by T. Gene Davis
Two days later, I wake. I over slept, again. My first instinct is to roll over. The straps hold me back. I’m salaried. If no one’s complaining, I get paid. I consider unstrapping myself, just to roll over. Then that little voice warns me, where does it end?
I unstrap myself from the hammock, and sit up. The Spud’s gravity is too weak to keep me in bed all night without straps. (“All nights,” I verbally correct my singular thought.) I hate the straps. I can’t roll over with the straps. Sometimes I sleep in the dust just to avoid the straps.
I lie while recording my log. I look straight in the camera—without once flinching or smiling—saying, I’ve been diagnosing the receiver. Actually, I don’t bother with the receiver, anymore. Traceroute stops on their end. No hops past there. I need to talk to the network guy on the other end, but I don’t have network access, so I can’t talk to company IT. The only broadcast I’m receiving is my own broadcast of the Deep Skies Shopping Channel, … and that’s in reruns.
Out of boredom, or maybe desperation, I try the uplink again.
“Is anyone out there? Please respond,” I pray, sitting in front of the camera. I feel a bit foolish. I don’t really expect an answer. My maser uplink is fine.
Have you forgotten me? What’s happened to you? I think it, but I see in the monitor that my face shows the panic just below the surface.
I shower. The water pressure, and chilly hydro vacuum breeze wake me a little. I shave my legs, pits, and pluck my chin, wondering all the time, why and for whom? I keep up the routine to keep the panic down. I put away the tweezers, and dress in my skin suit.
The fabric’s tightness embraces me, … by design. The suit feels comfortable. It pushes back isolation’s sensory depravation brought on by this asteroid. I would give anything just to shake a human’s hand or hear a real human’s voice.
I step out. I think about not hooking myself to the safety line. One good leap, and there’d be two satellites orbiting the Spud. I can almost see the movement of the stars under the asteroid’s four hour rotation. It is still night. The first of many dawns during my waking period will happen in about thirty minutes. I begin my leaps to the warehouse bunker, restrained from flying off into space by the safety line.
Yet another strap.
I sigh. My nose itches. I can’t get to the warehouse bunker fast enough.
I un-suit and scratch my nose raw. Then, I begin inventory. I fudge a few of the numbers by copying from the last waking period’s numbers. I can’t remember the last order I had to fire off, or receive. I focus on the inventory count to avoid asking obvious questions.
Still enough food and supplies to keep a small city happy for years. I finish my count, log it, and suit up for the return to quarters.
I pause half-way between the warehouse and quarters. I look at the rock and the stars and the dust. It is cold. Too cold. This couldn’t be Hell, … I hope.
I have consumed most of my waking period with inventory. I clean my quarters, eat, and exercise to warm up a little. I then retire to watch reruns of our very own Deep Skies Shopping Channel. Finally, I return to my hammock, strapping myself in for another set of nights sleep.
I remind myself to focus only on tomorrow. I can make it one day. Only one day. I mustn’t change my routine. I mustn’t change for one day. I can keep my sanity for one day.
Taking a deep breath, I close my eyes. I focus on relaxing every muscle in my body, one at a time.
T. Gene Davis writes speculative fiction, poetry, articles, books, and computer software.
T. Gene Davis notes, … “I equate the difficulties of settling space to those of the European colonizers and settlers of North America. To find out the personal struggles of future space colonizers, I read the journals and accounts of earlier pioneers.”