Recollections

green decorated christmas tree
Photo by Bianca Debisko on Pexels.com

 

Been thinking a lot about my mother lately. Of course, that brings to mind my father as well. They were always together, through good times and bad.

 

She had patience that bordered on the inhuman. She lived a life of near constant disappointment. She survived her residential school ordeal. Her children made questionable choices. Her husband was at times a violent alcoholic. But she endured.

 

She smiled. She laughed. She could joke. She made the best bannock. She could walk for kilometers.

 

These were all traits that I absorbed from her. Except the walking part. And the bannock making ability.

 

Every year, I would help her set up the X-mas tree. We always used the same ornaments, year after year, only buying new ones when an older one broke. Every year, I would untangle the long string of tree lights and I would wonder how it get to badly wound up. I would silently curse whoever just stuffed the whole string in the box all willy nilly.

 

As a child, I would eagerly await the day when I could open my gift that I found underneath the tree. When I got older, I would in turn buy gifts for my mom and the various members of my family who happened to be in town during the season. I always struggled to buy her an excellent gift. I always have, when it comes to people I care about. Gifts for people I wasn’t overly concerned about were far more easily obtainable. I would merely walk down a gift isle and grab a selection, even if they were more expensive then a thoughtful gift.

 

Every year, I would silently pray that the season would pass uneventfully. More times then I care to admit, my prayers were unheard. My most vivid memory of the holidays was when my father drunkenly threw out the entire tree, gifts and all, outside and onto the front lawn.

 

My mom patiently waited until he passed out, then sent us children out into the cold to recover what gifts we could and to see if we could salvage the tree. Money was tight then, so we had to have a high barrier for what was an unacceptable amount of tree damage. One side was completely flat, so we simply turned it so that side faced the wall. My mom was a master of making do with what we had. She made it work. We were happy.

 

She deserved so much more than the life she was given. But she, as only she could, made the best of her situation. She had strength without limit, endurance without end. She built her family and held it together. Without her, I would not be here.

 

She gave me the strength to endure my own trauma, and the wisdom to seek help when I needed it. She was never cruel, nor cowardly. She taught me to see the beauty in the moment, even when it is as ugly as it can get. Lessons that saved my life.

 

When dementia took her, it took all of her. She was a fragment, a shadow, or a whisper of herself. And yet, she could still be found, smiling and laughing. A lifetime of bad memories, seemingly gone.

 

As the holiday season rolls upon us once again, I find myself thinking of her. The old X-mas tree, now long discarded. The ornaments and tinsle and lights, all gone. Her lessons remain though.

 

I am here, now, because of her.

 

My eyes are open because of her.

 

My heart, though wounded by her absence, remains free because of her.

 

I live now, because of her.

The Canvas Man

Imagine a blank canvas.

Skillfully, or clumsily, as you will, cut out the frame of a man. Now, pull him free from the canvas.This man now exists in the world, much like you or anyone else really. He has plans and goals, hopes and dreams, triumphs and failures. He has to provide for himself and for those he loves.

This blank canvas man has no history. No backstory. No origin. He has had no previous consideration for those aspects of life. They have never been important.

As he travels through his life, he encounters people who have history. These people have tales they can recount of their ancestors, of their family exploits, where they came from and notable family members.

The blank canvas man begins to ponder where he comes from.He looks at himself. He notices that he is native. An aboriginal. An Indian. He is proud of this.

He wonders, where is he from? He talks to some who might know. They tell him of the place he was born, the house he lived in, the school he was educated in. He goes to those places, to try and remember.The hospital he was born in is gone. The house he was raised in is gone. The school he was educated is gone. Everything gone. Did the blank canvas man spring into this world fully grown? He cannot answer that, but it seems unlikely. Where was his past?

He goes to places of higher learning. He leans academically that once, a long time ago, strangers came to the land of his ancestors and took that land, by force.Divine Right, the strangers called it. He also learned, to his horror, that the strangers overpowered his ancestors, and forced them to leave their land. They were then forced to live on different land, with different rules.They were no longer allowed to practice their traditions. They were no longer allowed to leave the land they were given. They were no longer allowed to speak their own language. Then, the strangers came for the children. So many children were taken. Not nearly as many returned. The parents wept. The man’s heart broke from the sorrow.

The children who returned were changed. Different. Broken. They could no longer speak the language of their parents. They no longer knew the ways of their ancestors. They only knew the ways of the strangers, and then, only by rote.He learns that the broken children grew up to be broken adults. Some were able to recover, and heal. Others were not. The man learns that this is where he comes from. He learns that his parents were taken from their family and subjected to all manner of “education”. When they returned, they simply had nothing in them to teach. He was essentially starting off anew.

The blank canvas man learns all of this and more. He learns that, despite the tragedy, or perhaps because of it, his people, all of the people involved really, have struggled to recover the identity stolen from them. Some have been very successful. He finds this inspiring. The blank canvas man determines to learn, and cover his own canvas with the knowledge he has discovered. Each fact splashes across his canvas, giving him color. Giving him life. The no longer blank canvas man discovers his greatest joy: that the colors on his canvas can be read by those around him. The readings give thought and happiness to others. He has, through his struggles, and the struggles of others like him, found a way in the world.

It was a beginning.

Understanding

There is so much about the world that I don’t understand.

People, for instance.

I am estranged from my family. Estranged is putting it mildly. I am the Black Sheep.

I performed the actions that led to the estrangement out of Love. Out of responsibility. Out of compassion. Were I in the same position, I would make them again, without question.

Family is a difficult concept to explain, or understand. Each family sees itself differently. There are whole sciences devoted to the study of family.

Pre-estrangement, I was the dutiful son. I did what was asked, regardless of my feelings on the matter. I never knew that I had a choice. That came later.

As a reward for my duty, I was made the executor of my father’s will when he passes. I was also made the trustee and guardian of his estate should he lose his capacity to make his own decisions.

Now, post-estrangement, I find that I’ve been removed as the executor and guardian. My father had a medical emergency recently. I was not informed until after. This was when I learned that I no longer his legal representative.

I learned that, in the middle of his medical emergency, my father hurriedly contacted his lawyer to remove me from his paperwork.

Why?

Fear?

Was he afraid that I would somehow take advantage of his weakened state to strike back at him for years of troubled parenting? For years of neglect & abuse? Does he fear this because, if the situation were reversed, he would do the same? This is all supposition; I may never know his reasons.

I am not him.

I would not do that.

If it were required, I would stand for him, and ensure his well being and that his needs were met.

I have learned from him. I have learned that I want to be a different man from him. I am trying to heal from my experiences and to grow from them.

Part of my healing includes letting go of hatred. And fear.

I try to understand that he needs to heal as well.

Will he?

That is the part that I don’t understand.

The Doorway

vintage brown wooden door
Photo by Mikey Dabro on Pexels.com

I stood outside the door, full of uncertainty and dread.

My heart caught for a long moment as I raised my hand and gently knocked.

What would be on the other side? My mind conjured images of Demons and Terror. Of images long forgotten. A slavering, ravenous beast stood behind the door, and waited for me to enter.

An aura of fear radiated from the door. Or perhaps just from me. I hoped that no one had heard my knocking.

A questioning grunt echoed from the other side of the door. A shambling lurch could be heard, increasing in volume. With a sickening noise, the lock clicked and the doorknob rattled. A garbled voice rumbled threateningly, “Come in.”

I looked back and forth down the empty hallway of this old, dilapitated apartment complex. The dim hallway light showed that no one was around to witness my entrance. No one would notice if I ever left.

I swallowed a rising lump in my throat and placed a hand on the doorknob. Fear pressed against me. A physical thing, fear can be sometimes. I wanted to run, to leave this place, and never return.

Instead, I opened the door and stepped inside.

The apartment was small and full of dark omens. The air was thick and stuffy. The temperature was stiflingly hot. A pressure wave hit me as soon as I closed the door. I wondered who could live in a place such as this?

The question was rhetorical. I knew exactly who lived here. The god-damned Devil.

The devil was my father.

He had just shuffled his way back to his chair, uncaring if I actually entered or not. His clothes were tattered and threadbare. He walked with a bit of a limp, which he corrected with a cane. Daring to raise my eyes toward him, I can almost see something about him, something I haven’t seen before. With a long groan, he sits back down on his chair, in front of the television set that always seems to be on.

Endless commercials drone on from the screen. Every time I come over. Always commercials.

I take off my shoes and leave them by the door. Then I move over and stand beside him, careful not to get in his line of sight. I do this every time I see him here.

I clear my throat in an attempt to force the words out. I have to speak to him and yet, I dread nothing more than his gaze upon my face. My words are mumbled, stammering.

“Uh, I was at the hospital today…uh…”

“WHAT?” His voice, sharp, cuts me to the core. I have his attention now.

Those terrible eyes focus on me.

“I, uh…”, I manage.

“I saw mom today.”

“OH.” His attention shifts back to the screen. The drone of the television set filling in the empty spaces of our conversation.

“Uh, yes. She was doing good. Yes, good.” I have a hard time stringing sentences together when I’m near him. His presence overwhelms me.

“So, yeah, she said something funny. It really cracked up my girlfriend.” I’m trying to connect, but I don’t know how, or if I’m doing it right.

“YOUR GIRLFRIEND WAS THERE?” He leans back in his chair. I go on full alert. Why would he ask that?

“I DON’T WANT HER TO SEE YOUR MOTHER ANYMORE.” He nods to himself. He leans forward again, the matter already forgotten.

I reel in stunned confusion. Was that a command? A demand? An order?

“Yes. Of course,” I weakly submit.

I’m disgusted with myself.

“I’VE TALKED WITH THE DOCTOR”, he continues. “MOM WILL BE HOME BY THE END OF THE WEEK.” Something resembling a smile crosses his face.

What? No! She can’t!

She will die here!

She almost died here! I had to call for paramedics to take her away to the hospital because you couldn’t take care of her and you absolutely would not allow anyone else to take care of her either!

These were the things I wanted to say. But instead, I said nothing.

With a lurch, he stands up and slowly makes his way into the kitchen. He pulls open a cupboard and retrieves a glass. Then he opens the refrigerator and pours himself a glass of juice.

I meekly follow.

The implications of his words hammer into me like a series of blows. If my mother returns here, she will die soon after. My heart starts to pound, my hands begin to shake. Panic takes hold.

My head drops in defeat. The finality of his command still echoes in my mind. I am prepared to accept it, as I have so many others.

But I can’t.

I ball my fists, clenching them so tightly that they go numb. I’m shaking. I want to run so badly. I keep looking at the door, hoping for someone to enter and save me. All I can feel is His prescence, this titan who stands before me and in whose prescence I can do nothing. The Fear has me.

But this is about my Mother.

“she’s…She’s not coming back here,” I say quietly. The purpose of my visit, the topic I’ve been trying to avoid bringing up, finally surfaces. He looks at me in suprise.

I release the breath that I was unaware that I was holding in.

“Today, I filled out the paperwork for Guardianship and Trusteeship of mom.”

The look of suprise switches to anger. He calmly puts his glass down on the counter and adjusts his grip on his cane. His eyes never leave me.

“I talked to her doctor,” I continue, “and the hospital staff. They all agree that she shouldn’t return home. That she should stay at the hospital and move to a long term care facility.”

“SHE BELONGS WITH ME!!!” The force of his words pushes me back. Tears start forming on the corners of my eyes.

“You can’t take care of her anymore,” I reply. It’s taking all of my willpower not to turn and run. “You tried, remember? With the daily visits from the nurses and the food delivery people. You somehow drove them all away. They won’t even come back now.”

He rages against me. It is absolutely terrifying. The very walls seem to shake. When he raises his cane and pulls back, as if to swing, I retreat into my memories.

My tattered, ragged memories.

Every memory of abuse, physical and mental. The futile attempts at hiding from his rage. The endless fear. The memories of his abuses against my mother and siblings. But something else strikes through.

Memories of his drunken ramblings about his childhood. His stories about the abuses he endured as a child. The Residential schools and their lasting effects. His experiences in the army. The friends he lost overseas. The times he wept from the sadness he held inside. His suffering.

I realize in that moment, that he was as lost as me.

The veil drops from my eyes. I can see him now as he really his. Not as a tyrant. Not as a monster that has tormented me for my entire life.

But as a man. A broken, battered man. A man that should have received help for his numerous traumas, but never had. He was likely unaware that help was even available.

He was old. Hollow. Barely standing. Holding himself up through stubborn willpower alone.

I.

I felt.

I felt sorry for him.

A lot of my fear left then. But not all. I will always carry some with me.

“Mom can live,” I say now with more confidence. “She can live for many more years, and be happy during those. But not here. Not with you.”

My father lowers his arm. The cane slides back to the ground. Perhaps he recognizes the change in me.

“Trained professionals will be around her at all times. She will be cared for. She will be safe.”

“I can’t…I can’t carry this anymore.” I look at him. “The experiences I’ve had with you. The constant fear I live in. I can barely interact with men, especially ones who remind me of you. I have to let it go. I have to heal.”

“I forgive you.”

I head for the door and put my shoes on. There is no other noise in the apartment except for the reassuring stream of television commercials. I put my hand on the door to leave, but something stops me.

“I’m getting help to deal with my trauma.” I turn to him. “It would help you to do the same.”

I don’t know why I said that. Perhaps one final appeal to his sanity. Perhaps a lonely child’s attempt to connect with his father.

The groan of a chair from the living room as he eases himself down. Relative silence for a moment. I already know what he’s going to say.

“NEVER COME BACK HERE.”

It still hurt.

I leave, and pass through the door. I turn and look at the door as it closes. It is no longer imposing.

It is old, and sad. Like so many other things around here. I walk away.

I have never returned.

Midnight at the End of the Universe pt 7.

The great space station Remembrance rumbles as another wave of destructive nuclear energy is shot out into the void.

Onboard the E.M.S.X. Calamity, which is attached to the station, the ships rattles along as well. A framed photograph in the Captain’s quarters is jostled and floats free of its mooring. Its drifts slowly and gently into the center of the room.

The photograph is a signed print of the christening of the Calamity, taken in orbit over the Earth. The entire space suited crew is present, floating along the hull. Abraham Standford on the left, fingers splayed in the Peace Sign. Isolde Drarm is to his right, clutching tightly to the tether connecting her to the ship. It was her second spacewalk. Center frame is Thomas “Jax” Jackson. He is exageratingly swinging a bottle of champagne towards the hull of the experimental ship. On the far right is Captain Katherine “Mac” MacNamara. The solar protection visor is down on her helmet, obscuring her face. She was fuming on the inside.

The bottle was meant for her to break against the hull but Jax convinced her that it was more ‘dynamic’ for him to do it.

A plaque is attached to the frame. Written on the plaque is ” Katherine, the E.M.S.X made us a crew, but YOU made us a family.”

The photograph continues its gracefull arc until it taps gently against the wall on the far side. The frame cracks in two, separating the image of Katherine MacNamara from the rest of her crew.

 

In the central hub of The Remembrance, Katherine is secured to a terminal, in a long, curving corridor. The Research and Development wing. Her upgraded clearance has allowed her full access to every file. Information flows across her screen detailing a bewildering amount of projects that were scheduled to occur. She types in the project name.

Euthros payya.

Research information spills across the screen, of a complexity that she has never seen before, far outside her areas of expertise. Typing furiously, trying to narrow onto specific information about the genetic sampling station, brought up only densely technical information. Pleasant singing quietly echoes from a P.A. system. A voice startles her.

“I can do that a lot faster, if you’d like.”

Katherine swivels in her seat towards the voice.

Isolde Drarm, cleaned and in a fresh uniform. Her golden hair spills out from under a military cap, the logo for The Rememberance embazoned on the top. She has never been more radiant. Katherine now realizes that she will never love another person as much as she loves Isolde. She pushes her seat away from the terminal, momentarily at a loss.

“Uh, yes. Yes please.”

She unbuckles herself and floats out of the seat as Isolde slides in. Katherine holds on the the back of the seat, mesmerized by the ease of Izzy’s motions, her effortless understanding of Katherine’s intent. A lock of her hair brushes against Katherine’s hand. The feeling unleashes a wave of memories, all the quiet moments they shared together in their growing relationship.

A growing unease starts to fill her stomach. Something is off, not quite right…

“Captain? I located the DNA extraction machine.” Izzy looks up from the screen to her, her expression quizzical. “What do you need it for?”

The revelation blows her concerns away. The machine!

Mac runs a hand through her hair, uncertain of how best to explain. She determines the direct path is best. Isolde is waiting patiently.

“We are fucked.”

“Totally. Completely. There is no other way to look at our situation.”

Isolde stares in suprise.

Mac continues, swinging her arms around the room.

“This station, The Remebrance, is our salvation. But it will also be our tomb. Yes, we can live out our days here safely and in peace, but that’s it. For us, and humanity in general. Or so I thought.”

“I stumbled upon a plan to survive this apocalypse that we created. The big brains back home must’ve had more time than we thought to set this all up. This station was designed to survive the end of existence that our ship accidently caused. The station was meant to hold thousands of people, tens of thousands, in a continuing arcology while this black hole does it’s thing and collapses, eventually spitting out a new universe for the crew to colonize.”

“I mean, that was supposed to be their plan. Something must’ve happened that prevented the crew and civilains from boarding. Maybe they just ran out of time and had to launch prematurely.” Katherine waves her arm helplessly in this otherwise empty room.

Isolde tilts her head and rests it upon her hand. It was her gesture that she used when she was unsure of a subject matter.

“If that’s true, then why launching without a crew? Without a crew, this station would be just a derelict, a ghost ship of a long dead race, assuming any sentient, star faring race would ever chance upon it.”

“That’s just it,” retorts Katherine, “this station is more than just a colony ship. It’s a seed ship.”

“The DNA of millions of the human race is secured safely on board. The Remembrance is entirely automated, programmed to launch samples of our DNA at worlds that could one day support life. With a full crew, she could drastically improve her odds of seeding worlds successfully. Humanity would not only be reborn, we would be spread across the Universe!”

Katherine takes Isolde’s hand. Cool to the touch, she notices.

“That is why I need to find the DNA extractor.”

“I want to embed our DNA into the system.”

“I want us, you and me Izzy, to live forever on a million worlds.”

Isolde Drarm looks up at her with her beautiful blue eyes and smiles.

“All right Captain, when do we start?”

The audience roars. The screams strike him as a physical force. He basks it in.

Jax smiles and catches his breath, resting his left hand against the mike stand. There is a green bar stool next to him with a bottle of water sitting upon it. He deftly picks up the bottle, opens the cap, and takes a long drink. He is sweating profusely, his heart is racing. He hasn’t worked this hard for a crowd in a long time. Serving aboard The Calamity ruined his conditioning.

He wipes sweat off his forehead, oblivious to the dried blood he is scraping off his hand and leaving on his face. His knuckles are still bruised from his brutal assault on Abraham Standford. The incident is long gone from his mind.

There is only the audience.

The audience demands only one thing from Thomas Jackson. His best.

He will not let them down.

In a move of exagerated sexuality, he spills the rest of his water over his head and down his chest. The crowd goes wild. More. They want more.

He slides into another song, one laced with overt sexuality and dark desire, his body dances along with the rythm. His voice is getting strained and his muscles fatigued but he is taking energy from the crowd. As much as the crowd is taking from him. He will not stop. He will never stop.

The slapping of his shoes against the stage and his strained voice echo hollowly throughout the empty theater.

The station rumbles as another blast of atomic energy is shot out into the void.

The room containing the DNA extractor has an impressive amount of security protocols needed to enter, but Mac and Izzy make their way through easily. The large room is cut in half by a sealed glass wall with a single door on either side of a connected hallway. Several hazard suits line one of the walls on their side.

Lt. Drarm leans in and examines the suits closely. Captain MacNamara fidgets excitedly nearby. Her dreams of immortality are so close.

“Well,” Isolde says after a moment, “the suits are only needed for experiments that require a clean room, which is what the barrier is for. The room has scrubbers which clean the air and surfaces as necessary. The little corridor is also a decontamination room.  We won’t need them for a simple DNA extraction.”

Mac is already moving towards the door. “Good.” She enters the decom room, Isolde at her heels.

The air inside the sealed room is cool and crisp. Katherine’s skin prickles just a little bit. She spots the retractable shelf containing the extractor and swipes her ID card against the reader. The red light in the shelf switches from red to green and the shelf silently slides out from the wall.

The shelf reveals another sealed container. Katherine sighs in mild frustration and looks up at Isolde. The lieutenant is leaning against the far wall. She smiles and shakes her head in commiseration, her golden hair spilling out from her officers cap.

Something strikes Katherine as wrong again with Isolde. She can’t put her finger on it. She is so tired, the enormity of her actions as captain of The Calamity and the utter destruction that followed have hollowed her out. She wants her burden to end.

A faint pounding catches her attention. It fills the room. She looks around for the source.

“What’s wrong, Captain?” Isolde looks curious.

“What is that noise?”, she replies.

Isolde shrugs. “It’s probably aftershocks from the nuclear launcher that this station is built around. Why stop now? You’re so close to your goal.”

“This is what you want.”

Katherine runs her hand along the container in front of her. Then she swipes her pass card along the reader. The container unlocks.

The pounding noise continues, louder this time.

“Yes,” she muses. “This is what I want.”

She opens the container and stares at what is inside.

Lt. Isolde Drarm arrived in the research wing of the central ring of the space station, as per her captains’s orders. She was alone and frightened.

The area was empty. She was suprised, Katherine was supposed to meet her here.

Panic swelled inside of her, twisting her insides until they were hard and cold knots.

She had a murder to report. Abraham Stamford: her friend. While she was showering and finding fresh clothes for herself, her friend was being murdered by Jax. The thought nauseated her. She had to find her captain.

Heading to the nearest computer, she found Katherine’s previous search.

Euthros payya.

Latin perhaps? She took a moment to skim the information folder. Fascinating stuff. She marked the location and launched herself in that direction.

Captain MacNamara was not there.

“MAC!” She screamed, pounding her frail fist against the door of the empty room. She began a room by room search for her commander. Her friend. Her love.

She found Katherine MacNamara in the Nuclear Containment wing.

She was sealed in the Nuclear Fuel Containment room.

She was staring unshielded, straight into a bin of nuclear rods, that were meant for the cannon at the center of the station.

Izzy screamed, pounding futilely against the safety glass as lethal levels of radioactivity flooded the other side of the room.

The pounding has become more insistent. Katherine closes the lid of the container and turns towards the noise. On the other side of the safety glass, Isolde stands screaming.

She looks like hell. Gaunt. pale, Her gold hair barely an inch long. Even in a fresh uniform, she looks nothing like the vision Katherine followed, yet somehow more beautiful than ever.

Isolde finally finds a communications panel. She turns it on with numb hands.

“Mac…what…what did you DO?”

Mac slowly makes her way to the panel, her movements suddenly uncertain and weak. She feels it. It is unstoppable.

She is burning from the inside out.

Katherine activates her end of the communicator.

“Hullo Izzy…I think…”

“I think I just killed myself.” She giggles uncontrollably for a moment.

Isolde weeps, resting her weary head against the panel.

“Don’t leave. Don’t leave me here alone.” The words come out of her at barely a whisper.

After a long pause, “My love,” Katherine responds, “My love. I’m sorry.”

“It’s this place. It gives you want you want. Abraham was right. He said it when we first arrived here.”

Isolde listens mutely.

A wave of fatiuge washes over Captain MacNamara. She is suddenly very tired. She can’t seem to open her eyes anymore. She fumbles for the communication console.

“Izzy.”

“Izzy.”

“You need to leave here, Izzy.”

“This place will kill you if you let it.”

Isolde smacks her fist against the wall.

“Mac…”

“It’s OK, Izzy. I’ll be here.” Katherine leans against the safety glass. “M’tired…think I’ll take a nap now…”

Isolde weeps now, for all that was lost, and curls up on the floor opposite of the glass partition where her lover Katherine now rests. And sleeps.

The E.M.S.X. Calamity pulls away from the death station, Rememberance. Her fuel source still unreplenished, The Calamity could not travel far. Isolde Drarm, her lone occupant, set a lazy orbit around the death station. Once a month, The Remebrance would swing into view.

There is nowhere else to go.

Food and water aboard The Calamity were exhausted for a full crew of four, but for a crew of one, Isolde made them last for a significant period of time. Ship maintenance however, was not her specialty, but she did the best she could. It was the routine E.V.A. into that absolue nothing outside of the ship that was the most difficult.

The supermassive black hole they called Nemesis always beckoned.

When enough small microfractures finally shatter the hull of The Calamity after five years of lonely existence, Lt. Isolde Drarm welcomes it.

Food supplies were finally exhausted, and Isolde faced the gruesome possibility of self-cannibalization. She was tormented by the regular sight of the Remebrance, itself full of food and rescources that she could use, but knowing that she would die soon upon docking.

 A small, framed photograph somehow survived the implosion, drifting away from the ship with just enough force to resist the black hole, Nemesis.

The photo was a reprint of the crew of The Calamity, on Earth, at the launchpad a day before the crew left the planet to board the ship.

Smiling and happy, Abraham Stanford, Thomas “Jax” Jackson, Isolde Drarm, and Katherine MacNamara waved at the camera.

The caption underneath the picture simply states:

They are the best of Us.

The space station, Rememberance, dims it’s external lights in rememberance.

Then, the entire station went into power saving mode, awaiting the rebirth of the universe.

Eager, but patient, the ancient space station, now a remmnant of a dead universe, waited to meet the first life of a new universe.

Midnight at the End of the Universe pt. 6

Isolde Drarm grew up alone.

Her intelligence set her apart from the other children her age. They never knew what to make of her. Sometimes they teased her. Usually, they left her alone.

Mathematics, literature, even music. They all came so easily to her. She advanced through the education system rapidly. A prodigy, they called her. Praise rained down on her, but only, it seemed, when she excelled. Companionship however, eluded her. She was always alone.

It wasn’t until her freshman year that she found her first friend. Hustling across the campus, anxious to not be late for her next class, she collided with a fellow student. Alika was her name. She was setting up a stage for a public meeting for the university’s LBGTQ alliance. Flustered and riddled with anxiety over the incident, she apologized again and again. Alika smiled and accepted Isolde’s apology, wringing out a promise to attend her next speech.

When Isolde was able to attend Alika’s next speech, she was impressed. Alika had a natural grace and eloquence that made her seem mesmerizing. Unperturbed, even when a small group of trolls started heckling her, Alika stated the mission goals of her group without missing a beat and received a standing ovation.

Isolde shyly spoke to Alika after the meeting and was again amazed at how gifted a speaker she was. Alika had a gift at understanding people, at seeing to the heart of them, and helping create a connection between the two. Isolde, without fully understanding it, was falling in love.

Their friendship was deep and insightful. Alika helped Isolde to understand herself and her complex feelings. Being several years her senior meant that Alika could not return fully return Isolde’s affections, much to Isolde’s dismay. But, she eventually accepted it. Alika was the first to give her the nickname “Izzy”.

Izzy received a curious text from Alika one night. Izzy was doing an all night practice session before an important exam. The message said that Alika was woken up by a strong smell in her room, but the thought of getting up to find out the source of the odor was making her dizzy. Her last words were that she was going to ignore it and try to sleep through it.

Isolde managed an A+ on her exam. She hustled over to Alika’s dorm room to tell her the great news to find one of Alika’s other friends crying in her room. A stroke had killed her friend overnight and Isolde’s world collapsed.

Struggling to make sense of her best friend’s death, Isolde threw herself into medical science, her other passions forgotten. Her need to understand Life and Death pushed her into the top of her field. And other related fields. The possibility of life on other worlds and what form that might take sparked her imagination.

Life on Earth was lonely without her friend.

Onboard the Remembrance, the massive, rotating space station, Captain Katherine MacNamara was luxuriating in a zero gravity shower. Squeezing rinseless soap and water from pouches onto her body, then towelling off the excess moisture, Katherine hasn’t felt this clean in months. The Calamity had run out of personal cleaning products some time ago.

Exiting the shower room, Katherine floated over to the closet of the officer’s quarters she had discovered. Opening the doors, she discovered it full of uniforms. Rifling through them, she found that they closely matched her size. Donning a fresh uniform, she continued her search of the room. No personal items, no pictures, no name on the door. A blank room. Were the clothes and cleaning products shipped ahead of time? Who unpacked them?

As she left the room, she saw Isolde leaving a room farther down, also in a fresh uniform. A smile involuntarily broke across Katherine’s face. Izzy was radiant, even with a frown upon her face. Isolde saw her and smiled back. “They have toothpaste, Mac! I brushed my teeth!”, she exclaimed.

“I know! It’s amazing!” Mac floated over. “Everything is here for us! We can live here comfortably, and once we make it to the command area, we should be able to find out what happened to the crew and occupants.” The stress of the last 8 months and the terror of the void slowly was slipping from her body. She gently takes Isolde’s hand in hers, “Come on, let’s finish this.” Isolde nods and together, they leave.

“Officer’s quarters are here,” Katherine muses, “so Command should be just ahead.” The officer’s deck has numerous features that the pair pass by: workout room, small cafeteria, a break room filled with games and screens, and a small corporate branded coffee shop. “Everything for the officer on the go,” Isolde mutters. She motions to tie back her hair, but remembers that she cut hers short last month. Phantom hair syndrome.

“Why is this station here?”, she asks.

“Why does it have exactly everything we need?”

Mac turns to her, “This is a miracle. A Godsend. A chance to start over.” Her eyes soften. “We can start over Izzy, a fresh start”. She smiles.

Isolde looks at her, longing and confusion warring inside herself. She pulls her hand away from Katherine. “Too many questions…”

Isolde moves on, past her captain, to the command deck.

The door is locked. Electronic passkey. Isolde looks at Katherine and motions to the scanner. Katherine takes out her old passkey, the one she used on the International Space station, and taps it on the scanner. To both their surprise, it beeps pleasantly and changes color to green. The door opens.

The Command module is impressive. Row upon row of computers monitoring the day to day life of the Remembrance. Comfortable chairs. Plenty of room. Cheerful aesthetics. The Commander’s station is majestic: three banks of screens, terminals surrounding a deluxe chair. The entire station at one’s fingertips. Mac slides into the seat.

Running her fingers over the console, Mac feels connected to the entire station. The hairs on the back of her neck start to rise. A faint noise catches her attention. Barely audible. She’s heard it before, when they first entered the station. So familiar…

“Hey Mac”, Katherine is jarred out of her revery by Isolde. She is floating by a bank of monitors. “One of these monitors is picking up sound from somewhere.” Katherine starts punching in commands into her view screen, zeroing in on the source. A flashing icon catches her attention. Command level access required. Curious, she punches in her ID.

Isolde, after flipping through two dozen cameras, discovers Jax in the auditorium. Jax is singing a love ballad to an empty theater. Isolde listens for a while, impressed with his skill. She turns to Katherine, “Captain, I found Jax. He’s the source of the noise.” Katherine looks up from her screen that she was reading intently, annoyance clearly written on her face.

“What is that idiot up to? Where is Abe?”

“Uh, don’t see him anywhere.”

Katherine’s eyes keep flicking back to her screen.

“Izzy, go grab Jax and then see if you can find Abe. Come back here once you’re all together. I found something that could be big.”

“Yes sir,” Isolde salutes sarcastically and leaves the command room.
Euthros peyya

 

The title makes to sense to Katherine but the contents of the information packet thrill her to her core.

The Remembrance has a massive Hadron drive and the crew had orders to use the time dilation effect from activating the drive to “ride out” millions of years as the black hole collapsed and “spat out” a new universe. Then the Remembrance would seed life on nascent worlds using genetic material stored in the central hub of the station.

“Seeding new life…” she mutters as information flashes across the screen.

“Izzy and I could live together, again and again, across thousands of worlds, throughout history!”

Pulling up a file on the central hub, Katherine feverishly plots a course to the genetic sample storage area.

Isolde makes her way to the auditorium as Jax continues to sing. He stops occasionally to perform skits. The external speakers of the auditorium have been turned on and Isolde can hear every word, every inflection. Jax can uniquely modify his pitch and tone to appeal to a variety of audiences. As much as she hates Jax, she is impressed by his ability. “No wonder he was the most famous man on earth.”

The Auditorium is fully illuminated as Isolde approaches, flood lights shining on every corner and into the “sky”. The doors are locked, however. Shouting futilely against Jax’s songs, Isolde finally storms off in search of a communication console, cursing herself for not equipping a communicator when she was in Ops. She waits a surprisingly long time at the console waiting for a response.

Katherine finally appears on-screen, the image behind her shows that she is no longer in Ops. “Oh, hey Iz, did you find the others?”

“I’m at the stadium but can’t get in. No sign of Abe here. Where are you?”

Katherine smiles, “I found something amazing! Forget the others and meet me in the central hub, R&D area. Oh, and swipe your access card, I’ve improved your security rating. You should now be able to enter all areas of the station.”

Isolde complies, confused at her captain. “Forget the others? That’s not how we do things. For better or worse. we’re Family. The only ones we have left.”

Captain MacNamara sighs and relents. “You are correct Lieutenant, I apologize. Just meet me here and we’ll find Abe together.” She switches her screen off.

Isolde looks at the blank screen for a moment, then swipes her access card. With her new status, she easily accesses the cameras and runs a search for Abraham Standford, starting from the cafeteria where they were last all together. Jax is singing a power ballad in the background.

The security cameras are ubiquitous throughout the station, and provide unparalleled imagery of the events that happened.

Abraham, looking sad and forlorn, sings an obscure and slightly disturbing song.

Thomas Jackson turning and assaulting him viciously.

Thomas throwing the prone body of Abe out of the cafeteria.

Abraham’s body floating through the empty central corridor.

He seems to come to near one of the elevators, a complete wreck.

He drags himself onto the lift and activates it.

Abe exits the lift and painfully makes his way to the E.V.A quarters and then climbs into a suit.

He exits the station and spacewalks to the nuclear cannon machinery.

He enters the cannon via an access port and waits patiently as the cannon powers up and fires, disintegrating him instantly.

The blood flowing through Isolde Drarm turns to ice as Jax hits the high note in his song. She looks back to the auditorium and spots that the main doors are now open. Breathing heavily, her senses fully aware, she cautiously moves towards the elevator bank.

A Meditation on the Self.

I am a writer. But I am now blocked.

I was writing a story. Chapter by chapter. Week by week. I have been unable to finish my work. I sometimes sit and stare at my unfinished work, mentally punishing myself for my inability to end the story.

The words are there. I cannot make them leave my mind and take their place on page.

I am depressed.

The depression is not the result of my not finishing the story I’ve written.

I suffer from depression. It has been a lifelong condition, it seems. My constant companion.

I grew up in a house filled with abuse. I was abused.

Was is the cause of my depression or would it have occurred regardless? My thoughts spiral along the path of self-doubt: the path that abuse sets before you. The thought pattern that abusers drive into you.

I have spent years fighting the grip of depression. I have sought help from counsellors and doctors. I am on medication. I daily wage a silent war to confront my darkest thoughts and challenge them, striving to change them into positive or at least, neutral thoughts.

After years of therapy and medication, I have come to the conclusion that I will never be rid of my constant companion. At best, AT BEST, I have learned enough techniques to keep the darkness at bay temporarily. Muted, but never eliminated.

Some days, it is a snicker behind my back, on others, a scream that drowns out all other thoughts.

Spending time with my friends helps immeasurably. With them I can laugh, and joke, and for a time, forget. Talking about it helps as well. I spent far too many years internalizing my suffering. Developing the strength to speak of my experiences has been liberating. Even writing these words down here has been helpful.

The wave of depression will break. The writing will continue. I will be myself again.

I am Ellis.

Midnight at the End of the Universe pt 5

A thunderous rumble tears through the E.M.S.X Calamity. A screen sputters and flares to life in the darkness. An image of Abraham Stanford resolves slowly, switching from black and white to full colour. He is speaking.

“I’ve never had a lot of use for religion. Science has been my guiding star through life. It might have been an adverse reaction to my childhood. My parents and family are all extremely religious and they really expected me to follow in their footsteps. When I told my folks that I wanted to go to M.I.T., they just about disowned me.”

“Near the end of getting my Masters of Aerospace engineering, my dad came to me and told me of a Festival that was about to occur in my small coastal hometown. The Festival only happens once a century and is supposedly older than the colony of european settlers that eventually became the U.S.” He shrugs in disbelief.

“I couldn’t make it. I was so close to completing my masterpiece, the theoretical miniaturization of the Hadron collider that eventually led to my berth onboard the Calamity“, he gestures around to the room he his in. He shakes his head. “The look my father gave me. The disappointment in his eyes haunts me to this day.”

“He said to me as he left that by turning my back on my family, I will become ‘diminished’. That I’ve lost my place in the glory of our God. Forever.”

“I’ve never understood that. I mean, I’ve travelled the world over, when I was displaying the model of the Calamity and her inner workings. Everywhere I stopped, I took the time and spoke to holy men. I spoke to Christians, Bhuddists, Judaists, and dozens more. You want to know something creepy?” Abraham leans in close to the camera.

“Not one of them knew of the faith of my people. Not one.”

“I even had a chance to speak to a Ngangkari of Australia. He had no clue either, but he did tell me that there was a darkness out in the world, waiting. Waiting? For what?” Abe shakes his head and returns to his seat. “I grew up listening to tales told by my grandparents. Insane tales. Crazy. Were they all members of a cult? What bullet did I dodge by not going back with my dad?” He smiles and leans back in his seat.

The screen abruptly cuts out.

Aboard the Remembrance, Isolde Drarm is silently following her Captain, Katherine McNamara as they explore the kilometers long, slowly rotating space station. Her belly is full, but anxiety is making her feel slightly nauseous. As Mac stops and takes a long drink from a nearby fountain tap, Abraham’s last words ring hollowly in Isolde’s head.

“Death is coming for us.”

Since leaving the shopping district, the pair have been travelling through what seems to be a manufacturing area. Warehouses stacked upon warehouses, flowing from ground to ceiling overhead, then back to ground. Zero gravity makes optimal use of space here. The entrances are all locked. Electronic passkeys are required.

Katherine pulls out a small flashlight from her utility belt and shines it in several windows. “Dammit! Resource manufacturing at out fingertips and we can’t get in!” She pounds her fist against a door. Isolde looks at her, fear is sinking it’s claws deep into her. “It was a bad idea to leave Abe alone with Jax. Abe hasn’t been right since his breakdown. Combining that with Jax’s near sociopathic level of narcissism, the results could be explosive.”

Jax has acquired several cosmetic products and personal care items from a convenience store and is now busily applying them, as his own supply was dangerously low. He has not left the shopping and entertainment district yet, against the Captain’s orders. His companion Abraham is floating among the aisles, mournfully staring at the products on display. He picks up a magazine and flips through the pages.

“Jackson, have you seen this?” Abe holds out the magazine towards him. “The date, look at the date. It’s the same month as when we left Earth.”

Jax tears his gaze away from the mirror that he is using and glances at the magazine. “Big deal, bro. Rags like these are never up to date. Sad, lonely people read them because they have nothing better to do.” He moves the mirror around at various angles, examining his handiwork. He is pleased.

Abraham floats over to a nearby counter. He grips the top, braces himself, and pulls against the top with all of his deteriorated might. The countertop holds firm against him. “This all seems so real,” he mutters. He leans back and stretches out, cracking and popping audible along his spine.

“You know, all of this reminds me of stuff I heard as a child.” Abe leans against the countertop and looks out along the main walkway of the station. “The Universe is Alive. It has will, cunning, and determination. My folks used to say that one day, the Universe will Wake Up from its Endless Dream, and us humans, everyone everywhere will cease to be.”

“By performing the holy litany at the proper times, and making the necessary sacrifices (of what?),” Abe shudders, “my people believed that they were keeping the Universe asleep. They believed they were saving us all.” He picks up a pack of chewing gum and flicks it aimlessly down the corridor. “What if, when we turned on the Hadron Drive, we killed the universe before it had a chance to wake up and become whatever it was supposed to become? What if the universe, whatever remnants that are left anyway, is angry?”

“Crazy right?”

Jax is flipping through the magazine that Abe gave him, totally uninterested.

Abe pulls out a locket that has been hanging around his neck and opens it. Inside is a tiny photo of his daughter Jane, smiling and holding a bunch of flowers. Dandelions in full bloom. Her favorite. “My father taught her an old song, how did it go?” Voice raw and out of practice, Abe sings.

The song is old, older than Abe realizes. The words speak of a solemn promise, of servitude unending and of maintaining the Eternal Slumber ere disaster falls. The song conjures images of a world too fantastic to believe, of a world where creatures older than Man arise from the sea and teach mankind the importance of maintaining the Rites of Slumber and performing the blood sacrifices of livestock and occasionally humans. Abe has heard this song throughout his lifetime, the words are only that. Words. But to others?

Jax just about manages to cave Abraham’s head in with a stool. Tears are bubbling around his eyes. and a few drift away around the convenience store.

“Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!”

Abraham’s head bounces off the countertop. Jax flails about, pummeling Abe with any limb that gets close enough to reach him. Each blow pushes him away and he struggles to regain his position. Soon droplets of blood float randomly around the store. With a grunt and a heave, Jax throws Abraham’s near lifeless body out of the store and gently floating down the walkway.

The Song. The SONG. Rampaging through his head, drowning out all of his vapid, self-centered thoughts. The Heretic dared say aloud the Holy Words?

Jax grabs his head, uncertain. “Whuh…what just happened?” His heart is racing, blood is pounding, his hands are shaking. And covered in blood, he just now noticed. Looking around, he see the drops of blood floating aimlessly around the store. Frightened, he kicks out and leaves the store.

Abraham floats gently down the corridor, bouncing off walls, floor and ceiling. A pack of chewing gum ricochets off of him. His eyes slowly open.

A tiny hand reaches out and grabs the packet. Expertly, a stick of gum is removed and unwrapped then placed in a tiny smiling mouth.

“Hi Daddy,” Jane Stanford says around a large bubble she has blown.

“I’ve missed you.”

Thomas Jackson floats through the entertainment area, dazed and confused.

“Abe!”

“Abraham!”

“Where did you go buddy? Something weird happened and I need some help!”

As he drifts past a large theater, a noise catches his attention. Quiet, but slowly increasing in volume.

jax!

Jax!

JAX!

JAX!

Cautiously, Jax enters the theater. As he enters, cool air conditioning caresses him. The smell of beer and fast food waft over him. There is no one around and yet Jax can feel an excitement in the air. A familiar tune is playing over the PA system, one of his songs. With a smile on his face, Jax moves towards the center stage. Spotlights sweep across row after row of empty seats. The main stage is awash in multi-coloured lights. Three massive screens flash with images of Jax at various points of his career. On the stage is a microphone on a stand.

Jax happily floats over and takes his place on center stage.

The crowd roars and the station rumbles.

“Calamity?”, Abe croaks, fighting back tears. “Oh, my daughter, my beloved, I never thought I would see you again.” Slowly, painfully, he reaches out to embrace her. He finds his left arm doesn’t work as well as it used to, but no matter. She is here. With him. As she warmly returns the hug, they both break down into tears.

“I told you that I would always be waiting for you to come home papa, even when I was sick, don’t you remember?” Jane sniffles and wipes away her tears. “We’re all waiting for you, grandpa and grandma and all our neighbors from home. Everyone we knew, expect for mama, I don’t know where she is.” Jane looks around concerned.

“Calamity, Jane my dear,” Abraham coughs violently. “I’m hurt, badly.” Jane kisses her father lightly on the cheek. “Don’t worry Papa, I know where we can fix you! Follow me!” She skips off towards the lifts. Abraham agonizingly follows.

At the central hub, after a long trip, Abraham exits the elevator to find his daughter putting on an E.V.A. suit. “What are you doing? It’s not safe outside!”, he yells. The exertion of yelling makes him light-headed. He is very cold. “Papa,” Jane says with all the impatience of youth, “It’s ok. I’ve had all the training. C’mon, put your suit on and let’s go!” Abe sighs, and slowly suits up.

Exiting the station with his daughter, Abe takes in the enormity of the Void. It has always felt oddly comforting. Jane leads him to a second hatch with numerous warning signs plastered about it. She opens the hatch and crawls inside. Abe looks at the signs for a moment, then follows.

With the last of his strength, Abraham pulls himself into the base of a large cylindrical tube. He drifts against the side, it is very warm but cooling swiftly. It reminds him of something but he is past the point of caring.

“Daughter?”, he gasps. “Will we finally be together?”

“Yes Papa,” she nods solemnly. “You and me together forever.”

The base of the cylinder opens up. Machinery is revealed. Massive amounts of energy are generated. The entire cylinder lights up.

“We’ve forgiven you. Welcome Home.”

The cannon fires.

An Amusing Aside

In addition to writing strange fiction, I also write of events that occur in my day to day existence. One such event occurred today:

While performing my duties as a bus driver, a transit personnel trainer boarded my bus. He was here to do a Driver Evaluation on me as I drove, he explained. “Just drive like I’m not even here”, he says.

I express my surprise. 13 years on the job and this is the first time a Driver Evaluation has occurred. I start to drive, but a thought starts brewing in my head.

13 years. Driving in snow, rain, and heat. Through floods and stampedes. 13 years of dealing with buttheads and outright hostile passengers.

WHO THE HELL DOES HE THINK HE IS TO JUDGE ME?

I AM THE GREATEST BUS DRIVER THAT EVER LIVED!

AND ANOTHER THING, HE CAN GO STRAIGHT TO HELL WITH HIS-

“Uh, hey Ellis, I finished your evaluation. You did great! Really impressive driving out there. Good job!” The trainer got off my bus and walked away.

Well, I’m glad I didn’t overreact.

Midnight at the End of the Universe pt. 4

“That’s it? What the hell is it?”

“Shut your mouth Jax, or I’ll shut it for you.”

“Guys! Let’s keep it together for a little longer ok?”

“So much lost…music…poetry…we’ll never see it again…”

“Abe, focus! We don’t need your fucking…just…just FOCUS alright? Give me your opinion on what we’re looking at.”

The air in the control module is rank. The oxygen scrubbers are wearing out. Numerous lights across the Calamity are flashing intermittently or simply burnt out. The crew look empty. Haunted.

The journey took two months longer than anticipated.

Abraham leans closer to the screen, his eyesight is worsening, and squints. “Let’s see…radiation is Gamma, X-ray, Neutron, Alpha, Beta…” He turns on another screen and types in some commands. Reading the information displayed, Abe rubs his eyes, then says, “This is a directed Nuclear explosion.”

Jax is incredulous. “What? Some asshole is dropping nukes in space?”

“No! Well, yes, I suppose.”

“That’s insane! Who would do that and why?” Katherine turns to Abe, sizing him up. Perhaps he’s finally gone, she wondered.

Isolde speaks up. “Perhaps it’s a sign. There is nothing out here beyond Nemesis. For anything to catch our sensors, it would have to be pretty big. Maybe it’s meant for us. Like a Lighthouse.” Her hair is growing back in after shaving it a month ago.

Katherine grabs her own hair in her hands. She pulls them away, a clump of hair in each hand. She barely notices. Her attention is pulled to the screen in front of her, “We can see it!”

An enormous Wheel spins clockwise in the void. Dull grey, running lights flickering along the hull. Four spokes lead inward to connect to a Hub. From a large tube in the center of the Hub and another on the opposite side, a massive flash of energy blasts out into the void, temporarily blinding the crew.

“Christ. That’s a man-made ship! There are survivors on there! With supplies!” Katherine slides into her seat, relief shaking her to her core.

“Yeah! Yeah! YEAH!” Jax dances around as much as he can in zero gravity.

Isolde hugs herself, tears forming bubbles in the corner of her eyes.

Abraham sighs and rests his head against his screen.

“Let’s find a docking port and meet my fans,” quips Jax.

The approach is tense. “What kind of diseased mind puts the docking port right next to a nuclear cannon?” Mac’s knuckles are white as she carefully maneuvers her ship to a port at the base of the cannon. The cannon fires again as the ship is locked into place. The entire vessel is rocked. “All right, we’re docked and locked.” Katherine releases her grip on the controls.

Isolde stares at a monitor. “Sensors are detecting atmospheric pressure on the external door. Replenishing O2 supplies.” Impatience ripples through her body. Clean, fresh air wafts through the ship. Everyone takes a deep breath.

“Shotgun!” Jax leaps down the corridor to the docking port. “Wait you idiot!”, Mac yells. “We’ve got a dozen safety protocols to run through before we exit the ship.” She unstraps herself from her chair and moves after him. “Ah, fuck it.” Protocol has degenerated significantly over the last eight months.

Abraham shakes his head as if trying to wake himself from a dream. “This…this can’t be real.” He looks mournfully at Isolde as she begins to unbuckle herself. “After all this time, after everything we’ve done, suddenly we find a space station? That was built by man?”

Isolde, impatient to be gone, waves him off. “We NEED this Abe. Our supplies are gone. This the miracle we need right now.” She floats off down the corridor.

Abraham watches her go. He runs his hands along the console at his station. “A miracle,” he sighs. Then he unbuckles himself and slowly follows the rest of his crew.

The crew of the Calamity exits the ship for the first time in eons. “I was expecting fanfare, parade music. Something.” Jax peers down the corridor that leads away from the ship. It is empty. A light blinks from a panel at the far end. “Hmm, not enough rotational force to generate gravity. I should have noticed that earlier, stupid.” Isolde shakes her head in disappointment. She is tired, malnourished. They all are.

The panel is connected to a large door. Katherine taps the any key and the screen lights up. A message reads:

“Welcome to the Remembrance.”

“We have been waiting.”

The entire station rocks slightly as the cannon fires again.

Abraham gently runs his hand across the screen, his face reflected in the screen looks ghastly. The door opens. A long hallway extends in either direction gradually bending along the curve of its circular design.

“I just want this to end,” whispers Katherine. Exhaustion hangs off of her like a shroud. Her crew does not hear her. She taps the communication button on the panel; “Hello! This is Captain Katherine McNamara of the E.M.S.X. Calamity! We’ve been lost for so long…we need help!” There is no response. “Please, PLEASE, respond!” Katherine hangs her head, shivers. Something is breaking inside her.

Jax floats past her, into the hallway. Peering down one way, he shouts “Elevators!” Then he points the other way, “Over there too!” Abe moves in and disappears down a corridor. Isolde moves to Katherine and raises a hand to place on her shoulder, to offer support, strength, compassion. She stops, uncertain. It has been so long since they were together. She pulls her hand back. The crew waits in silence.

Abraham returns to them from the opposite hallway. His skin is pale and sallow, his uniform is covered with stains of uncertain origins. “There are elevators connected to every spoke, numbered but no identification as to where they go other than to the outer circle.”

Jax is combing his hair. Of all the crew, he is in the best shape. His uniform is spotless, with crisp creases and numerous product ads. He finds a reflective surface and studies his image. His last drone camera broke down a month ago and Abe wouldn’t fix it. He smiles wistfully, he looks good and it’s being wasted on his wreck of a crew. “One Lift is the same as another, right? Let’s just take one and see where it leads.”

Katherine looks at him. She hates him so much. “Fine. Let’s find the first one then. Number 1.” He shrugs, and the crew moves along the corridor until the elevator marked “1″ appears. “Where is the crew?”, wonders Isolde. “Some sort of stasis maybe? How did they survive, uh…I mean…”

“How did this station survive the end of the universe?”, replies Abe. Isolde frowns at him, but has no response.

The doors to the lift open as they approach. Sullenly they enter. Vertical safety bars line the walls and a large window on either side of the door. A panel on the inside of the elevator shows two options: 1 and 2. 1 is currently green. “Well, that’s easy enough,” Katherine says. She presses the button marked 2. The doors close and the lift moves.

Moving away from the hub, the windows occasionally reveal an external view of the enormous station. The trip is silent, each crew member is lost in thought. Katherine thinks she can almost hear a jingle playing quietly in the background. “It sounds so familiar.” she thinks, “Can Izzy hear it?” She looks over at her lost partner and sees her staring out the window. Starvation crimps Isolde’s frame but she is still gorgeous, will always BE gorgeous. A bittersweet smile crosses Katherine’s face. She looks away.

Jax is about to lose his temper when the lift finally slows down and stops. The doors slide open and reveal an enormous hallway lined with the occasional potted plant, garbage bin and water dispensers. This stuns the crew momentarily, but just as quickly, the spell is broken when as one, they all push out of the elevator straight towards the water dispenser. Each takes a long, desperate drink. Fresh water has been non-existent onboard the Calamity for quite some time.

“I see shops!” Jax is staring aghast at a long section of hallway. It is filled with stores: grocery stores, beauty supplies, a movie theater, restaurants, coffee shops, knick-knack stores and many others. All devoid of occupants. “I don’t understand any of this,” Isolde says as the others move into the grocery store. The grocery store contains many pre-packaged containers of food in sealed cold storage. The doors open easily and the crew gorges themselves on partially frozen food.

Mac smiles, her belly full. “We can stay here. Even if there aren’t any others here, we can stay.” Jax floats by, “I HOPE there are other people here. I need to get LAID.” Isolde places her empty container of food in the recycling bin, “We need to keep moving. We have to find a command module and find out where this station came from and if there are any other people here.”

Abraham slowly moves over to the recycling bin and places his container in. “There are no survivors here.” Mac glances his way, “What makes you think that old friend?” She emphasized the word ‘Friend’ sarcastically. Abe doesn’t notice. He is looking up and down the corridor. He says, “This, ALL OF THIS, is a rest. A reprieve. We murdered an entire universe. For our crimes, we deserve death and Death is coming for us. This is our Last Meal.”

Mac scoffs. “You’ve gone mad, you’ve been made this whole time. Now we’re finally in a place big enough to ignore you if you decide to kill yourself again.” Isolde gasps. Jax looks up, a slice of meat dangling from his mouth. “Captain! That was totally uncalled for!”, Isolde shouts. Her words startle Mac, she looks at Isolde for a time silently.

“You’re right lieutenant. That was uncalled for. Abraham, Please accept my apology.” Abe stares away, unhearing. She shakes her head. “Fine. Look crew: we have a lot of distance to cover as we search for survivors. We’ll do it faster if we split up. Drarm, you’re with me. Jackson, take Stanford and go left. We’ll go right and meet on the far side. I’ve noticed communication stations scattered about, we’ll use them to stay in touch.” She turns and heads out. Isolde looks at the two men and mouths the word “SORRY”, then she follows.

The station rocks under the force of another cannon blast.