Part two of four of a continuing series.
The crack splintered, a fine line along the left of his vision. Fredriks watched on as the fracture grew. He clawed desperately at his helmet. Thumped hard at the crack. Willed it to continue its incursion.
The manual release mechanism on his suit had failed. He was trapped inside it, slowly suffocating as the power dripped away. His only hope was to break through his faceplate, pray that the atmosphere inside the craft wasn’t toxic, that the pressure wouldn’t rupture his skin or boil his blood. A lot of things to wish for.
Fredriks collapsed to his knees in a sea of blue. Wherever he was, the geometry was beyond his understanding. There was only colour – a wide wash of azure that enveloped him, held him up, kept at bay the cold void outside. It was a serene escape, a final twist in his final journey. And it would all be for naught if he died within the all too tangible confines of a space helmet.
He smacked himself in the face, over and over, felt the hits numbly through his cheeks. Watched the crack grow as his arm weakened. Sucked at the suit’s last traces of oxygen and remembered a cold night at his father’s house, stoking a fire as rain lapped at the door.
Suddenly, the broken line burst across his face, obscured his vision, and the visor broke away, pieces of it scratching his face in the shock. Fredriks wondered cooly what his face looked like after all this terror, before he remembered to try and breathe.
He drew in the blue, let it fill him, and as he did, was more awake than he’d ever been before. His mind pulsed, burned, his eyes became fierce with investigation, his weak arm revitalised. This surely wasn’t oxygen, but whatever it was, it was not only keeping Private First Class Fredriks alive. It was growing inside of him.
His mind searched for understanding. The life support system of this strange craft, perhaps, was not just atmosphere but sustenance, a heady concoction of pulsing energy and cool light. Or maybe this is what it felt like to suffocate and die. Maybe he was dead.
He climbed to his feet. Wondered what he was standing on in this horizonless blue world. Considered his shattered helmet, and wondered how he could possibly have possessed the strength to crack an impenetrable polycarbonate visor designed to withstand the rigours of spaceflight. Wondered who had found him out there in the deepest of reaches. Wondered how any of this was possible. Wondered what day it was. He thought it was Tuesday.
Time was bleeding away from here. He couldn’t sense it. Couldn’t tell if he’d cracked through his visor seconds or days or months ago. All that mattered was the electric blue.
And suddenly, Fredriks was distinctly aware that he was not alone.
Somewhere, just at the fringes of his vision, a scattering of figures. Sinewy, ephemeral, almost lost in the wide blue expanse. He turned, tried to look at them directly, but couldn’t. They hid from the centre of his sight, vanished at his focus.
For the first time since the power had failed on board The Launceston, Fredriks felt afraid.
The blue began to flicker, slide and wander.
Fredriks suddenly felt a deep sense of vertigo, as if the ground had fallen away from his feet and he was suspended over a great fall. But he could sense no physical markers but for the colour now coating his lungs and bursting through the tips of his synapses.
The textures around him continued to dance and repeat.
And it slowly dawned on him, slowly fed through his being, that the strange, non-physical movement that encircled him was, in fact, a language.
Communication. Maybe with the figures that still danced around in the now pulsating space at the corner of his eyes. Maybe with the craft itself – the bright light that had emerged from the inky depths of space and pulled Fredriks aboard just as his life support was escaping him. Here, Fredriks found himself not only still breathing but suddenly presented with someone or something to talk to.
Fredriks slowed his mind, tried to focus on the space around him, on its subtle shifts and shades and frequencies. And slowly, like he was waking up in a stranger’s bed, he began to piece it together.
it said. It was saying
It truly was. The craft or them or the blue itself was welcoming him to wherever it was he now found himself.
Fredriks swallowed, his mouth dry, not quite brought back to life by the energising atmosphere. He tried to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth. And he realised there was no sound here.
He smacked against his suit, chipped at the broken helmet. Nothing; not even the dull thumps of sound underwater. No sound. No voice. Not even a silence, really.
Fredriks shook his head. I can’t speak, he thought.
Fredriks nodded. Wondered whether he’d die here, in eldritch silence.
not here not now
Who are you?
I see. And where am I?
I don’t understand.
no you don’t
Why are you helping me?
we are not
But… I don’t understand.
no you don’t
Fredriks mind was silenced, turned inside out. And in that silence, he thought back to Earth, back to Ray and to his family. Back to that wintery night. Pictured the front of his family’s home, the steps up to the door slick with slowly drying rainfall. Dust, washed into the cracks between pieces of slate. The smell of food coming through the gaps in the masonry.
you do not understand
and this is only the beginning
the beginning of what comes next
and for we
do not be afraid to look
that for we it was a pleasure to meet you
Fredriks shifted uncomfortably, suddenly aware of the suit pressing against his neck.
What are you going to do with me?
A silence, even deeper than the great blue silence that permanently filled every non-Euclidean corner of this strange craft.
And suddenly, a pulse of the brightest blue.
we are taking you home
Words copyright Matt Vesely. Image copyright David Keen.