I didn't write a story last month so I guess it was my break month. Last week I was talking about a story of me fainting and I got a few laughs. So I extrapolated and made it into a longer story. One part is similar to the last case of the detective. It is about an old pet, long dead.
The rest is similar to many of my stories in that I sometimes imagine writing akin to making a movie pitch. I tell to a movie executive about one event in my life and, forming my two hands into a square in front of my face, say '...in space'.
- The Egg Party
Faint to Black
By The Egg Party
She decided to leave civilisation on the anniversary of her living twenty-three years planetside. She put on her suit and walked through a deserted airlock to outside. She always thought of the contextual nature of the word outside and the topic consistently sunk her into a depression.
She left through the services paths between the various industrial complexes outside the dome. They worked endlessly, pumping toxic fumes into the sky, increasing atmospheric density through the coal turned smoke. The sky would fill black. The second generation would begin painting the inside with more palatable air.
The dome exterior was coated in soot. The glass of the main dome was cleaned for a time until lack of water dictated that the service could not go on. There was a smaller, easier to maintain observation dome that couples and children would use. They would huddle in groups or pairs - mainly pairs - gazing at the stars, taking a break from inside. The guest would say little and over time the dome descended into library silence. Teens would talk behind hands, in timid rebellion. She walked in the opposite direction, away from the viewers.
As she moved between the industrial stacks her visor would frost over. The glass would be coated every five minutes. Her repeated clearing stopped only when she was well past the final outlying structures. She put effort into getting her vision as clear as possible. She wanted to be able to see on her last walk, off to hit the dusty trail, a final exit from the town.
She had previously removed all the tracked devices in her suit so for someone to find her corpse would have to follow the footsteps . Not many remained curious about what was outside the dome. Most had lost their imagination after arrival. The colonialists didn’t search out new truths, their surroundings confusion enough. Her body would be left in peace a long time.
A walk without Ace felt pointless.
After the accident Ace, 'ole One Eye, walked irregular, every now and then walking into walls and doors. Ace lost all depth perception. She found it charming. In that moment she would gladly have Ace, all goofy, walking with her. If it were still possible.
She walked from the city lights, the dome receding behind her, ambient light remained within reach. Her oxygen levels were enough to reach a place of proper darkness. Eventually she would exhaust her air supply, slowly depleting, until the reserves ran dry. Then she would faint to death.
As she walked on music floating around the air of her helmet. The sound waves had to be protected. Songs could not soar through the air anymore. Music was constrained to domes and helmets. The band Heat Death accompanied her silent footsteps. The song was one of many on a playlist that she had laboured over.
She breathed rhythmically, remembering the Oxygen Training. The course was always paired with Level 3-S First Aid. How to keep breathing so you can keep someone breathing. The last session she had was comprised of lectures on common sense, presented by a tired trainer, Sven. He repeated the one true rule: breathe slower. She asked a few questions and the other students silently hating her for the delay. Her last question was to know what it would be like, to die of oxygen depletion. Sven made a face at the question, of someone trying to convey all the pain of their vocation through a look alone. He said it would be like passing out, losing consciousness. Your brain would take the reigns from your dysfunctional behaviour. You would faint.
The first time she fainted was years earlier, just before she was about to leave Earth. She was to be sent, young and indentured, to one of the fringe planets. She would grow up working the land, creating a hospitable place for future arrivals. She would be part of the process but not live to see that new place. All she got was on a polluted planet, in her coffin sized cabin.
She arrived on the planet with her only companion, one of the A-ssential service robots. They where shipped to the planets with younger passengers, sent to prevent children being seen as resources burdens. She heard some of the planets were rougher and exceedingly factional.
These midrange bots were often called Aces. She called her companion Ace. She liked the idea of a calling a dog, Dog. She wanted it to be possible that someday Ace could eventually learn to tell her a true name.
As a child on the new planet, she rapidly became aware that she couldn't trust the other inhabitants. In the last year of her junior schooling, some spoilt kid thought he could send his robot to steal a bit of whatever she had. Ace lost an eye fighting with the other bot.
She took her robot to the dome vat and was told by the mechanic that he could replace the eye. He said it would cost somewhere around what she would get for selling her own. She felt sick after hearing the news, dizzy, disappearing into one of her minds dark places. She felt like she was losing a friend. Thinking overly dramatic. Ole’ Ace, Acey Pacey, Ace Ventura, her trusty robot, with one remaining good eye. She imagined Ace wandering around with limited vision. In that immense sadness she fainted, clean away, but was caught in the last moment, just before impact, by the mechanic.
She saw the end of her friend in a financial way. That made it worse. She would never have enough to continually repair her friend. There were no cash bonuses for her servitude. Slowly Ace would be chipped away until nothing remained but scrap.
She walked further, feet heavier with every step. She chose the suit with care. It was an older suit, one that weighed substantially more than the newer, sporty varieties. She called the suit her Widebody DC-10 after those ancient planes. The suit gave her room to move. She wanted to the supplies in the torso space to die comfortably.
She walked further from the dome, switching her head torches off and trusting the planet’s flat surface. The air was light grey. She was far enough away to see the busy universe, all those galaxies.
A flash on her helmet displayed air levels: 1 km range remaining for the suit oxygen. She turned the display off completely. She had a rough estimate for how far she could reach and that was enough. A surprise would be nice.
She thought again about how she would never go outside again. Spacewalking was the closest she would ever get to being outside, in the water or the earth or the grass or the air. She was ready to die.
The second time she fainted was during basic training. She was on a medical rotation and had accompanied a recon team to a lone agriculture station. The power had failed an indeterminate time prior to their arrival. No one had noticed. When they found the single occupant, an agricultural engineer, he was fully delirious. A significant wound in his lower left leg had been left untreated and stunk of gangrene.
‘Ain’t like people, to give a shit ‘bout plants’, he whispered before lapsing into unconsciousness.
They pulled a blanket away from his lower half. His leg was a deep pit of blackened, oozing waste. She, the trainee, had the job of a surgical nurse. She handed the main doctor syringe after syringe of pain relief, antibiotics and anaesthetic. They did the procedure at in the outlying station instead of going straight back to base. She never worked out the reason for the field medicine. She had a strong suspicion that the doctor was trying to show her something, acting cavalier in the midst of having a man’s life in the balance.
The doctor, gloved up, began poking the needles into various locations surrounding the wound. The needle slid through the skin with no resistance. In and out. She looked at the engineer, smiling in his sleep, then back to the leg. She became transfixed on the needle. In and out. Looking closer, she saw the dead flesh sticking to the pin of the needle. Much of the black tissue detached with ease, moving along the needle, in and out.
She watched the doctor dive back one last time, injecting a site which was some sort of flesh ledge. A shelf of skin jutted out over the cavernous hole. The spot was such that she could see the bevel of the needle pop back out the other side of the shin and squirting a pointless stream of prilocaine. She lost track of what was happening only to wake up on the floor of the outer room, her legs raised above her head.
She had been dragged out of the operating area. Later she was told that she dropped face, straight into the engineer’s insides. They wrapped the man up and took him back to base. She was left on her own in the filthy shuttle. Her colleagues could only give her a mixture of pity and shame and she preferred the isolated seat. As they drove she spent the time picking off larger scales of necrotic tissue that had stuck to her white uniform. She flicked the chunks into her cold coffee.
That guy survived, would you believe? She would later see him around the base, strutting around with his new mechanical legs. Insurance was unpredictable and expensive but foresight paid off for the man. His name was Jacob. Whenever he would spot her walking around the base he would hold his hands out, in a mock effort to catch her if she dropped again. He had the stones to ask her out on a date.
She thought about that moment as she walked. She hoped that when she died it would be the similar to her first faint. That time, as she lost consciousness, she immediately entered a dream. She disappeared from reality to appear in her aunt's house on Earth. She was a small child in the dream, standing patiently while watching the cooking. She missed the smell of frying oil.
That was what she wanted. When the oxygen was all gone she would go directly to a dream. Maybe she would dream of her robot.
She covered a little more distance along her path before she sat down. She was done. She didn’t have any energy for movement. She slipped her arms into the additional torso space and made a comfortable nest. There was a collection of blankets and heat pads stashed around her waist. Warm, lying on her back, she took in the view of the stars. The visor of the oversized helmet was panoramic and she could see much of the universe above her. She stared out until her eyelids were slowly forced shut. In the end, she didn’t die or sleep or dream. The three were inseparable. She passed happily, the Earth above her and the stars behind.