Free-to-Read Short Story #1
J. Anthony Mylie
Terminal Log 001 – I am far more excited than I am frightened. Although, it would seem everyone who loves me feels nothing but sadness. Guess I can’t blame them. But I can only acknowledge their feelings, not empathize with them. I’ll never be a parent. I won’t know what it is like to bear a child. But I also won’t know what it is like to lose one. Probably for the best on my part. Never did care for them. Guess that makes me different. Then again, I’ve always been different. That’s why I’m here, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t know exactly when my little space ship will return to Earth, depends on how long I live, but it is my hope that my parents and brother and nieces will still be alive when that happens. They tell me space is a fickle and dangerous place and that anything could happen. Either way, no matter how long it takes…I hope someone remembers me. Because, in the end, isn’t that the only true immortality we’ll ever have? As long as someone keeps on talking.
Houston just relayed that they’re almost ready for launch and that my pretty (bald) head looks good on the only camera in this tiny ship. My good friend Dr. Hillard tells me I should get all of the specifics out of the way in the first log. That way when these logs return to Earth they can compile them into a cohesive book or something. I don’t know these things, I’m not an author, but here goes, little keyboard (my only friend for the next…however long it takes for the cancer in my brain to kill me.)
My name is Helena Ashmore Reeves. I’m 36 years old…and I am dying. (Editors of the future, feel free to copy, cut, and paste that line to the top if you prefer. Such a cheery opener). Where was I? Oh, yes. I am, indeed, dying. Shame, given how beautiful I am (was), but I digress (ego, huge). I have a tiny, pesky tumor in the center of my brain. Chemo didn’t work (miss my flowing red hair) and they can’t operate.
But. I am a fighter. And I refuse to go quietly. No, world, I am going to go out with such a bang it’ll have astrophysicists of the future studying my stuff for years.
Oh, we’re down to three minutes until to launch! Which reminds me that I guess I better tell you what I’m doing.
I’m being launched into space, destination: anywhere but here…and maybe even farther.
If I live that long, that is.
The first working prototype of an Electromagnetic Propulsion Drive (EM Drive for short) is attached to my ship. The whole crew of scientists and engineers on the ground think this baby could reach the moon in just 4 hours and Mars in just 70 days! They also speculated that I could reach Pluto in around 18 months…I shall attempt to laugh in the face of terminal death.
Any who, I commissioned this little adventure, you see. I’m wealthy (was). But fat lot of good it did me. Best doctors in the world couldn’t help me. However, since I was a little girl I always wanted to see the stars. And this is why I am sitting here on board the Tyson (Named for Neil deGrasse Tyson. Don’t know him? Google him up, he’s the man). This one woman vessel of mine is going to take me farther into space than any human has ever dared to go…or could go.
And I am going to keep going. Keep burning til all the lights are burnt out.
Wish me luck.
Terminal Log 002 – Wow. Words can’t hardly begin to describe this feeling. I’m weightless! Had to buckle myself into this chair to type.
Suppose I need to remain somewhat professional as these words will be read by many one day…again, hopefully.
I am off and into space!
Approaching the moon as I type. And judging by my on board clock and watch it would seem their calculations were correct. Approaching the three hour mark and the moon is about an hour away.
Again. Kinda neat.
It is so surreal. I can look out the windows (there are 4. One in the front, one on either side, and this little dome thingy on the top that basically fits just my head so I can peer about a full 360 degrees) and see the Earth getting farther and farther away and everything else getting closer and closer. Out here the Earth looks so peaceful. You can’t see the crime or the poverty. Or the wars. Ugh, how many astronauts in history have said something in far more eloquent terms? Like I said, not a writer. Nor a poet.
No, from out here…if there is a god, I could understand why he’d take a step back and say, “It was good.”
But as it slowly fades away…I do feel a sense of loss. I am still human, you know. I’ll never see another person again. I’ll never be able to talk to anyone again. I should note that there are no audio relays on this trip. The only thing I can send back to Houston is my location and astronomical data. Once I was out of the atmosphere my short range radio was useless. They wanted to outfit more communication methods, so I could speak to them or my family, but I politely declined. I wanted total isolation. I wanted to be alone, without any chance of a second thought of returning. Don’t ask me why. ‘Cause you can’t.
I chuckled just now, but it is a laugh you’ll never hear.
Terminal Log 003 – Just passed the moon. Not too close as I didn’t want this ship to get caught in its gravitational pull. Suppose I should make a note of saying that this trip is completely automated. It was calculated and planned mathematically with the utmost precision. I essentially don’t have to do a thing. There are controls available to me, but I dare not touch them. The slightest change in anything could drastically change my trip; or worse, end it prematurely. I want to see my death coming and burning up in a planet’s atmosphere is not how I want to go out.
I did, however, take the simulation courses for this vessel as a “just in case.” Space, as I previously noted, is capricious, full of chaos and randomness. So if anything were to happen I am fairly confident that I could pilot the Tyson back on course.
I even have a space suit. Not sure why they gave me one. What am I going to do outside? Better to have and not need than need and not have, I suppose.
By now some of you are likely wondering about my health. I am feeling okay. Sickness takes me sometimes as the chemo is still wearing off. There is a tiny airlock on board, about the size of a basketball, which I can use to get rid of waste and what not; like used packages from my food bags…and vomit bags. That’s right, from here on out all my food is basically in paste form. Used appropriately it should last me about 2 years…which is about double what I am expected to live. The Tyson is programmed to monitor my heartbeat…when I flat line…it sets a course back to Earth. My meds are in roughly the same supply, all in pill form. Dr. Hillard tells me they should ease some of my discomfort and hopefully slow the growth of the tumor. I guess we’ll find out together, trusty keyboard.
The toilet is quite small as well, obviously. Having to strap myself into that to evacuate certain things is odd. To say the least.
Probably my biggest sorrow, though, and you might think me vain, is no shower. Ugh, I’m really going to miss showers. Like dreadfully miss them. So, sadly, it is sponge baths from here on out. Then again there really isn’t much of a way to get dirty in here is there?
I have a supply of fresh water, something also to be used with great discretion. But as a back up there is a filtration system for my urine. Yeah, you read that right. If I have to I can drink my own pee.
But right now.
It is all worth it.
The views from my little windows. I am seeing the solar system now as no human ever has. I’ve already gone farther than anyone. Hopefully Guinness will dedicate a whole page in their books just for me!
So, this is my little home.
This tiny, cramped bathroom/kitchen/ pilot’s console careening through the black.
This is my coffin.
Terminal Log 011 – 30 days out. One whole month. If it weren’t for my tablet full of 20TB of music, movies, and books I’d likely already be insane; talking to myself and whatnot.
Aren’t I kind of already doing that?
I’ve entered dead space.
Not much worth seeing here until I reach Mars. It is almost haunting actually; to be this alone and cut off from everything. All those alien and monster movies start playing through your head and you just have to wonder.
Sometimes when I wake up it takes me a moment to realize where I am. The stars outside my window are like the night sky from home; obviously it’s vastly different out here, were I an astronomer I’d be able to tell the difference, but I am not. No, to me they’re just pin holes in a veil of perpetual night. I keep imagining the sounds of crickets and other wildlife; like on the camping trips I used to go on when I was little. But it is just silence.
There is the hum of the ship’s engines and the occasional blips and bleeps from the data analyzing systems. Sometimes I’ll play some of the sound files on my tablet. I’ve got oceans and wildlife stuff on here. Puts me to sleep real quick. One of the astronauts who trained me recommended I add such sounds to my library and I’m glad he did. He was kinda cute.
God, I miss sex.
No. Not going to get into that on here. I won’t delete it, but some things should remain personal.
Terminal Log 018 – I’ve been sleeping a lot. Obviously not much to do in here. Never slept so much in my life. Feels really good actually. There is no night and day in here, obviously, and I even stopped looking at the clock and my watch. Time doesn’t matter anymore; Earthly time, anyway.
Time, the clock, seemed to run my entire life before. Wake up, coffee, shower, workworkwork, home, dinner, maybe a bit of TV, then bed. All meticulously timed and all kept in sequence. You’ll find most people who gained wealth knew best that “time is money.”
So what is sleep?
But out here my only job is to live and witness, catalog. Can’t make money doing that. And there seems to be a freeing quality to that; once all the tropes of life are stripped away. And it is just you, alone, in a box for the rest of your life, with only your thoughts to mend you.
My hair has begun to grow back.
I’d add a smiley face here, but that would be unprofessional. My meds seem to be working quite well, coupled with copious amounts of rest I really am feeling better than I was. Dr. Hillard said this would happen. The occasional headache serves as the reminder of my imminent demise, though. But until then I breathe, I think, I watch and I listen. This universe is mine now and I am the first human-being to embrace it.
The zero gravity has been hard to get used to. For about an hour or so between sleep cycles I bounce myself around the small cabin, gingerly working my legs and arms. My muscles and any fat I have to admit that I had have begun to wither away.
Such a depressing word.
Yes, I like that better.
Without any real food to eat or gravity to press against, my body has slimmed. I can see it now, ladies and gents, the new fad diet! Zero-G! In just a few short weeks you’ll be catwalk ready.
Insert smiley laughing here.
Terminal Log 021 – Something odd happened. The Tyson shook. Not much, but enough to rouse me from sleep.
All system read outs seem normal and I can’t see anything other than distant stars and planets outside…and yet the ship shook.
Rattled, I guess would better describe it.
Terminal Log 029 – Mars.
The dullness of the dead space was worth it. I am the first human-being to lay their actual, physical eyes on the red planet from such a short distance and without any telescopic aid. I am the closest a human-being has ever come to being a Martian.
I’ll admit that there is a temptation to land. Being cooped up in the Tyson for almost seventy days has been…hard. There are moments when I scream, like when my meds can’t seem to overcome the headache. And I’ll scream and scream.
Until one time I stopped and realized I’d screamed enough. It wasn’t helping and no one could hear me. If a human screams in the middle of nowhere and no one is around to hear it, are they actually screaming?
I laugh a little as I continue to postulate the meaning behind my ramblings.
Either way, what I am trying to say is that I spent my entire life detesting loud noises. Detesting shouts and babies crying and loud mechanical thrums and horns; I think I may have caged my own voice and frustrations within myself. I never allowed myself to get so angry that I’d scream and shout and yell. For one it made you look crazy to anyone around you and two…it just seemed too dramatic.
That was until I let myself loose. I screamed and screamed, hollered and yelled, even lambasted all the people in my life that hurt me or aggravated me. I let it all out to the Tyson, his walls absorbing my frustrations.
My life is frustration. Plagued by work and very little love and respite. Now to be dying. Dying all alone with the wonders of stardust creation drifting around me. My lust for money got me here. Pangs of regret poke their ugly heads in every now and then; like why didn’t I just take the ship around the moon or something, fly a little through space, have my fill, then go back and die with my family by my bedside?
Because I’m arrogant.
I’m a terrible person who didn’t allow her parents to properly mourn the death of their daughter or spread her ashes on the family farm.
I have a lot of regrets.
I am still human.
But none of that matters now. After the screaming was done and now, as I sit here all strapped in typing, I feel I have finally let those parts of me go. The layers a person builds around them have been peeled away and all that is left is me.
Me and my consciousness.
Even the body is pointless.
Nothing left to do but live and experience. Watch and wonder.
The red planet is falling away from me now, off to rotate its perpetual orbit. I am back into dead space.
I am back into myself.
I think I’ll watch a movie. Perhaps something cheery and upbeat.
Terminal Log 050 – The Tyson rattled again. Waking me up from a deep sleep this time. I don’t know what it is or why it is happening. Been a long time since it last happened, but I haven’t forgotten.
When I woke up, for a split second, I thought I saw a light coming in from one of the windows, but it was likely just my imagination.
Could be aliens.
Maybe I really am starting to lose it.
All work and no play.
All work and no play.
All work and no play.
All work and no play.
All work and no play.
Terminal Log 056 – Something is wrong.
Something is very wrong.
I awoke and looked at the location read outs and…I am not where I should be.
I am much further.
The Tyson has somehow bypassed the asteroid belt, Jupiter and Saturn and Uranus; like it picked up speed.
Which is impossible. The engine can’t do that.
I didn’t slip into a coma or anything, the clock and my watch confirm that, and yet…here I am.
There is a smile on my face, make no mistake.
But I am also scared.
I think and I think. Trying to make sense of all this. Trying against insanity and impossibility.
The headaches are getting worse. More frequent and lasting longer. The pills are helping, but barely.
It is even harder for me to admit that it is likely the tumor; growing and pushing on things it shouldn’t. Maybe I am blacking out or seeing things, but I can’t be. I am clear and conscious right now as I type this.
Does this mean I am going to die soon. Some stroke or aneurism?
I don’t think I am ready.
Okay, other possibilities.
I was briefed on such a thing, but no scientist has ever observed one, they’re only a theory. A plausible theory, but unconfirmed none the less.
How else could I have gotten this far so fast.
What will happen when I go to sleep again?
Terminal Log 057 – Pluto.
It is Pluto.
I woke up just moments ago and Pluto is right outside my starboard window. It is impossible, yet there it is. Charts confirm it. The loneliest rock in the whole solar system. We must be at a point in its orbit where it is farthest from the sun as the dwarf planet has no atmosphere. Just a an icy ball of nitrogen spinning slowly in the black.
I am not going crazy.
Let me write that again.
I AM NOT GOING CRAZY.
I had to reiterate that as what I am about to type to you is going to seem beyond possibility and reality.
There’s is a soft blue light coming from the planet. Not the planet itself, but from somewhere inside it. I can see a few small craters dotting its surface and from them a light shines forth.
I don’t know what to make of it. Nothing in any of the pictures or studies I’ve looked up can give me an answer.
But that isn’t the only weird thing.
The Tyson has stopped moving.
All systems are normal and operational and yet it won’t keep flying. I am simply static in what I can only imagine is Pluto’s gravitational pull. But it isn’t drawing me closer. Like the planet is purposefully keeping me at a distance.
I am not going crazy.
Don’t think I can say that enough.
I turned on the Tyson’s manual controls and tried to fly away but I went nowhere. The engines hummed and the ship turned, but we didn’t move.
It is like something is keeping me here. Or brought me here.
I am not going crazy.
Terminal Log 058 – It has been days. I’ve been drifting around Pluto for days. What’s even odder is that my headaches are gone, they’ve stopped completely.
The lights are still coming from the craters on the surface. Sometimes they blink softly. It is so strange. Out of curiosity I checked to see it if was some sort of Morse code but it wasn’t. I checked binary and it wasn’t that either.
What do I do?
What is all this?
I’m scared, but curious.
On the verge of death what’s the point of being scared anymore?
Terminal Log 059 – Fuck it, right? If this is my final destination I might as well make it the most amazing experience any human has ever endeavored since man set foot on the moon.
I have that space suit.
And I’ve decided that I don’t want to die in this ship. It will not be my coffin.
I don’t know what the light is and I don’t know how I got here or why the Tyson is staying here.
But I am leaving.
I’ve already put on the suit, I’m going to leave the Tyson and hope beyond hope that I can reach Pluto’s surface. With a little luck, when I depart, the ship will register my lack of heartbeat and assume that I died and make its return trip back to Earth; should Pluto allow it. If it reaches its final destination then the whole world will finally be able to read my words and know my story.
I love you both. So very much. I couldn’t have asked for better parents, stronger parents. Thank you for always believing in me and pushing me to achieve greatness.
For I think I now have.
I left a lock of my hair, which grew back wonderfully, here on the Tyson. Keep it or bury it, which ever brings you the closure you need. It will now be the only evidence of me that I ever existed.
You were a pain in the ass growing up, but you made us all so proud with how you turned your life around. I hope your life is long and prosperous.
I love you.
I love you all so much.
Make no mistake that my leaving meant any less. I left for me. I left so that at least one human consciousness could experience a life beyond the Earth.
And it has.
Now it must find the answer to the mysterious light at the end of it all.
There is so much more to life than just work and money. I hope that the people who read my words find a peace and freedom within themselves to enjoy their lives and their finite existence. This one life is all we have.
Don’t waste it all by trying to fit in to whatever society wants you to be.
I had to journey millions of miles into space alone to find me. Hopefully none of you will have to do the same. Walk into the nearest forest alone and scream it all out for no one to hear but yourself.
Then walk back to the world and let them know you are alive and ready to face anything.
This is my last log.
These are my last words.
I hope they are good enough to define a human life.
The light beckons.
END LOG…PRESS ‘ENTER’