A Cold Touch
The coolness of the window was spreading from the tip of my nose; my only point of contact with something physical.
Every now and then I would make myself blink, just to find out that my eyes were still open
The vast dark expanse seemed no different to the one that lay before me a couple of hours ago, a few days ago, and a few weeks ago.
I reached behind to find the chair; the only thing to have held me for months now. As I pulled myself into its grasp, the coldness of the metal gripped my skin back.
Every now and then, as a glimpse of light scuttled across the inside of my shuttle, I would see the straps that hung loosely either side of where I sat. A brief memory of when straps used to hang downwards and not upwards flitted across my consciousness, a reminder of something real in what seemed like far too long.
A beep from the centre console behind the chair on which I sat quite literally grounded me. My feet no longer floated as they suddenly felt my full weight push down on them.
After months of not walking, putting one foot in front of the other had become more of a task than controlling the sophisticated vessel that encapsulated me. The massive reduction in my weight did help though.
The activation of Artificial Gravity meant only one thing: the onboard scanners had found a world compatible with the terraforming hardware onboard. I was about to land.
Colours began to glow in front of me, hypnotising me with their beauty. Anything that wasn’t a shade of black would have been able to distract me at that moment in time.
Distraction, however, wasn’t an option. The wire that dangled from my ankle was directly connected to the ship’s motherboard which enabled the ship to take safety precautions. The sharp surge of electricity that pulsated through my body became an instant, stark reminder of this.
I was more alive than I had been for weeks. Despite being one of the last humans not to run on electricity, the shock was, nevertheless, an effective method of re-energising oneself. This was particularly impactful to someone who had been on exceptionally little food for the past sixty-seven days.
Although the electricity had given me a necessary burst of life, what had woken me most was the sudden realisation of the massive energy reserves that something like this took. I’d been running on no lights, no Artificial Gravity and no communication for a good while , probably just to enable the ship to wake me up this once.
A sharp rattle to the head, this time provided by my own energy reserves, was the last shock I needed to fully wake up.
I looked down. The panel of buttons were slowly deepening in colour. This was supposedly the ship’s way of letting me know my actions were becoming more and more vital, which, come to think of it, actually worked.
The act of reminiscence had become an intentional taboo in my mind during the past year of my travels since I had slowly started to realise that memories were the cause of my ever growing depression.
Blocking them had saved me so far and allowed me to get as far as I was, but now it was looking likely that something that had been my lifeline for so long would soon become my downfall. I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing .
Looking above the centre console, an alien view met my eyes. The red surface of my new home glowed in unison with the buttons below my shaking hands as if syncing with its new inhabitants.
The surface was cracked, with pustules that oozed globules of a thick lava-like substance. How the ship had decided that this was the most suitable habitat was beyond my comprehension. I’d been past hundreds of planets that had looked far more apt , most of which caused a brief moment of hope before letting me down.
I looked back down at the buttons. My trembling hands were now back in control of themselves. In fact, they seemed to be in control of themselves, pressing buttons without need of any conscious thought. However, realising this seemed to scare them and they retreated back to not knowing what to do.
My instant reaction was to look back up as quickly as possible in the hope that they would resume their work. No such luck.
I was going to die. The shock hit me backwards and I stumbled a few feet away from the console, able to take a better view out of the large window above me. The screen that lay amongst the plethora of keys had a message on it, and it didn’t look like a warning. The words “Final stages of Landing Initiated” lit my pod up.
I’d started to think of the ship as a small capsule. It was only now that I had landed and everything had become available to me again that I remembered how large the ship truly was.
The door to the right of where I had been controlling the ship dropped into the floor with a swift, swooping noise, revealing a passageway I had forgotten all about.
As I walked over to the door and revealed more of the passage ahead of me, I noticed several other doors opening simultaneously.
The lack of understanding and sudden requirement of brain power had induced a state of numbness.
My feet, still not completely sure of how to function, moved themselves in front of one another. The corridor slowly illuminated as lights turned on one by one, starting with the one furthest away from where I stood.
I stopped moving, savouring what I had been resenting just an hour before. — Silence. The next few years were going to be difficult to say the least. Despite my decision to stop walking and my surety that I had actioned it, I continued to hear footsteps, and not just one person’s.
I’d gone past the phase of hallucinating several months ago and hadn’t missed it. But, as I stood there, I watched as every door that had opened released tens of people.
Somehow I’d forgotten that I was the pilot of a ship with hundreds of people onboard. Now, completely phased, I had to lead them on a safe path; a new planet that we were about to start calling home.