Carrying my moderately heavy and slightly overstuffed bag through the streets while dodging the vacant vessels of skin and bones is making a small bead of sweat form on my brow and a tiny ember of rage grow in the pit of my stomach. Everywhere seems like uphill right now and at that moment I remind myself of what I’m headed towards. Holding a rock in one hand and pushing against a hard place with the other, I’m walking towards a tiny hidden locker of uncertainty and half-truths. A place that’s cozy and warm but cut off from the world I know and should be a part of. The combination of pushing two worlds away from each other along with my mind and heart splitting apart is bringing me excruciating inner pain. The hot sweat gathering where my duffel rubs and rests on my back is becoming uncomfortable and annoying so I shift the strap further across my collar and skip a bit to jostle the bag into a new position.
I crest what seems like a hill but is likely my mind coming to ease as I generally get a hold of some calmness and map out my route through the narrow streets. I have this odd urge to always walk what seems the quickest way from A to B and this probably attributes to many of my lapses of ‘walk-rage’ but I’ve also found that the rhythmic roll of electronic drums and square base bring me comfort and pace in my strides. The only distraction from my auditory blinders is the clattering bell of the tram as it warns me only a few meters away of its imminent monstrous approach. A flash in my mind occurs on the validity of the brakes on the old rusty car hauling by me. I can almost hear each individual bolt, screw and rivet creak and bend as it whittles its corroded self down to slivers wondrously holding the carriage together in a cacophony of shuttering scrap metal. Perhaps the heap would crumble around me if it were ever to attempt to run me down. Sometimes I silently thank the mayhem of the outside world for butting into my stream of conscious white noise and reminding of where I need to turn.
I’m at your street and heading down towards your flat. It’s mere meters from the corner and as I step up to the main entrance door downstairs and ring the bell I am overcome with nervousness and anxiety. After a few seconds I am buzzed in and as my spirited strides carry me up the lung-burning stairs to the top floor I hear the chink of the door lock open followed by only the sound of my boots dusty heels pushing off of each stair in time to the light hiss of drum beats emanating from my earphones resting around my neck. I’m rounding the last mezzanine to your apartment and as I come to the door I’m looking up at you, your face alight with joy and excitement along with a sense of relief that I’m finally there. Nothing makes me feel more welcome, more expected and more needed. All residual negativity melts away from my tired soul and I say hello, kiss your cheeks and then embrace you kissing your warm neck and smelling your soft skin. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed this place and this feeling. But no longer. I am finally home…
A dull ache becomes a slow and intensifying throb. My chest tightens as my blood thins and boils throughout my tense body. I feel a searing heat flush through my skin from my head to my clenched fists. My breathing stops momentarily until I realize it and swallow what seem like a stone in my throat. All of my muscles stiffen and then go cold as I sit with a glazed stare , slightly hunched over with my mouth cracked open. The dryness of my lips keeps me in a numb reality but all I real want is to go back into the warmth of darkness. To coil up like a snake under the security of a rock. But reality pulls me back out and forces me to consciously live again. It’s the circumstance and the situation. It affects me more than I could expect. The stiffness within me prevents me from escape. Either that or the need to hold onto what I’m losing. My grip is slipping and my palms are sweaty. I can feel the paleness over my face and recognize its reflection in those around me. It paralyses me even more and I begin to choke on my dry throat. I close my mouth and grind my teeth as I force my mind to resume conscious thought so I can react to what’s happening. I feel like I’m trying to catching my breath after being kicked in the chest. It hurts and swells inside me like the sensation of falling in a dream. I hate this. I deserve this. I choke it down and push through. I still wish things had been different.
The violent rocking of the boat is mentionable in respect to both how large the craft is and how rough the sea outside must be. I wouldn’t know as my cabin is located deep in the belly of the hull of the ship. I’ve been down here for an indeterminate amount of time but I’d guess for hours, maybe even a couple of days. The storm has been raging and turning the sea for a long time and our old vessel is being shaken and tossed about like a ball in a bingo rack. It creaks and moans as its salt-rusted joints bend and sway with every pitch of the hard unforgiving sea as it slams into the hull with a frightful force. But I trust this old boat. I’ve been sailing on this ship forever and these seas for even longer. As treacherous and unpredictable as the sea and weather is I still, and always will, have faith in my vessel and it’s old-handed crew. These men, these soldiers of the sea, have been a part of my crew for well over 20 years and even more have been my dear friends through life’s up and downs, like the tides along the shores. And like this ship we work and live in we all have character. We all have our stories and our winding roads we’ve been down, each of them leading us to one similar present destination. The bonds created between comrades on our shared seafaring journey are as strong as the iron welds and rivets holding this old boat together. We have our creaks and our groans, especially during rough times but we always stay strong and steadfast. A band of water gypsies roaming the open seas in search of our next port of call where we’ll gather our required supplies, find a place to drink, remember and then to forget. We always reminisce about the old days of land life and past loves and friendships but soon turn our thoughts back to the endless open expanse that is our true calling. Our home. The seas.
I close the door behind me as it screeches shut with an ear piercing sound only an old rusty heavy iron door can make. My face contorts as I close my eyes trying to block out the noise that’s continuing to ring inside my head that is now spinning. Am I drunk or drugged? I’m sweating profusely and my shirt is soaked through completely. Leaning against the door I slide down with a thud to the ground and open my eyes. I can’t see a thing and all I feel is the cold hard floor beneath me and the coarse grit of the oxidized metal on my back. The room feels tiny like a box as I can hear the short echo of my breath reverberating off of the walls. I can’t seem to catch my breath as if there were no air in the room at all. I begin to gasp for breath and as I do my head begins to spin even more from oxygen deprivation. I feel a great pressure all around me bearing down on me like the weight of a thousand oceans, to the point which I can’t take it anymore. My muscles give out and I scream as my body goes limp, sliding sideways and down the hard surface onto my shoulder and face, the coolness of the floor on my cheek being the only sensation I have left. I give up and let the darkness take over me, bringing me into its silent and comforting arms. Slipping into unconsciousness my mind begins to fold in on itself, smaller and smaller into a microcosm of implosion. It feels as if all my bones are separating and my muscles and tendons have all stretched and melted away as my limbs pull apart. No pain, just intense sensation and a numb mind reeling back on my skull. I choke on my tongue and bite down on my teeth with so much force it feels as if my molars will shatter at any moment. And then I’m falling backwards, the now cold air whipping at my back as I catch speed and plummet downward. I can feel moisture collecting on the back of my body along with short flashes of coldness as if I were falling through clouds, but the truth is I have no idea where I am or what’s truly happening. I can’t even move and I can barely breath. Every breath I try to take gets colder and colder and soon I begin to feel my lungs start to freeze as the condensation on my body turns to ice. In a moment I am engulfed in frigid solid ice and I am no longer breathing, only falling. I can feel the ground below me getting closer and before I can even think about what is happening I hit the ground, smashing into a million icy pieces. I disintegrate and am released.
The last time I checked there was no one behind me and I haven’t seen a single car pass by. I’ve been hauling down this old dark road in the middle of the night in an old 60’s cadillac for as long as my mind allows me to remember. I’m comfortable like a captain on his ship, steering with one hand and a light touch, my eyes half closed. Like the hypnotic waves of the sea I watch the center lines run up and slip by in trance. The landscape around me is nothing more than silhouettes racing by as they underline a navy-blue dusk sky. Above me are a blanket of countless stars that are unmoving in the sky even as everything around me seems to go by at a mindless and blurry pace. I forget where I’m even going not to mention where I came from. But I savor this moment when nothing is known and nothing matters. A moment in which I just am. It’s me and the road and I’m driving this motherfucker. On this empty road to nowhere is where I feel at home. Like a migrant bird I travel by instinct, letting my inner compass take me where my soul needs to go. The irony of it all is that where I feel I need to be is in a transient place. No home and no roots, only forever in a changing loop of motion. From one place to the next I travel on this desert planet in a perpetual night, always chasing the dying sunlight on the horizon. It’s on this endless highway that I belong and it is on this endless highway that I will always be. Always moving and ways searching but for what I might never know.
Like a cannon I shoot out into the clouds, through the thinning atmosphere and into the cold dark void, my tiny craft glowing from the inside as the light of the earth leaves me from behind. I’m travelling at a tremendous rate and am picking up speed as I hear the propulsion rockets focus their narrowing jets to increase thrust and spit me further out into the blackness. Soon I can see nothing around me except pinpoints of stars and distant planets, Earth being an undefined spec amongst the millions. The cabin dims and as my heart monitor in my bio-suit beeps quietly I begin to notice its rate slow as my automated cabin slowly reclines me into a horizontal position, preparing me for stasis. Soon my craft will put me into hibernation along with itself as it switches from the rocket propulsion to an efficient and quiet, yet highly powerful gravity fusion drive that will launch me into a near-light speed for ten and a half years. As my mind begins to slow and my senses begin to dim I think about my home back on earth and the truly immense distance now between here and there. I sadden momentarily but again lighten at the thought of my new home that awaits me. A not too distant star is home to more than a dozen life sustaining hydro-planets that orbit around its warm red light. The star is called Epsilon Eridani and is at a distance of around 3.2 parsecs from our sun. But those ten plus years will feel like no more than a good long nights sleep to me. Stasis is necessary for near-light speed travel to keep my body from aging at a faster-than-normal rate and the obvious need for ten years of sustainability such as food and water. It is things like this that man and his technology have accomplished and it is this drive that brings me on this mission. A mission that is unimaginably long and slow but a mission with a purpose: to escape. My home planet is in a state of panic and chaos. It is on the brink of destruction and there is no turning back. Countless wars and atomic genocides have torn it apart and brought the once beautifully blue and green Earth to its unnatural knees. The oceans have been soured by the pollution and sewage drain-off and all of the forests and rainforest have been disintegrated from countless nuclear explosions. All that is left is a large, hot and barren wasteland that is almost uninhabitable now. No vegetation or clean water. Just hot and windy flatlands constantly bombarded by dust storms and highly acidic rain that happens about once every 6 months. In these thoughts I find not only fear and sadness but also drive and courage. I am one of the lucky few. One of only 50,000 out the the 2 billion left alive to get a seat on a transit pod. It wasn’t too long ago that our planet reached a breaking point holding over 12 billion people with no hope for sustainability. And then the wars began. Religion and power, as if they were any different, waged war on each other and those around them. Billions died and billions more suffered fates worse than death as over a dozen nations released their war cries, sending out their nuclear attack dogs while the upper eschelon hid in their cozy bunkers. And I, a valuable asset to my country was kept protected. For without me these transit pods would have never been a reality. No long term stasis computer algorithms, no light-speed drives and no lives saved. I am one of only a handful of engineers valuable enough to keep alive and my reward is a new life, a life farther from my sun than I can even imagine. But as I lay back and feel the blackness wash over me I try to imagine. I picture my body lying there for years, motionless and cold. Waiting for something. Waiting for my machine to wake me up…
I come home, but no one is there. I reach out, but no reaches back. No warmth. I fumble in the dark looking for something familiar, but the space is just empty and cold. I know I’m not alone, but I’m left in a deafening silence. To know you’re there and to know you’re alive does nothing for me but twist my stomach and mind. Heavy and sour are my insides as I think too much. If only closing my eyes would help me escape I would do it forever. But like a cold wet blanket upon my shoulders I cannot shake free. It seeps into my bones and aches my muscles to the core. I scream at the top of my lungs and yet I hear nothing, no reflection and no echo. Just deafening silence.