
I reached out. Hands coming up against glass.
One more breath. Hardly easing the pressure on my lungs.
Just one more breath. Must keep on going. Have to keep going.
Terra’s adventure can’t end here.