A virus decimated the entire planet's human population. No treatment or vaccine could be found, so contraction—meant death
Humanity was forced to seek refuge in hermetically sealed self-sustaining bunkers, commonly referred to as ‘biospheres’. After the world’s power grid failed, survivors managed to establish a global satellite communications network, which allowed them to weave together a digital facsimile of their once thriving, but now extinct way of life.
The disease, however, remained active and continued to spread, despite the survivors best intentions and inexhaustible precautions. It was therefore commonplace for connections to become broken. The people of the network began to call the silence that inevitably came at the end of the line—The Darkness.
No one ever returned when The Darkness came to call.
The AIDs virus’s origin has been traced back to two separate Simian Immunodeficiency Viruses (or SIVs). A single chimpanzee killed and ate two different species of monkey who were both infected with their individual species version of SIV. Neither version were harmful to the chimp by themselves, but those viruses, called lentiviruses, were retroviruses. Hence they have a notoriously slow and sloppy replication processes which take place in a host cell’s nucleus. They use the host cell’s own genetic material to replicate, which allows for frequent mutations over short period of time. One such mutation combined parts of both viruses DNA with some of the chimp’s. This new virus fooled the immune system into thinking it was, in fact, a part of the chimp’s own physiology. From that humble beginning, the virus spread throughout the chimp population much the same way HIV has moved through our own culture, with the exchange of bodily fluids. The trafficking of Bushmeat (wild animal meat in Africa) is believed to be the cause of the transmission of that SIV to the human population, where it used the same melding process to transform itself into HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Experts, refer to this phenomenon as, “viral sex.” It is believed this genetic melding is how retroviruses have made the jump from one species to another since the beginning of time.
I snap awake, breathless and plastered to my sheets, I leap from the warmth of my bed into the frozen wasteland of my room.
I grab the Louisville slugger that my hand instinctively reaches for and spin wildly around searching the room for the horror I left far behind in my dream. The numberless hordes of the sick and the dying all clawing at me, desperate for the help and salvation I could never hope to give and leaving behind their rotten flesh stains and promises of certain death. I gasp for breath between my frantic shrieks for help. When the reality of my empty bedroom begins to works its way into my sleep ravaged brain, the air starts to flow easier into my lungs and my knees become rubbery and weak. I collapse into my desk chair and grab the glass of water that I left for this very moment the night before. Adrenaline, after all, robs moisture from one's mouth.
This happens every morning.
Regularity is something you get used to and even come to rely on in a biosphere. Whether it’s the daily maintenance or the occasional gremlin in the system, the routine is what gets you through. Some might call it boring, but I have always found it a bit of a comfort knowing exactly what I’m going to do today, tomorrow and every day after that. There’s no guesswork or stress involved. Just habit.
My father used to say that those who had the right "habitude" could live forever in a biosphere. That’s what we call our bunkers by the way, biospheres. The earth used to be our biosphere, back when we all lived on the surface. But now all we have are the bunkers and they have all of us. Anyway, like I was saying, my dad used to always tell me, “Son, if the "have to’s" work their way into your daily routine, things have a tendency to avoid going permanently wrong.”
That’s twice now that I thought of him and I haven’t even completely woken from my nightmare yet. It’s crazy, but my dad’s one of my first thoughts in the morning and usually my last before going to bed. I wish he was here and for more reasons than just chasing away nightmares.
I shake my head and work the tear that was beginning to form back into the duct where it belongs and push on to more pressing matters, like emptying my bladder. But rather than stand up and head for the can, for some reason, I decide to check the broadcast signal, which is weird because I never do that. But when my spider sense is tingling, I’ve learned the hard way that ignoring it is not a viable option.
I try to ping the satellite network, but there’s no signal to send it out on. Not a weak one or one that is ridden with intermittent connections, just absolute nothingness.
Not a good sign—especially before I have my coffee.
No signal, means no game zone. No game zone means boredom. And boredom means—death.
I reset my system, but it’s no good, the problem just doesn’t seem to be on my end, which is bad. I run a diagnostic and confirm everything is running as designed, which is worse. So I switch on the external cameras, hoping for a blizzard or something, it is January after all. And a storm would be a pain, but not the end of the world. Only I don’t find any snow or rain or even any ice. I do, however, find a giant tree branch lying on top of my satellite dish. Which is by far the worst news I can possibly get—coffee or no.
I look at the clock and see that it’s eight a.m., which means that if I leave now, it would take me at least an hour to get ready and reach the airlock and another half hour to get into a bio-suit. Then who knows, maybe ten minutes to get outside. That means, assuming everything goes as planned, it would take ten to twenty minutes to clear the debris from the satellite dish and assess the damage. Make it another thirty minutes to repair any broken equipment. (God I hope there isn’t any! The repair time will go up exponentially if anything major is trashed.) Fortunately, getting back down is always faster than going up. So worst case scenario, I could probably make it back to reset the system in about five hours, maybe less. Unfortunately, that means I’ll have to be outside for at least sixty-five minutes, maybe longer.
Way too long.
I hate the outside. I spin around and stare at the wall, trying not to think about the only thing on my mind. I’m not going to lie, going outside scares the hell out of me. Nobody ever dies, until they go out the airlock. Sure, some people chose suicide, but that was in the beginning, which was to be expected. I mean, they were surface dwellers. They didn’t grow up in the safe confines of the biospheres. To them, never going outside was a fate worse than death.
Can you imagine?
Okay, I’ll admit, it was a little bit creepy—at first. After all, my folks put me in here eight years ago on my seventh birthday, after I got the measles. You see, I broke this vial that held a particularly potent version of the virus that my mother was studying at the time. I mean, I had my shots, but I still got it, which totally confused my mom. And trust me when I say that did not happen often. She was a doctor and right up till her death she was searching for some kind of vaccine and/or treatment for The Darkness.
Still, even as young as I was, moving into my own biosphere was a really big deal. It was like a rite of passage. My parents started building it when they found out I was on the way. I mean, you don’t just throw a biosphere together over night. Every contingency has to be accounted for. Things like oxygen and nutrient consumption, carbon dioxide scrubbing, waste removal, moisture control, particulate filtration; all with their own complex and precise calculations. Mine was an even bigger challenge. The biospheres my dad built for him and my mom were infinitely simpler by comparison. After all, the variables were finite—they were adults. My biosphere had to grow with me.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that my dad was a genius?
Now, this isn’t your typical kid who idolizes his father kind of genius. My dad was legit. He graduated from MIT with a dual Masters in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering when he was only seventeen years old. Then instead of getting rich in the high tech world of the 21st century, he went back to college to become a doctor. You know, so he could really make the rest of the planet feel like chimps. He told me once that the medical degree was much harder for him and so it took a bit longer. Well, longer for him anyway. He started his residency when he was twenty-one. Yeah, you heard me right, twenty-one. Did you do the math yet?
Anyway, it was during his residency at the hospital that he met my mother, she was a pathologist and a bit paranoid about her work. She began to see the steady increase of drug resistant strains of lethal bugs and got a little bit panicky. She convinced my father to build the biospheres as a safety net. Originally, the idea was to seal themselves up, as a worst case scenario solution. That way they could live out the remainder of their years safely tucked away from harm. That was long before we ever heard of The Darkness or the Melding.
It just never occurred to them that surviving the plague meant that they would end up being completely shut off from everything and everyone they ever loved—including each other. My mother used to tell me it felt like she was living in a snow globe.
I don’t know how much history you’ve had, but The Darkness, you know the plague, isn’t just one virus—it’s actually three. No one I’ve talked to (including my parents, which says a lot) could explain to me exactly how it works, but somehow the genes of three completely different viruses, now meld together inside a human host. You can catch two of the strains, but not all three. Like, I had one—the measles. The other is a simple foamy virus that scientists used for gene therapy. Its nothing special really. In fact, on its own, it isn’t even harmful to humans, but as a retrovirus, it’s the force that makes The Darkness tick. It was released by accident when some technician messed up and got infected back in 2013. Believe it or not, the third one isn’t even a human virus at all, but rather a bacteriophage, which is a virus that only attacks bacteria. Unfortunately for humans, this one infects the most common species of bacteria on the planet—that crap is everywhere.
At first, the outbreaks were isolated. It was a lot like the SARs epidemic and the West Nile Virus outbreaks of the early 21st century. There were a few fatalities, but the World Health Organization was more than ready for the outbreak and started an aggressive isolation and treatment regimen.
They even attempted to quell the virus’s spread by re-inoculating folks for rubella, because before we understood the melding, doctors at least made the connection that it only seemed to affect those who had contracted the measles first. But get this, some nut case in Hollywood said the vaccines were actually the cause of the mutation and not the solution, which was a brilliant deduction since the vaccines were started after the outbreak had already begun. Anyway she claimed that some additive in the vaccine mutated the strain, not to mention had horrible side effects, total bullshit, but it led to this huge revolt against the mandatory immunization process.
If it weren’t for that twit, there’s no telling what might have happened.
I wish I could remember her name, but then again who cares! No need to glorify that reckless idiot. She died in the first outbreak, so there was at least some justice left in the universe.
My mother would never say one way or the other if a worldwide epidemic could have been avoided by the vaccine, after all, it wasn’t a cure. It just slowed the spread of the virus down, but she did think it would have allowed for more people to reach safety. You see, according to my mom, the vaccine put inert antigens of the rubella in your system, which forced the body to make antibodies to prepare for an infection, should it attempt to assert itself. But according to her research, it was these antibodies that were crucial in the melding. Something about a special protein or something in the antibodies, I don’t know. But my mother insisted that since the amount of antigens were so minuscule in the vaccines, if the person then got the foamy virus and bacteriophage, the development of The Darkness would be considerably slower and might even burn itself out before total infection occurred. It had something to do with competition for resources with the healthy cells or evolution or something. I can't remember.
Keep in mind though, The Darkness, can also be contracted without the Melding. If you come in contact with someone who has it, then you’re dead.
I lost my dad first. Did I already tell you that? What I mean is, I lost him before my mom. It was inevitable I guess, I mean we all die, but for him it was destined to be sooner rather than later. You see, he insisted on being the only one who went outside to make repairs. He caught his bio-suit on the metal door latch to the airlock. He lasted three whole days. Back in those days, the strain was still in its infancy, evolutionarily speaking that is. Now, it's evolved to the point where it is lethal in just six hours. The UNN (United Nations Network), claims that according to their data the strain is becoming more deadly by the day. It’s too bad Dad couldn’t have waited till when Mom got sick.
She was gone in just twelve hours.
She claimed there was a malfunction in her biosphere’s filtration system, but I checked the logs. There was no malfunction. She opened the air diverters manually. She just couldn’t handle the isolation, at least not after we lost Dad.
It was tough watching her go. I felt so powerless. If I’d had a gun or something, maybe I could have ended her suffering. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have done anything, she was my mom and all. But Tylenol was the strongest thing we had for god sakes and she was in so much pain!
In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered, I couldn’t risk getting close enough to do anything. I had to seal them both up in their biospheres. Mom was just too broken up to do it for Dad. They’re in them right now, their refuge is now their tomb.
Look, I don’t blame my mom for killing herself, like I said, she just wasn’t born to this place. She remembered sitting in parks, going camping and even how the ocean smelled, you know lots of crap like that. And she was always trying to explain that stuff to me, but no matter how hard she tried, I just didn’t get it.
You wouldn’t have been able to either if you were me—so don’t judge. But I will say this, from what she told me, the outside world sounds disgusting! From the methane belched by cows, to the low tide stench of the estuaries, the whole place sounds like one big stink factory.
I get three square meals a day here, a hot shower every night and don’t even have to smell my own farts for more than a few seconds. The biosphere is a womb away from home, as my dad used to say. I have absolutely no desire to set a single unprotected toe outside of it—ever!
Which is what makes that tree branch such a downer. It means I have to go outside and that scares the crap out of me. So, I do what any self respecting teenage boy would do when faced with an unwanted and unpleasant situation—something else.
After all, there’s no reason to head out on an empty stomach and no coffee. I chuckle to myself when I think of something my father used to say, “I was going to join procrastinators anonymous today, but then I figured I’d just wait until tomorrow.”
Breakfast is the same everyday and includes two eggs, not powdered mind you like some folks, but actual eggs. My dad was a mad genius after all, so we have a bunch of chickens and roosters. They’re a part of the biosphere and every part is essential. We get to eat the eggs and then we process the poop, to remove the ammonia and use the nitrates as part of our fertilizer for the oxygen garden. The ammonia gets used in our refrigeration unit so nothing is wasted. The biosphere is the perfect recycler.
Anyway, we used to have toast too, but the flour ran out years ago. My mom and I tried replace it with potato flour, but we could never grow enough potatoes to make enough flour for more than just a few loaves. Besides, we did like eating potatoes, so we couldn’t sacrifice them all just for some bread.
So now, instead of potato flour toast, I eat a baked potato every morning. Throw in an apple for fiber and you got yourself a meal fit for a king. The seeds from the apple have to be preserved for replanting should I lose a tree or two. The waste from making breakfast is turned to compost. The food, after my digestive system is done with it gets treated and the nitrates are deposited several feet under my garden. Deep enough not to smell, but shallow enough to feed the plants.
Like I said, my dad was a mad genius man.
After I wash my dishes and drink my coffee, I finally go to the bathroom to pee and brush my teeth. Now, one thing about the biosphere that I wish my dad gave more thought to was the “head” as he called it. They are way too small. In order to get to the shower, I have to step over the toilet. But before I can even do that, I have to first get past the sink. So, even though it might seem disgusting, if I only have to pee, it’s much easier to just do it in the sink.
I’m a boy though, so I’m sure no one’s really surprised. Why would I squeeze into that cramped bathroom, when I can stand comfortably in the doorway? Besides, no one but me is ever going to use that sink. And when I pee, I rinse it immediately and give it a good scrub down once a week.
Now, before you go crazy and say something you’ll regret, my parents told me to do it. The toilet uses a ton of water and if flushed too often, can ruin the leach field in my oxygen garden.
I open the door and empty my bladder, but I leave the water trickling first in the sink to help wash the ‘yellow snow,’ away, as my father used to say. When I finish, I rinse the sink and then brush my teeth. Well, what can I say, I care about my dental hygiene and I just ate breakfast. There are no dentists down here in the biosphere, after all. And for the last four years, there hasn’t been any doctors either.
But don’t go feeling sorry for me. Most of the digital orphans are way worse off than I am. I have a warm bed, food on my plate and a long future of the same. Most have one or two, but a precious few of us have all three. My buddy Zack had a fire last year, he’s been eating once a day for the last six months. He and his dad didn’t have a sealed system for extracting the methane from their waste disposal unit. The gases just built up for years, he was lucky his whole biosphere didn’t blow. The fire burned itself out, but it took a bunch of his food stores and most of next year's seeds. I didn’t tell him the limited genetic diversity he’s trying to rebuild with could be too thin.
He has enough problems.
No, most days, I have it pretty sweet. When the networks up and running and I have satellite coverage, I get on the game network. Where would our civilization be now without it? I spend at least five to eight hours a day on the network. It’s my social life, education, and livelihood all in one. Well, livelihood is a bit of a stretch since all the currency is digital, but if you have enough cred’s man, sky’s the limit on the game network.
In the old days, the game network was just the standard World of Warcraft crap. Just these massively-multi-user monstrosities. It was better than counting ceiling tiles, but nothing like the zone today. You see, lock a few mad geniuses like my old man in a room with nothing better to do but play video games and the interfaces get a bit insane.
I read once, this dude actually lobotomized himself by shoving electrodes through his eye sockets in an attempt to make a neural interface. Stupid, but can you imagine how bad ass that guy must have been? Sitting in his biosphere with two needles he’d made about the length of a finger. And then actually pushing them past his eyeball and into his brain? Like I said, it didn’t work, but the man must have had cojones the size of boulders man.
The size of boulders!
Anyway, these days we’ve all but given up the chase for the total neural interface and have settled for a partial facsimile. We wear goggles to see, but we move around in the network by impulses from our minds. Not quite as cool as actually feeling the sensation of running or falling, but you’d be surprised just how real it can get. Especially since some crack pot came up with the girdle. Don’t ask me where he got the idea from, but it’s real mad scientist kind of thing. The whole purpose is to force you to feel pain the game causes you. I don’t understand it myself. Don’t get me wrong, I built one, so I know it blasts you with different levels of electricity at certain pain centers in the body, but that’s all I know. How that crazy guy figured out how to imitate the pain from a splinter all the way up to a battle axe wound, is beyond me. But let’s just say, it feels so real that after I built mine, I gave up the shoot ‘em games I used to play.
These days I mostly just hang out in the Nexus. They named it after that cheesy Star Trek movie, you know the one where Kirk bites it? That’s where I met Ellie.
I have to go outside if I’m gonna see her tonight. I should go now, that way she’ll never know I went outside. No need to worry her if I don’t have to. I get my shoes on and laugh as I remember the other thing my father used to say, “Never put off till tomorrow, what you can put it off till next week.” My Dad was quite a guy, a bit of a nerd and all, but quite a guy.
The only way to reach the airlock is to pass my mom and dad’s biospheres. The loss is only truly unbearable when I go outside. After all, the outdoors killed my parents. It kills everything. I walk passed my parents doors and close my eyes to say a silent hello. I can barely fight back the tears.
I get to the ladder and grab the closest rung and look up at the endless tube over my head and groan.
Climbing steadily, it usually takes me anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-five minutes to reach to the top—all straight up. Along the way, I have to take several rest breaks, to catch my breath. Never too long though, because after a few minutes of not moving, I swear I can feel the walls start to close in on me.
Sometimes I think my dad was a sadist, since he chose to build the biospheres at the bottom of 1400 foot chasm. He told me once about the first time he came down here, that he had to drop down, dangling by ropes the whole way. He said some of the openings were only big enough for him to squeeze through.
Can you imagine? I would have died.
He and my mother found the chasm while they were out exploring one day. When they got to the bottom and found the naturally formed caverns below, they knew they’d found the perfect spot to build. They climbed out and raced back to town and bought the mine. They started constructing the biospheres the same day they closed. So, when I look it at from the perspective of my father lowering himself into the bowels of hell by a flimsy rope, a half hour climb up a claustrophobic ladder doesn’t seem so bad.
My fear of tight spaces used to be way worse. When I was a kid, I used to have these nightmares about dying and being buried alive. I dunno, maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was already buried alive, but I’m no shrink.
Anyway, my mom would have to rock me for hours after I had those dreams. I’d be covered in sweat and screaming, with tears streaming down my face and gasping for breath. I used to watch my dad through his biosphere’s window, his fingers pinned to the glass. You see, till I was seven I lived in my mom’s biosphere and they had this glass wall dividing their living areas. So as bad as those nightmares were for me, I could tell they were far worse for my father.
He always looked so helpless.
He used to keep the intercom going and he’d keep talking to me, till I finally fell asleep. My mother told me once after he died, that he’d stay awake all night, just in case I woke up again. She said, he wanted me to hear his voice before I saw my mother’s face, it was the only comfort he could offer. I smile through my tears as I look back at their doors and remember how he used to hug me before bed with these rubberized observation gloves and sleeves they’d installed in the wall separating their biospheres. There were two sets of arms, one for him and another for me and my mom.
Every night we’d hug and he’d kiss the glass between us and he’d say, “Good night, pal. I love you. You give your mom a great big kiss for me, will ya? And when she kisses you back, just for a second, pretend it’s me, okay?”
My vision is blurring up, I have to stop thinking about this stuff. Yeah, the pain is way worse when I have to go outside.
The best way to stop thinking about it is to climb. And that’s what I do.
There is something about exercising like this. Doing the same task over and over again. It’s not that each step is all that strenuous, their easy actually. But it takes total concentration. I mean, you wouldn’t think so, but it does. One false step and I end up at the bottom in a hurry.
My tears continue to roll down my cheeks, but I don’t have the time to think about them. They’re just there. Half way up, they stop all together.
My father used to say, “Son, diversion brings detachment and detachment leads to serenity and serenity allows us to sleep. Never discount a good night’s sleep. And that tranquility makes it possible.”
As the traces of the tears vanish from my cheeks, I wonder if he was ever wrong.
I reach the top and plop down on the bench to catch my breath. I was so upset that I forgoed my normal breaks and climbed the entire length. I made good time, but now I’m sweating and exhausted.
I’m not used to that much exercise.
After I catch my breath, I get up and throw open the closet next to the bench and give my bio-suits a quick lookover. I only have fourteen that function, so I need to get every millisecond out of them that I can.
Well, I do have more I could use. It’s just that, well, they’re in my dad’s biosphere and I just can’t bring myself to go in there—at least not yet.
I take the oldest one out and hold it up to the light for inspection. I probably should have recycled it two years ago, but I only have fourteen! Don’t get me wrong, it’s still functional, but last time I wore it, let’s just say it started to feel a little tight.
And that was six months ago!
I slip it on and then zip up the front and grunt as I close the top. Definitely the last time I can wear it. The chest barely closes and I’m worried the rubber won’t seal properly if I push it any further. Luckily the helmet still fits snugly, which means I’ll be able to use that for at least another twelve years or so. Good thing too, I only have four of those.
I step up to the main airlock and my legs are visibly shaking. I reach for the door release and make a silent promise to be good for an entire year, if whatever benevolent entity that might be watching over me could just see to it that I won’t ever have to go back outside again. I feel a rush of air burst past me from behind, as the door swings in. I walk through the opening and tentatively close the hatch behind me. I hit the pressure equalizer and when the light goes from red to green, I grasp the exterior release handle.
This is it.
I pull the handle down, and like I always, wonder if this is that time. You know, that time where I make the mistake. You only ever get to make one of those outside.
As the handle goes down, I take a deep breath and brace myself for the cold. It’s wintertime after all and in Vancouver that means freezing temperatures and driving winds. But I’m in luck, when door swings open, the air feels crisp, but not frigid. I carefully step out through the hatch.
It would be sweet if the dish were right here and I only had to kick the tree branch out of the way and dash back inside. But that just isn’t how my life works. No, the airlock is at the end of a mile long tunnel, well, a mile might be a bit of a stretch. But hey, when you’re seventeen and walking through a dark abandoned mine, all by yourself, twenty-five steps feels like an eternity.
I walk to the mine’s entrance with the steadiness of an elephant on roller skates, mostly because watching where I’m going with the helmet on is just about the most awkward thing ever. Once I’m outside though, the wind beats my suit like it’s a redheaded stepchild. I try to shield my eyes from the sunlight and wonder if this is what a mole feels like when he chances one of his rare visits to the surface during the day. I stumble down the hill, nearly blind, but my eyes finally do adjust to the light, and for the first time, I see the tree laying across the dish.
Yeah, I said tree.
It might have looked like a branch on the monitor, but in real life, it’s a full sized ponderosa pine tree, about ten inches wide in diameter. It looks like it was ripped up at the roots by high wind and is now laying across the fence and is sitting directly on top of my dish. I just stand there staring at this giant immovable thing, without a clue of what to do about it. My knees feel so weak I can barely resist the desire to drop to the ground.
Disgusted, I turn and start back to the airlock, as it is the only thing I can think to do at the moment. There just isn’t anything I can do here. I mean, the only other option to moving the tree, which is impossible, is to move the dish and-
I instantly stop walking and spin back.
Move the dish? Could I do that? I mean, I have tools, so how hard could it be? In fact, it isn’t even a question of if I can move it. The real question is if I have enough cable to move it into an area that’s going to be clear of obstructions. I quickly walk outside the cave entrance and head down the hill towards the dish. The closer I get to the fence, the more confident I become.
Luckily, the gate is on a side where the fallen tree hadn’t hit and opens easily. The branches of the tree are all entangled with the dish, covering it completely. My stomach sinks as I see all those sharp broken branches, sticking every which way like punji sticks in those old Vietnam war movies my dad used to watch with me.
After I see the tiny sharp skewers of death, I wish the tree had just crushed the whole thing so there wasn’t be anything left to salvage. I try to remember if I have a saw, or anything, to cut the branches away from the dish back at the mine, but I don’t recall anything that would help. So I pull out my crescent wrench and take a deep breath. I grab the first branch I can reach and whack at it with the wrench. Surprisingly, it gives away pretty easily. So I grab another, then another, then yet another.
After fifteen minutes, however, I am barely making a noticeable dent and I am completely sweaty and exhausted.
Even though it goes against my father’s out-of-doors-protocols, I sit down on a nearby rock, to catch my breath and think. My dad always told me to work smarter not harder. I just knew there had to be a better way to do this, but the how that was eluding me.
I like knowing the answer to things, but hate (I repeat, I hate) logic problems. My dad would always give me these impossible problems that I’d have to spend weeks trying to figure out. Oh, I’d still have math, social studies, science, and english classes, but every day I’d have to spend an hour or more working out a problem he’d give me. I despised those hours. My mother tried to stop them, but my father insisted I keep doing them. He called it my spiritual practice. He said eventually I’d either get better at them or develop the humility necessary to accept my shortcomings. One of my greatest regrets, is that after he explained all that to me, I told him that I hated him.
I’m such an ass.
So what did I learn from all those years of facing my faults? Nothing. Here I am faced with another logic problem and my solution?
So, like the total idiot I am, I throw my wrench at the fence and scream my head off. I start picking up rocks and handfuls of dirt and throw them as hard as I can at everything and nothing.
Still in the throes of my blind rage, I grab the wrench from the ground and force my way under the tree and begin to remove the bolts holding the dish down to the platform. The wrench slips, which causes me to fall over, which of course causes another tantrum. It takes me ten minutes, but I get them off. Sweat is now rolling down my brow and stinging my eyes. I yank the dish out from the vise like clutches of the tree branches and drag it over to the big shed. I drill a couple of quick holes in the side, I guess on the distance, because I don’t have a ruler or measuring tape. Part of me hopes I guess wrong so I can spin off into another tantrum, because once they start, they do feel really good. I manage to bolt it up and position it for optimum signal exposure. Once it’s up, I pick up my tools and head back to the airlock.
I should be excited that I actually moved the dish and now I’ll be able to get through to Ellie, but I’m too mad to give myself any credit. I throw my wrench. I keep walking, bend over and pick it up, then throw it again. I do this ten or fifteen times on my way back to the airlock. I’m not even sure what I’m mad at anymore, me, the tree, my dead parents, god or whatever. I have just totally lost it and it really doesn’t matter how I got here. My dad was the same way. My mother used to be the only one who could make us see reason. Without her to calm me down, I’m as helpless as a baby.
I get to the airlock and slam the door release back up into the locked position, so hard, that I almost break it off. Which would have been tragic, since I didn’t have a replacement for it. The disinfectant shower activates automatically once the lock is engaged, just like it’s programmed to do. But instead of its cool waters calming my nerves, I’m blasted back into reality. You see, for the first time in my life, while standing under the shower’s cleansing flow, I feel wetness. It starts on my shoulder blade and then begins to spread out down my back.
There is only one cause that I know of that could cause that to happen—my suit is torn.