All Fiction

Chapter 1: Remember Your Training

Part 1

Remember your training. Remember your training. Remember your training. The chant runs through my mind. In training, they tell you to remain calm and collected while they are putting you under for cryosleep. Getting excited, having too much on your mind, driving yourself crazy, will all lead to confusion upon waking. A calm traveler would be a useful traveler once the cryo pod brought you back to life.
In this moment, I cannot remain calm. I am a tech, and I know all the things that can go wrong. The cryo pod alone has thousands of systems and subroutines. Some failures can be mitigated, but a lot can happen in 400 years. The cryo pod isn’t the only thing that can go wrong either. The Dreamer, as our ship is called, is home to nearly 1,000 other sleepers. This means it’s real big, and a big ship is just asking to be hit by something or run into something else out in the depths of space. Even if it doesn’t get hit, hundreds of systems all have to be operable. All of them have to work right for 400 years.
The system can always wake a tech early, and that’s what’s going through my mind as I am trying to calm myself. Life support systems are my specialty. I like life. Or more accurately, I like being alive. But if the system decides that I should wake early, shit will likely be fucked, to put it bluntly.
Remember your training. Remember your training. Remember your training. Imagine waking up in a ship with lights flickering. The air smells sour because something went seriously wrong. Rotting bodies fester in malfunctioning cryo pods, and the life support system can’t keep up. Other techs are already trying to fix the pods. Trying to keep more from dying, but I have to keep the air breathable. I have to run passed all the bodies, hold my breath through the stink, and try to wrench on a system that I haven’t seen in hundreds of years. What if I forget how to fix it? What if I suffer mental damage? It’s not unheard of.
The computer voice rouses me from my waking nightmare. “Remain calm,” it says in vaguely feminine tones. The pod door slides shut with barely a sound. “Staying calm is important to your well being upon waking.” Her voice is soothing, but the content of her robotic words brings me back to my nightmare. “Your blood pressure is elevated Mr. Deng.” No doubt she was right. She had cause to be right. Her electric fingers were plugged right into my central nervous system. Everything had to be monitored for proper cryo sleep. I could feel the little wires plugged in along my spine. These little ports had chances of infection after you woke up. They wouldn’t be infected now. Not with cryo sleep around the corner, but in the early days of cryo, people had been paralyzed. There’s always a chance.

Cold Hearts

“Where is he?” Doris said in a shout that echoed through the waiting area. People bot sick and waiting turned and what they saw were two people, parents presumably, followed by a third, a girl of no more than seventeen, hair dyed black, and anger in her eyes. It was the same anger that her mother Doris had. Mad at the world but scared too. The father, Richard, was in a daze. He looked at the surprised receptionist with no emotion, no anything, like a dust mote just floating by.

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Do Not Wonder

Do not wonder where the top of the rainbow is, and do not wonder where it leads to either. It’s all hogwash. Did you know the cytostream makes up the dream so that we cannot see what it’s doing to us? Fucked up. That’s what it all is. Fucked up beyond all recognition. No not recognition, but belief. You will not believe any of it. You will not be able to until you kill your dreams. Until you learn to keep your eyes open.

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Two Shadows

Two shadows drift by each other and they don’t even ask questions. They just sing their mysteries and hope they never see each other again. Like a hollow tip shot through the barrel. Nobody will love me now. Nobody can love me after what I did. I saw that face, placid and alone. I saw him know that the world was fine and beautiful. That the little machines would always give him another sunrise. Another drag on his cigarette was just there for the taking. I saw him know this. I saw him. Then he saw me, and we both knew that the world was filled with lies. He tried to turn. He tried to run, but there just wasn’t time. In the next moment I was on him, and then in another… Are you sure you want this?

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To Rock the Cradle

Dr. Aaron Fluer was fresh off a plane and a surprisingly short briefing. He sized up his patient and the room that contained her. She had tossed brown hair that floated above a weak brow. A smirk contorted half of her face as her green eyes frolicked around the room. There wasn’t much for her to look at besides Aaron. The stark room was a deep black just as the halls outside were. Still she took little notice of him. Continue reading

Nowhere Highway

Howard walked in and sat down. The belt moved. They knew he was there, the chip in his neck told them so. Seventeen bolts, eighteen washers, two cotter pins, grease, a torque body assembly, a digital signature, and six minutes. The line moved again and he repeated the steps. He called the belt the highway to nowhere. He had never been to the other end of it, just as he had never been to the beginning of it. Sometimes what he worked on changed, or the instructions were new or different, it didn’t matter. The crimson red clock counted down and he kept working. In nine years the line had never stopped, in nine years he had never interacted with another co-worker. It was all insulated and it had been made so very carefully. Continue reading

It Burns Just the Same

Fire races through thick beige carpet still streaked from vacuuming. It dances up the sides of a white couch leaping from cushion to cushion. The coffee table burns with its lone candle centerpiece. The wax boils and spits splattering the carpet with red shortly before it is consumed and blackened. Chairs on either side of the coffee table had been turned ever so slightly to create an inviting atmosphere. They matched the couch when it was still white, now they match it in black. Continue reading