Work in Progress
“If you put a broken vase in front of a mirror, eventually it won’t remember what a vase looked like.”
It was odd at times, how the fragment of a memory could present itself to you, glaring back with the same bewildered look as the one painted on your face. Memories were sort of a rare concept these days, a concept that carried around the word extinct just in case more emphasis might have been needed. I had almost been knocked unconscious, yet to my surprise a flicker of my training danced in front of me. This did not involve any excerpt from the you have just crashed your ship into an unknown world spring lecture series, or the why the hell did you not listen to anyone fall night course. Instead a somewhat useful quote from the recently deceased professor of aviation studies, Doctor Withers, flowed into my head.
“ Whatever you do, do not for any reason assume nothing is on fire. I do not care if you are missing every limb of your body.,I strongly advise you check to see if things are going to become worse for you.”
Luckily in my delusional panic, after feeling the impact my front absorbing cone had taken, I noticed two familiar flailing arms, accompanied by kicking legs. These now dormant and calm appendages would have to check on the rest of my small sized ship. Either to confirm Dr Withers words being mere words to live by and not a sign from above to get up, exit and run. As I unbuckled my seating harness, the fragment had come and gone. The words still calling out to my next actions, but the texture of the desk I was sitting at, the slight breeze from the lecture hall window, had floated away. I made use of roughly eighty seconds and removed my atmospheric travel suit from the back cargo bay, placing both the gear and helmet on prior to the my mental stopwatch hitting seventy-nine.
Hearing for the first time the noise of the cabin depressurizing, I ignored the doctor’s advice and stood at the entrance of the craft with the realization of what I was about to do. I would soon be taking the first ever steps on a descelet planet, of which had been ignored for decades by most, but not this pilot. I had lied, big time, to everyone at the academy, to my direct superior, to even my family. I had not come here to perform any assessment of the planet’s current state of resources, nor the status of its forgotten colonization, nor take the expedition turned down by a whole auditorium full of pilots. I came for something else entirely. I came for peace.
Reciting those five letters to anyone in the space academy would more than likely be tagged as a corny, half-hearted reason to travel. More so, they would have dismissed me as a pilot, struck me as more of the theatrical type. Stage lights, a lengthy poem, and a curtain drop just as I had gotten ahold of the audiences heart strings. But all of the nonsense that would have come with the criticism would be well worth it. In fact if the majority of the population knew why I was heading to the now deemed abandoned planet, they’d be begging for a ride on my ship, the Alla Luna, or to the moon in italian.I had convinced myself perhaps they would have wanted a ride simply for the name itself. Everything aside, the Alla Luna and I came here because I had picked up the whereabouts of a 100 percent genuine memory.
Now if this had been the early 2000’s I might as well be categorized as mentally crazy. Utilizing such a vast amount of infrastructure and effort to track down such a commodity would seem asinine. It wasn’t until the mid 2200’s did a world leader take action so bold, so irreversible, so unimaginable, that would make my trip glissen with the stars. Lexington Harris the fourth ushered in a new era of stripping the public of any and all past memories. This of course would have not been possible without the large technological improvements of neurology, nor the convergence of every governing body into one massive population. It required the mandated tweaking of the much needed neurological smart chip. A chip that was implanted to the infant version of yourself, which monitored all health conditions, for better or worse. To be without one proved impossible as they became a necessity in the ongoing brutal conditions of our lovely planet Earth. This technology paired with the “clean slate” approach to peace and equality meant that after the Forgotten Day in History, not a soul would remember anything. With a salesman smile, he told the world that peace would soon be upon us. November 5th, 2261 had been the day chosen to wipe the planet’s memory clear, and I had just been fortunate enough to be the age of 22 during the day. Entire corporations were created prior to the event, allowing families and friends to legally create time capsules which alleged that with enough memory recollection, could exclude certain people, places, or things from Lexington Harris’s permanent plan. One year later I had turned 23 and with it the memory of my closest friends and family. What I would eventually spend months obsessing over was the idea of my not so reclaimed memories, a never ending itch that I could not bear to scratch. What had I forgotten?
After the assimilation of the neuro chip, the human brain worked in the same sense as a computer. Memories, knowledge, a person’s characteristics were stored on a sort of personal internal hard drive. In an almost poetic fashion, Lexington Harris allowed the option for an individual’s memories to be sent above, propelled on a massive carrier ship into space. During the Forgotten Day, instead of broadcasting to the clearing signal, a price could be paid to have one’s memories downloaded to a single card and placed on a mission to the stars. Fools were tagged as anyone who would pay the expensive cost associated with the action, and I wore that title proudly. As night fell and I watched the perplexed community around me adjust to a world of no prior knowledge, I sat and watched the pale blue sky light up as a star carrier full of memories disappeared from view. A dull moment if you were to ask me, but the sales pitch I was given promised that each memory chip would be ejected from the hull of the ship separately and allowed to float in the depths of space through eternity. Simply put, poetic.
As monumental of a career achievement this spectacul may have been for Lexington Harris, I too had defied my own boundaries. Unaware of what twisted turn my twenties would take, I decided to pursue a college education of computer science. I became extremely well versed in coding and decoding the complex algorithms that the field consisted of. Nine months prior to watching my personal chip fly into the Earth’s atmosphere, the public had become aware of Operation No Memories. Far from the actual name the operation wore, but my distaste in the matter was combined with action. I began to work on what would be the underlying constructs of why I was standing currently at the entrance of the Alla Luna, looking into a foreign sky. I had placed a beacon on my chip. Not one that would emitted a flashing light and let out a 1980’s electronic beeping noise every few seconds, but a tracker that could be found using my own personal software. I called it, Operation More Memories, and with that I held the stance that I would be instantly expelled from any educational practice specifying in the creation of names.
I had waited two arduous months to begin the tracking process, paranoia plagued my mind on the basis that I inevitably would be caught. Sixty days of waiting to only view a glimpse of the flight path my luggage had taken. I had not confirmed the exact location to that of this planet, but had pinpointed it close enough to the planet’s gravitational pull before losing the signal. Speculators could say that I had gone far beyond any typical reasoning skill to embark on such a voyage without any confirmation of actually finding anything. What speculators would not know was my lack of sleep because of this calamity. A lack mixed with fear proved the correct equation for the span of time between 10:00pm and 8:00am for me. All forms of legislation tried to dismiss any claim that what they had created, the intention for a world without memories, did not carry any side effects. One could simply search on the world wide web for a list of symptoms experienced by removing one’s past. Ranging from hallucinations to my case of terrifying lucid dreams. A dream that stemmed from some piece of a memory still floating around your neurological sea, pairing up with an uncontrollable imagination to create a rather unpleasant night time activity. For me, this glimpse outside reality replayed itself roughly every night. Always with the same blurry face, the same blurry soaked dress, and all of the confusion that surrounded us. Although this proved unpleasant, I did still managed to get a proper eight hours of sleep, the smudged woman in red allowed my role as a functioning citizen. Waking for the day and performing a routine of tasks, I gained a constant internal timer of who would be waiting for me after the sun set. This sort of amnesia did not come instantly, at first it only amounted to roughly one night a month of tossing and turning, but over time it became apparent, I would be heading to this planet regardless of the outcome it might hold. With that mindset, I packed my best good luck charm and headed for the stars.
Stepping back into reality, I could just imagine Professor Withers screaming at this point “What in God’s name are you doing standing there, did you not hear the word fire. Fire !”. As if pouring some cosmic cup of liquor out against the ground, I gave my condolences to the clouds above and walked outside to check on the ship.
“Not a god damn fire in sight you lying bastard.” It would prove bad luck to call a dead man a Bastard, but the moment had ceased. Instead of taking in the view around me, I unwillingly played the role of firefighter, one who ventured through space just to fit such evils.
My view surprisingly strayed down first, as the fresh ground below me wore an unexpected wet sloshy feel. The consistency mimicked that of mud, and proved to disobey a characterization by color. This white material was not snow, nor deceitful snow which had finally allowed my eyes to frame the horizon.
I had cheated prior to the crash landing , the planet I had chosen had been widely documented. Archived photographs and videos described the landscape as a mountainous, cliff stricken wasteland. A few hundred years ago a mining colony had installed a handful of satellite bases on the planet in the hopes of hitting a resource lottery. There had even been a miniature city built to accompany the mundane life of a home sick miner. Much to their disappointment, the farther they dug into the planet, the less was uncovered. The landscape proved to only provide trace amounts of iron, a commodity back on Earth, and scarce amounts of Uranium, the opposite of a commodity back on Earth. Tens years after the colony had been created, archived articles described the push for a full evacuation, one to proceed to bigger and better planets.
Although bias from the research I had performed prior to leaving, days of checking out every book and article the aviation academy had to offer, it still provided a vastness no image could contain. This would prove to be my first interstellar mission, and the concept of the unexplored began to slowly enter my mind. My landing had proven reckless with a dash of sloppy, but I had chosen a rather flat section of land to use both traits. Mountain formations surrounded me and by my own navigation an abandoned settlement would be 20 miles to the north.
There were still many tasks I had left to perform before visiting the neighborhood, but the anticipation in the matter refused to dissolve itself from my mind. What few cared to document surrounding this forgotten civilization was the quaint and subtle mall nestled on the towns outskirts. With a heavy dose of poor planning, the corporation responsible for a majority of the infrastructure on this planet expected big results. The kind of results that would cause an employee to go and blow an entire paycheck at the corporately sponsored Mall of the Stars, being the name of this omitted planet. Apparently few shared my childhood desires of living in such a playground, but depending on the not to distant news regarding the Alla Luna’s mechanical status, I might be temporarily placing a welcome mat in front of it. Which to begin the prioritization of my next actions, performing an autopsy of my two winged companion would surely be at the top of the list.
I wasn’t the most savvy when it came to the gritty portion of my job, wielding in my dominant right hand one of the seventeen different types of screwdrivers available to the human race. History had proven that merely two was not enough, and with the invention of abstract shapes and patterns, soon the screwdriver uprising took over like the plague it was. If I had been born sooner, I would have lobbied for a governing body that's sole topic of discussion would be how to decrease the amount of tools found in a common tool shed. To my luck, I had only packed three. Towards the end of my post education I had made sure as to circle in bold pen “outfit ship for emergency maintenance craft tools only”. This equated to the ships design consisting of no more than three types of screws and bolts.
One could say graduating from the aviation academy had the trump card of all perks when comparing to other fields of practice. A few rotations were still required, where i “diligently” shadowed highly ranked officers on their day to day matters, mastering the operation of a coffee machine, drawing that memorable leaf pattern in the drink’s foam. Once my rotational program was all said and done, I smiled wide and opened my palms even wider as the keys to a newly made spacecraft were placed in them. Legally the ship belonged to the aviation academy, but by being granted the honoring ability to fill out the little hellraisers name, I believed to consider it mine.
I glanced back at the ship which had managed to refrain from damaging any aspect of each wing, although that would be the least of my worries. Small cruisers such as mine kept the engine compartment in the front of the ship, running large galvanized steel lines to the rear where they were fed into three small thrusters. Two were used as primaries, spaced roughly eight feet apart, with a small third thruster located just below the center of the ship for emergency situations. I regrettably had used all three in my landing.
It wasn’t necessarily that I was a bad pilot per say, I just had not prepared myself for the conditions this planet’s atmosphere decided to throw at me. Nowhere did any published article say the planet experienced storms, a constant downpour of heavy rain, with the occasional neon blue lightning burst. After confirming that I was not a new member of the afterlife, I did reflect on how pretty it all had been, neon blue lightning found itself under the category of never before seen. If it hadn’t be involved in crashing my precious ship, I would have tipped my hat towards the mystery. Flying in a storm requires a whole different set of procedures and settings than per say a sunny sunday afternoon. Of which my tiny hands had systematically made while at the same time losing altitude. This would soon prove a foolish endeavor. I had gone from the quiet and peacefulness of space, to thrown in a thunderstorm, back to a stormless sky and far too close to the planet’s surface. The storm was apparently only part of some atmospheric layer, one that hovered 1000 or so feet above the calm planets surface. The engineers behind multi-weather conditioned aircrafts decided to make use of a pilots stormy weather and allow the use of settings that actually begin to use the storm to help power and steer the ship. The only fine print in that technology being the downturn if you happen to instantly find yourself in stormless weather after turning all the mechanisms to Y.S. mode. Y.S. mode had been their clever way of referring to the chinese god of rain, Yu Shi, of which you could expect a minimum 20 minute conversation with if you ever had the misfortune of bringing it up to them.
I had placed the Alla Luna in this mythological mode roughly 15 seconds prior to entering a rainfree and windless section of the planet’s “don’t even ask how the weather works quadrant”. My thrusters, in an effort to preserve energy had been turned into glorified vacuums, collecting as much rainwater as possible with the hopes of converting the liquid into usable fuel. They along with myself would soon regret this decision as I lost control of the cruiser and ended up nose first into a muddy, lonely crop of land.
After a few muscle throbbing attempts to open the hood, I hesitantly pressed the ejection button only to see it propelled into the air, foreshadowing the highest any part of the ship would soon be able to fly. I squinted my eyes as I brought my vision to the compartment, hoping to see a show room, sparkling clean interior. It had been a nice thought, but instead I was greeted with the you’d be better off buying a new ship interior. Parts of the engine appeared so bent and thrown from their original location that it began to lose its resemblance to any workable piece of equipment I had ever seen. I could have all seventeen screwdrivers jumbled together in my hands and still not know where to even begin. My mind began to wander, this was not fixable, would I happen to know a good mechanic on this planet? Perhaps a main road somewhere I could stand on the side of and stick my thumb out of? This situation appeared to be so bad, my thoughts began to become comical. Had I just temporarily killed the Alla Luna? Surely a complaint would be soon to follow regarding the damn Y.S. driving system and its accessory to murder.
I had thought my luck was riding right along empty when all of a sudden it dipped even farther below the capitalized E. A droplet of rain splashed on my helmet, followed by six or seven more. The skyline had not been bright to begin with, but appeared to be getting darker with the addition of the fresh falling water. I hesitated to walk towards the barren piece of equipment I had just ejected from the ship, but even a broken engine bay is better than a broken flooded engine bay. The hood attachment clips were designed to be installed with relative ease, but my situation proved outside their scope of design. Securing two of the four should suffice for now. As for the list of repairs, I placed the hood mechanisms right around the bottom.
Making my way into the ship, I had gotten quite wet. In a swift succession, I closed the front hatch, discarded off my clothes, and laid down in the front cockpit seat, allowing the pattering of rain to sooth my discomfort of the moment. My eyes were rebelling once again, they were beginning to close, leading me down the rabbit hole that would soon mean sleep. I would soon be greeted by her again, the woman without a name.
Is this my dream?
My first recollection each time is standing in that hallway, freezing. The fact that I am inside proves no shelter, as the back patio door is wide open, appearing to begin a comfort in the position. Snow has drifted all along the floor, covering most of the adjacent kitchen in two to three inches of christmas. The wind blows inside and everything becomes airborne, creating the illusion of falling snow. It isn’t as if a thought enters my mind to close the double doors, my body simply starts walking in its direction to perform the action. I use my dreamt up boots to sweep away the unwanted drift from the door. Each hand is put to use as I simultaneously grab each door knob and pull shut. At first I succeed in closing both doors, lining up the frames with the frozen wall they’re contained in, but they will not shut. In another life as a door to door door salesman, playing off the proximity of the three nouns to boost sales, I would declare the knob’s latching mechanism as busted. No worries, as if a memorized movement, I reach above the door frame to grab the dead bolt key. It is firmly in my hand but instead I reopen the door. The awkward height induced action allowed my eyes to stray into the back patio. A girl stands outside, her back towards me, giving away a stillness despite the rapid weather. She seemed so warm, I never actually get to find out.
I awoke to a frenzy of sensors screaming and shouting in front of me. Their delay in the matter almost cynical, unless during my slumber I had managed to crash the ship yet again. Four yellow lights indicating engine failure were joined by an entire medley of cryptic symbols I had come to forget since my training. One piece of advice I managed to follow was to always travel with two operating manuals. Stories circulated around the academy of simple scouting mission gone horribly wrong because of a misplaced manual which caused four crew members to be stranded, stranded being the polite word for starving to death. Most cruiser ships such as mine, and much like the one from the story used anywhere from two hundred to three hundred separate fuses. With no manual, the crew was unable to realize the replacement of a simple fuse was all that was needed for a safe passage back. Dreariness aside, I carried around two, each located in a different suitcase, in case I found myself stranded and of course hungry.
I exited the rather comfortable seat I often times slept in to, to grab the sacred and unused operating manual of the Alla Luna. Tucked away in the back pocket of my own personal bag, I flipped past the general advisement portion of the book to the delicately hand written section that pertained to my ship. Each certified ship that came out of the aviation academy had an area of the operating manual handwritten by the mechanic who had built the ship, surprisingly in legible handwriting. Far from standard protocol, my hands lifted a stack of pages to the emergency shut off section. A headache would ensue if these sensors were not properly shut off, redefining properly as that of an immediate pull the plug type system shut off. Page two hundred and thirty six gave the explicit instructions to in bold capital letters ONLY BE USED DURING AN EMERGENCY, I used an imaginary pencil to place a checkmark next to the dramatic text, and began to skim through my next movements. Take the master key out of the ignition and place into the slot marked unused, how clever. Turn key right, followed by a full three hundred and sixty rotation to the left, an immediate alarm will sound indicating the systems acknowledgement of the emergency system online. A ten second window will then open to remove the ignition key, thus terminating all active systems, until a proper reboot has been initiated. With all steps accounted for, a much needed silence soon filled the cabin. I glanced over at the heads up display, it informed me that four hours had passed since my last unconscious journey in the cockpit seat. I would need to convince myself this single digit amount of sleep would prove sufficient for the challenge ahead of me.
I sat in stillness, the expensive piece of machinery whom I had grown quite fond of appeared lifeless next to me. It was in these seasonal moments that I couldn’t help but dwell on the scar present on my left hand. A permanent stamp of elegance disguised as shame that entered my thoughts during times of self guilt. It screamed how all of this had been my fault, how three years ago when it appeared one day on my body had been unfortunate, for the both of us.
It was with much disdain that I should bring up Malve. A nickname I had always wished would have ended up as his real name, ensuring a life of laughing at and not with. Legally born as Orville Malverson, or what the entire academy knew him as, Malve. Malve grew a distaste for me for the same reason a trash can might hate a grand piano, one is just better. He wore the burden of a family lineage, being passed down a rather large pair of boots to fill. This frustration, or so I had assumed it so, meant that flying fast and dangerous suited his devilish desires. Contrary to any shadow of heritage being cast my way, I simply enjoyed fast and dangerous. The human instinct to increase the bodies heart rate by a mere situation to me was intoxicating. Allowing both motives to bring success ways, it was inevitable that our paths would eventually cross. Being the computer nerd I was, I noticed his name, the god given one and not the mockable alternative, climbing the cadet ranks that were posted monthly by the academy for any and all to see. The rankings were broken down into subclasses; knowledge, athletics, mechanics, and aviation. Although not advised by the staff, I did not concern myself much for anything besides aviation. I maintained passing grades in the other three pillars, but chose to devote my time to finish within the top ranked in the one that truly mattered. It was puzzling at first that others would go on to be pilots of the sky with such a focus in any other ability, at least Malve and I shared that philosophy.
The first two years were filled with basic courses, ones to let you grasp the concept of having metal wings, while also weeding out the cadets that didn’t belong. Rankings were still given throughout the early training at the academy, with the biggest dose of erogance given to the top pilot during everyone’s first month. That erogance fell on Malve’s tiny shoulders, which I would spend the good portion of my last two years eventually taking away.
It was the fall of sophomore year, and the stage had been set for us to finally become acquaintances. After a few non substantial flight training exercises together, it became clear the rivalry slowly brewing between us, a low lit flame placed our feet. He decided to invite that flame to consume us both during what should have been a mundane target practice exercise. The academy did not partake in the use of any live munitions on campus, and instead had a satellite camp two hundred miles south for such practice. Without knowing too much regarding the new world geography, anything sixty or so miles south meant you were crossing a border. A border created by Lexington Harris to keep those who refused his brain bathing exercise separate from the rest of his world. Being cut off by the marvels of the new world was not enough, as each disobedient member of society was forced to receive a 2 inch wide bronze bracelet, deeming them an outkast. The bracelet was welded on tight, and bore the inscription “EOTS” for Enemy of the State. Laser cut into each clamp prior to being permanently placed on its rightful owner, the letters were embossed on.
We had one simple objective, hit all ten ground targets in the aggressive time frame of three minutes. Spaced far apart in the abandoned desert like confines of the academy’s training facility, each pilot went in a staggered fashion, allowing thirty seconds to pass before taking off themselves. Having an aviation rank of fourth overall, I went thirty seconds before Malve who unhappily at the time had the rank of fifth. My thrusters screamed as I took off into the horizon. Targets one two and three were easily hit, placing the fourth in my line of sight. My thumb had moved to the left to fire off another close range tracer missile when I saw two people, a man and a woman, trying to untangle themselves out of the netting used for the fourth target. I hesitated at first, but decided to forgo my results by landing my craft roughly fifteen feet from the target. Exiting with haste, I ran to them yelling about their predicament. Although delusional, the man had gotten free and ran off into the landscape, leaving the woman and her legs tangled in the netting. I looked to see what she might have been caught on when I heard a second pair of thrusters heading my way.
Malve was on route to target four and I had no doubt on his decision making skills when it came to pulling the trigger on a cluttered target area. It was at this moment that I grabbed the woman's arm, interlocking both of our wrists and I harnessed every ounce of strength into pulling her body. I had managed to get her less tangled, but it was at that moment I heard the ejection of two tracing missiles, one being the only amount needed to hit each target. I closed my eyes and continued to pull, afraid of what might transpire over the next few seconds. Each missile hit, and with it the small blast radius of fire it had been designed to deploy. As if doused in gasoline, the woman whom I had decided to devote myself to caught herself into flames. Her arm was included in this delusion, and with it the bronze bracelet elegantly given to her by my loving government. What would seem like hours passing, and her charred leg would finally break free. I dragged her out of the slow burning fire that had consumed her and ran to my ship. A quick pop of the front compartment would yield me a fire blanket, for apparently moments like this. I tripped while sprinting back to her, throwing it over her body and activating the cooling phase, designed to cease any flames that might still be present.
I didn’t want to, but I lifted the blanket off of her, she was still breathing, and after an emergency call, would go on to continue to live a life as an enemy of the state. Unfortunately in sense, so would I. The placement and pressure of the bracelet upon my skin was almost intentional, as the letters EOTS had been branded on the inside of my wrist. I would bare this mark for the entire duration of my education, and with it the hatred for the one they call Malve.
After the so called incident at the training facility, Malve had been temporarily suspended. His ranked marked N/A for four months, allowing me to become somewhat uncatchable. Before taking his leave of absence, he made sure to spread every and any rumor of my so called “enemy of the state” past, creating a slight taint of my reputation.
For most people of the free world, the term enemy of the state did not hold the repulsion expected by the governing mass. Simply put, one day a small percentage of the population became marooned to abandon everything they possessed besides their fondest memories. The price to keep such treasures meant wearing a life long piece of metal around your wrist, similar to the price of being branded by the simple fact of wanting to get ahead. I prioritized getting a long sleeve shirt on to cover up the intrusion.
At some point I would have to begin making better use of my time, the twenty mile gap between myself and an abandoned settlement wasn’t getting any closer. Although my situation seemed to be nose diving into the side of a cliff, it did allow for one sigh of relief. The uncommon exhale came in the form of a tiny four wheeled counterpart, packed for exploration purposes, not in case the ship drew the victim card during a murder mystery dinner. Consisting of a thin metal frame, the nameless rover took up so little room that I had stashed it in the cargo bay with the rest of my luggage. Looking back at the various training exercises the academy crafted up for my four year stay, the rover drills find itself somewhere by the top. A miniature course had been made to let pilots push the little buddy’s to their limit. I had been one out of a dozen or so pilots that managed to not break theirs. Low and behold the same one used in my training now accompanied me through space, and would now be my sole mode of transportation.
I began moving standard issued duffle bags out of the way to begin a streak of productiveness. The rover weighed roughly sixty pounds, and would soon witness its first non Earth atmospheric trip. I took my time putting my space suit back on, I would be losing the comfort of being in my own ship. After a quick pause, I firmly pressed on the activation of the hull door and stepped outside.
The rover had been fully charged, but would not last a round trip to and from my destination. This meant I would be looking for more than just engine parts, but fuel as well. I was about to leave when I went back to the Alla Luna, grabbed a large empty duffle bag and muttered to my poor ship….. “I swear I’ll be back soon.”
The machine handled quite well, considering the sloshy surface resisting its path forward. I was able to get it just over fifteen miles an hour, this put me arriving for my welcome party in a little over an hour. Plenty of time for sightseeing, enacting my role as a tourist on this foreign planet. The weather was still drizzling and I took a mental snapshot of the dull yet beautiful atmosphere the planet wore.
Toting around a pressure sealed helmet during a rainstorm meant that anything not coming into direct contact with your viser appeared muted. Watching the rain in the distance fall down in silence, it made successful attempts at going unnoticed. To pass the time, I begin to run through the various situations I’d face once I’d reached my destination. Had they chosen a quick escape, leaving behind scraps for me to utilize, possibly a few piles of bones. Maybe the logistics crews working overtime, devising the most cost effective strategy for removing any trace of their failed experiment. Scenario B would prove as a final sign from above that I had chosen the wrong career, the result of my punch list of failures. I was making good time as my navigation had me over half way progressed. The quiet strands of water in the distance were bringing guests, flashes of lightning began to add light to the horizon. I imagined myself becoming an award winning scholar, adding a publishment to the academy’s record of this planet on just the weather alone. The memoir consisting of one chapter, titled AVOID. I failed to hear the actual crackle produced from the blue beams until one struck almost twenty or so feet from me. A shot of focus accompanied the lightning as I pivoted back to pilot from tourist. My body tensed up as more bolts landed around me. It didn’t necessarily hurt, but I had become airborne, a bolt had struck my rover right below the fuel source. The next sound was of my helmet smashing into a foreign rock, breaking the seal, allowing the atmosphere to caress my skin. I started to feel light headed, unsure of the effects the planets toxins were having on me. I do remember overlooking reports of the miners taking off their helmets due to pockets of breathable air. My final thought of comfort. The hole in my helmet created a faint breeze, carrying me like a leaf far away from consciousness.
There hadn’t been any snow this time. The times welcomed into this dream state had no bearing on the weathers decision to choose which attire to wear. An always unexpected detail to the mystery I’d witness.
I sat at the kitchen table, my hands folded over a warm cup of liquid. I watched as steam ascended away from the mug, leading my eyes to discover if the back patio had been occupied. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when she shows up, nestled away in an unobstructed view, waiting to be found. I’ve dreamt of remaining motionless, declining to play any game of hide and seek for any chance towards tranquility. Early on I learned how foolish this became as eventually she would find me. Her unpredicting nature made such attempts horrifying to say the least. Playing the role of cat beat out that of mouse, possessing a sliver of control in the matter. I started to stand up, faint notes of music were echoing from upstairs. Bouncing off the drywall and inviting me to join. The origin of the song always misplaced, an artifact flown away with the rest of my memories. I grabbed the staircase banister and proceeded to follow the obscure medley up. The first door on the right had been pushed wide open, disagreeing with the closed nature of its surround bretherein. She was sitting on the floor, her legs pushed out to one side, half covered by the red dress that had become so familiar to her body. Sprawled around her were photographs, varying in size but depicting the same image. A boy and a girl, standing just far enough away from view discouraging any effort in distinguishing a face. Her hands were scratching through the artifacts on the ground when she paused, moved her glance from over her shoulder to the doorway. After a while I stopped trying to initiate and form of communication with her. Her gaze becomes fixated on the window and soon so does mine. The window is wide open and letting in the sudden rain. It doesn’t seem logical but the room seems to be filling up with water. It reaches the height of my mouth, and as I take one last gasp of air, its over.
I began to notice the dreariness of my situation sinking in. Either I would begin to notice some type of side effect from the hours spent consuming this planet’s air, or it proved to somehow be breathable. Apart from having cracked the only helmet packed on my expedition, I could now add to the growing list of broken items, Rover One. Charred, it glistened a hue of death from the sunlight above. Pointing the corpse out alone, as the rain and blue flashes no longer occupied the skyline.
My torso ached from the impact, the wet white surface breaking my fall. I looked around trying to identify any sense of direction, my field of vision improved without the storm trying to pick a fight. It wasn’t much, but what looked like a small roof stood in the distance. A faint smile was soon greeted with doubt, was I really seeing a metal frame or simply some sort of reflection, this deserts very own mirage. Either way, I’d end up finding out, anxiety causing action in the form of walking there. I stood up, unable to stop my glove from instinctively covering the crack in my helmet. A convincing case had not yet been made in my mind that I was in any way safe exposing myself. With a slight limp, I embarked on gaining back the smallest parcel of luck.
Any prolonged thought about my current abandonment gently became delayed by the seductive ploys put on by the scenery. The white material meeting my boots shared the characteristics of sand, giving off twinkles of light cast from the sun above. Trekking through a winter wonderland on the beach, I impersonating an eager child's desire for newly wrapped gifts. One gift in particular, the hope that the metal structure I had focused on turned out to be actually real. It was getting closer, affirming that the present I was unwrapping turned out to be exactly what I had asked for.
It stood approximately twelve feet tall, with an even smaller width, it truly did resemble a shack. Possibly built here by an old habitant of the past, when the mining operations were in full swing. Only a portion of the roof had survived the decades of neglect, letting the harsh elements in to whatever had been left inside. Standing at the entrance, it would only seem proper to bear a flashlight in one hand, an oversized pistol in the other, busting down the door exuding my authority. Losing the audience, I instead pushed down on the door handle and sluggishly opened the door. Absent of a light switch, the weather above provided enough daylight to illuminate the interior. A soggy thin mattress sat elevated off the ground, deteriorated far past any proclaimed warranty set by the manufacturer. Next to it a small wooden dresser, appearing hand built and joining the other items in the room as neglected. Including a metal foot locker, a pile of knick knacks, and what appeared to be a handwritten note, nailed to the wall. I curiously went over to the piece of paper first. In black cursive ink, it read:
I can’t wait any longer. My biggest fear now is that you will actually open that door, come back for each promise made so long ago. Only this time unfamiliar, a stranger. Carrying with you a lit match to burn away the beautiful image I’ve preserved of you in my mind. I’ve tried to hold some of the blame, grow from just blaming this whole fucking mess on those miners, on your friends. It was clear I had to leave, anyone having even the slightest fragrance of the Corporation was as good as dead. But I waited, longer than the strings you twirled around my heart every wanted to hold. I lived in these four walls. Sometimes I imagined it all ending, you telling the faction of this little shack we built, that one of corporate snubs would be hiding out in it, waiting for you to live happily ever after. Sometimes I wanted it to end so badly, I had hoped you would. I have no other option now but to run. From whoever you’ve become, from the miners, from this damned planet. I’ve taken the shuttle and I’ve headed back to the Stars my love.
I reread the scrap of paper several times with wide eyes. I never pictured people including home as one of the names this place could be referred to as. Chaotic mess, failed experiment, or place to die alone came to mind as blatant first choices, but home struck a new chord. I felt guilty but I placed the note in my pocket, an artifact I’d convinced myself, showcasing the unexpected. Somehow the words lingered around me in the small empty space. A familiar feeling shedding it’s winter skin in hopes to see the sunlight again. I didn’t dwell, I needed reminding that my intentions of being here were to scavenge and not to reminisce. My eyes scanned the tiny crevices left untouched by discovery. Alas, a footlocker bearing the corporate logo with the dusty red letters “emergency only” sat losing its bold color with age. My eager hands unlatched the top compartment only to be met with a formal greeting of emptiness. A cloud of emptiness found its way through the crack in my helmet as I exhaled a dramatic sigh. All of this effort for a desperate man’s final discouraged moment of empathy. My content proved premature as kept by the front door sat a helmet, much like the broken one placed upon my head. It had remained silent during my attempts to be productive, but was now being checked for a matching puncture. I noticed a big blue logo on each side of the head piece as I quickly threw off my helmet and adjusted the piece of luck to my suit.
I exited the enclosure, the forgotten feeling left to rot inside. Endlessly exhausting each avenue of my past, hoping to grasp onto anything that may contain our story. The dry air lost its bitterness now that I had a new plate of glass in front of me. The once in love corporate snob who in his last act of kindness left behind a present for this marooned explorer.
I started to set priorities, it worried me how low finding my memory microchip now sat on the list of things to do. I needed to find an essential solution on fixing the mode of travel I had taken here. I chose to head for the yet to be investigated town, my best option for the parts I would need. The interlude between my efforts now and when I would arrive.
This would prove to be a first for me, I’ve checked off a fair amount of campus trails during my stay at the academy, mixed with the mundane typical walks we all encounter throughout our lives, but a seven mile walk on a foreign planet with nothing but my thoughts to keep me busy, was new. Walking had always been a surprising topic of conversation, surprising for me to learn that not everybody’s childhood consisted of walking everywhere. My family hadn’t necessarily been poor, they just placed importance on obscurities. I, as a kid, walked everywhere. To school, the store, it became as second nature to me as breathing. Granted it was hard to recollect my collection of youthful outings, but the few that involved my family remained in tact. When the world lost their memories, the biggest thing we lost were the subtitles.
The sentences at the bottom of the page with an asterix in front of them, shedding light on the context of the emotion you were trying to recollect. It shared a feeling with remembering a scene from a movie, easy to recall, but unfamiliar. The biggest gap in time for my innocent years had to be somewhere between age ten to fourteen. The age range that included the mysterious discovery of the other sex. Spending your days crafting love notes and procuring the proper way of how to use your lips. The same discovery that fell victim to an onslaught of cursing after let down at a school dance.
To have kept any fragments of the past meant that two or more people in a sense signed off on the memory. The world was about to become an unbiased place, any thoughts or memories that were solely your own, were not going to make the cut. Anyone from your past who wasn't still knocking on your door every now and then or picking up the telephone was not going to make the cut. In the eight month gap everyone had to fill a memory capsule, both people had to be present, signing off on the acceptance to retain each other into the new era.
On a short list I had added ____ sign.
I subdued my thoughts for the moment and began focusing on the weather. The mundane topic of conversation that killed any attempt for depth, as it clawed its way out for desperation. As of now I had experienced rain, clear skies, and now whatever the interstellar version of gloom would be characterized as. As if the weather studied in my consciousness, its patterns danced with my state of mind. Gloom suited me rather well at the moment.
It had been 2 years since I had begun having this dream, the ongoing afterhours experiment, never running short of beakers to fill in through its many trials. I felt I run out of questions to ask regarding the matter, the rudimentary ones now lost in so many secondary questions. I had to have known her at some point during my existence, carefully sliced a piece of myself out for her that would never be claimed back. Almost instantly developing a case of seller's remorse, forgetting over time what that piece had even looked like. The only actual strains of truth that I had been able to stitch together was her relation to my childhood, carefully catching a glimpse of the sometimes sprawled and unrecognizable pictures she carried around with her. Although dated and blurry, it was easy to tell by size that they were from an adolescence. These thoughts were beginning to become crowded again, but placed needed time on the clock, I would soon find myself close to my destination.
Burnt pale lemon lights hung from a thick coiled cord, housed in individual bulbs, it told the short story of electric bills still being paid. These tiny restrained stars started to perpetuate curiosity as to their entire existence. A since hidden side of this place began to show itself, a home. I found it hard to hold down the idea that after the last recorded flights had left, mankind remained. Seventeen years had passed since any recordation, any written composite that not all had boarded the final shuttles. A sense of self defense hit me, it was more than the weather that began to worry me. My joyful trespassing carried with it a level of danger. I wore the role of the victim staring in my own horror movie, blindly walking into a trap with the willful idea that I was safe. I started to adjust my movements, acknowledging the distinct pressure difference between the downward position of a heel verse a toe. My safety now the dominant thought, casting aside the conquest to stumble upon fuel, a necessary belonging that would allow me to escape. Although such whereabouts to an energy supply might not choose their first habitat as where I knew I was going, the comfort it would soon provide made up. Apart from hopefully retrieving my memories, a secondary subtle draw to this planet was the abandoned mall it housed. Fulfilling an almost childhood fantasy, I wouldn’t mind a few day detour rummaging through all the forgotten department store has beens.
Pulling out the slew of selected aerial photos I had stuffed within my left zipped pocket, I pinpointed its location to the northern most area of the compound. I hastily ran towards its position, as the sky was getting cloudy, forcing the newly discovered collection of draped bulbs to provide the only light source. More and more the abandoned mall shined bright as a beacon of comfort.
The mall must have involved itself in some sort of conflict resolution, losing out to the disputing force. I did not see any way in through the collapsed entrance, twisted metal and dust blocking initial attempts to enter. A side entrance, consisting of a small red metal door must have quickly taken over as a primary way in as it lost its look of urgency only.
I entered with caution, so far I had yet to see any visitor center, any inkling that wanderers were welcome to explore as they please. My first task would be to find a map, a podium where poor advertising meets a small red circle named you are here. In their absence I headed towards a large courtyard, placed in the center for its access to the rest of the facility. Its dominant view providing no further insight on where I should be traveling. With an arbitrary motion, I headed left, hoping to cross paths with anything hopeful.
Necessary care had been taken to minimize the amount of noise produced by my curious nature into this place. With each exaggerated motion, my foot inched over its companion in an effort to avoid the mess that years of neglect had painted along the floor. I was heading in the correct direction, towards what appeared to be some sort of repair shop, but made a slight detour. The large circular common area, usually home to a collection of traversing escalators was sharing the space. Pointed vertically at the large skylight directly above it, a small ship stood half built, a possible work in progress. A lot of time and effort had been placed here, parts placed around the machine in an organized fashion. Someone was trying to build their escape, venturing off from the very place I had landed not less than twenty four hours ago. The small time frame placing me in their same position. It did not appear accessible, valuable time taken to ward off intruders, constructing tall man made walls along the perimeter. One location seemed suitable to climb, and after spotting a large fuel rig supply within the slew of collected parts, I began contemplating how to climb.
It was my left foot that took the first stride towards an even further level of trespassing. Transfering my full weight onto the makeshift wall I felt the vulnerability of my actions. Using the gaps in the fence, I started to make progress on my attempts to get farther away from the ground. At roughly ten feet in the air, I started to hear a voice. Apart from my own advances to add aloud my own narrative, the last seven months had been devoid of any organic noises. A small stretch of time where a lack of cleared throats or nasal reliefs somehow became noticeable. My current concern being that of a new noise finding its way through my ear canal with a sultry pilot navigating. A concern I would soon need to react for, but how.
It mimicked a melody, words being strung together gracefully through constant recollection, but somehow familiar. I paused, these tones and patterns berated my thoughts, casting on me with disappointing eyes as if only to repeat “how have you forgot about us?”. My movements halted, bearing weight on the current foothole I temporarily anchored to. The words of the melody becoming more clear, its creator moving closer towards my location. I neglected every competing sense and honed in, asking my ears just this once to work more than expected. Believing that the chorus set in, a repeating verse offering clarity. I couldn’t help but lean closer, perch further towards this forgotten melody, carrying with it answers I craved.
The words danced in front of me “ ______________ “
“____ ? “
The word seemed to be awaiting my rediscovery, bringing with it a tangled web of fragments. I grasped internally to find its meaning, with the immediate sound of a snap, I should have been grasping for grip. The detour I had fallen victim to neglected to allow me to notice the loose nature of the section of fence I chose to rest during the impromptu symphony. Any balance I thought I had became lost, in a short instance I lost grip of my left, then right hand. The ceiling pulling away, followed by a thud. I was left with only parts of consciousness, hearing scuffling to my right, I pivoted my new blurry vision to notice red. A shadow muffling words as a silhouette came into focus. A blurred figure who’s top appeared dipped in kerosene. The murmurs coming from it not registering on even a child's level. A comforting hue of dark was setting in. My field of vision in it all becoming thinner.
I had to learn how to stop this unpredictable nature of falling asleep. Swapping out an over the counter pill bottle for any form of blunt trauma. Seeming necessary to ship me off into a lulled state. It was night time, a chorus of insects bellowed through the kitchen windows, masking the silence typically filling the house. Anxiously I turned my head around, for I knew I wasn’t his houses only inhabitant. Other than the insects, I could not trace any other origin of sound, no clue to where she was hiding. The only light source at the moment had been the overcast of the outdoor flood lights. They provided a dim atmosphere, filtering the mood into suspense. I tiptoed over to the light switch to discover its hibernating state. Gone for the winter I suppose. I began to hear footsteps, a comfort to know she would be joining me soon, but the tone seemed off. Her normal elegant soft kiss towards the ground was replaced with brash thuds, putting her weight into every step. The sounds didn’t appear to be coming towards me, but instead in a circular motion. Starting in the living room, continuing into the hallway, followed by the dining room. I began to worry, she had never been this active before, a usual art installation that was now on the move. It occured to me that I would feel safer outside, accompanying the deck lights and night chatter, glistening as a vacation compared to this. It appeared she was hunting for me, I’m sure of it.
I had neglected to check any measure of time prior to my acrobatic performance towards the ground. The night had been setting in as I had entered and was still dominating the skyline. I noticed a sort of quiet in the afterhours of this landscape. Taking a break from being mysterious and elusive as it rested for the coming day. I peered down to notice a dusty scrap of paper tied around my wrist. Large in size it bellowed the five letter words that had been so neatly written on it.
“ L E A V E “
Such vagueness for an absence of context, I couldn’t help but feel a dash of care in the words. Stumbling past the question of what happened, I moved on to what to do next. Shoving the five letter note into my pocket, I re-entered the mall. I had tucked away on the ground my satchel which after my aided action of sleepwalking still remained inside. I re-entered, but this time with more caution.
I had taken not two steps when regret greeted me, I hadn’t been sure of mostly anything since I arrived here, but re-entering this building required a second judgement call. The blurry fire bearing figure had taken enough care to to drag me outside, a possible reunion between us couldn’t be too dangerous. I convinced myself I didn’t have a choice. Trusting the more nieve version of myself that had entered prior, I retraced my steps through the entryway. I was maybe 50 or so feet from the clever barricade when I noticed something new, a recently closed door appeared open, with bright flashing lights illuminating a new passage. It had to be the same person as before, in such a proximity to the main area, unless this abandoned town had alternating personnel shifts.
Devious thoughts started to materialize, assuming I headed the warning and hadn’t returned, this individual wouldn’t expect me tracking from behind. Perhaps I could go undetected, watching from a far for such a sign maker. I took an adequate amount of time to gently slide the door further open to allow my body through. Although I believed very much that I had indeed entered the towns mall, the contents of this passage became deceiving. It resembled more of a lab, high security, making sure no curious children stumbled into it during normal mall hours. I meandered down the hallway to reach a large demolished area. Had a bomb gone off, taking with it the floor, only to expose a vast room below it. I leaned towards the edge of the collapsing floor to notice movement. A cabinet was being pushed but the cause of the action remained hidden behind. I crouched, making my body almost flat with the floor, eyes straining a saw a figure. Blurry at first
[Chapters later....................on route back to the Alla Luna with Evelyn]
I never fully let my guard down for her, almost as if we slept in the same bed with chainlinks draped head to toe. I knew we both wanted the same thing, an answer to the burning question of what was next, but how much had she let on. Her solution to this mess had a row of bullet points highlighting a realistic way out, it was my uncertainty if I had made the list. A had been missing piece, and not a means to an end. The crackle of the small camp fire provided a conversation that had been lacking between the two of us. I didn’t necessarily know how to comfort someone I had just met. Inept of the various locking mechanisms that housed her very existence. You could tell she was sad. A child could tell she was sad. It was in the way her lighthouse eyes had lost their brightness. The sea soaked keeper inside gasping for breath as water began to rise above the stairs. I should probably say something, feed her a distraction she so desperately craved.
“You know most people fall in love with the stars the first time they get to travel through space.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
It appeared I knew even less about this woman than I had thought.
“It’s the glow. Seeing it all so close, it’s always so much more light than you imagine.”
“Sounds like something I’ll never see……….but I’m sure it is beautiful.”
“It is……...it really is….”
We sat in silence for another half hour, before the flames began to die down.
It astounded me the time vanished from realizing the dream had set in. It was evening, the sun feeling the fatigue of the days length. A certain hue of color carrying its shoulders under the horizon. I noticed a scent slowly falling off the burnt tip of a freshly lit candle, a forgotten memory. I turned away from the kitchen to face the downstairs hallway, a flicker of light painted the walls. The playful tones enjoying the absence of any weather, putting the room a shy bit above silence. A flip of the coin would decide if upon turning the corner her dreary figure would greet me. Standing with her back in my direction, her head carried a slight tilt. I had become comfortable with casting my words into the empty air, lingering as an echo trying to find an eager pair of ears.
“Do I even want to guess why you’re lighting these now?.......not that it matters either way…..”
She walked across the room, neglecting to show any sign that my silhouette was seen. My eyes drew focus on a pile of miscellaneous bins and boxes in the corner of the room, casting no importance on their order. Care was taken to make sure the stack had been able to get as high as it did. I watched her exit the room, her footsteps falling short of the linens closet. She trailed back with a thick white bed cover, unraveling it as she returned. Her arms flew up into the air as two open corners of the sheet darted out over the pile. The sheet began to fall as it draped itself along the collectables. The piece of cloth had fully settled upon every nook and crevice, but she remained motionless, stuck out of motion. The falling sunshine outside allowed me a distraction as it illuminated through the front door glass panels. I took the opportunity to adjust my surroundings, the door handle in my grip, I allowed more in. I didn’t react immediately but she had grabbed my hand, her small cold fingers gripping my palm. Her surprised position soon becoming the leading torso to the left of me. A small tug taking me into a moving position, we were exiting the porch. The unkept grass becoming our path towards the first real interaction she has ever given me. We stopped maybe twenty or so feet from the house, my body constricting as she circled both arms around me. Squeezing her body closer and tighter to mine, she turns to face the house and I can't help but notice a fire. The candles placed in the room with the sheet must have fallen over, igniting ablaze everything. I inched forward, her strain tightening, I hault, remain standing in place with her. The emerging flames growing farther into the house quickly occupying the second floor. It burned bright, consuming the space I had gotten so familiar with. The walls that have plagued my nights for so many times since losing their unwelcoming charm with a dash of embers. Structural members began to fail, and in a quiet finale deconstructs to become a collection of debris. I close my eyes, the lost residence delivering comfort to my body. I could feel her grip, the entire time, even right as I was about to fall asleep, I felt her.