Aug. 19th, 2012

liesinwriting: (Default)

We orbit a neutron star in a shielded lab.
Doing Science.
Strange things happen here
in the dark.

During a maintenance check, before we recalibrate orbit
(you know, one of those things)
the Engineer says, “Hey,
I think I see something.”
He means on the ’scopes. So we all look.
Psychiatry says,
“Have you been getting enough sleep?”

Then the Pretty One
(he’s an engineer, too, but not the Engineer)
says he sees something on the ’scopes.
And I know he’s been getting his sleep,
so I look at the ’scopes, but see nothing.
We’re alone out here, me and the Pretty One.

When Radio sees it, then Math, well, I began to have doubts.

And that’s when I finally see it, looking out the window
of the Pretty One’s living module.
I’m not even looking for it—but neither were they.
It catches at the edge of my sight like a cat’s claw and draws at me, too fast to see, disappearing like a prey animal freezing before a predator.
Black-on-black, only visible where it obscures starlight.
I watch for several minutes, but see no more.

Nobody’s due out here for months, and it makes us terse and tense.
Small slights are magnified by the distance on every side,
and everyone chews too loud
and sniffs too often,
and Psychiatry click-clacks on the keyboard like a woodpecker,
and no one sees it anymore for a while. We review
emergency procedures, which, this far from any help,
are just what we do when the board games stop being fun.
So really, nobody pays attention because—
let's face it—
explosive decompression out here and we’re all
dead. But it passes the time.

We all see it again, eventually. Pretty One sees it first,
then Psychiatry, then I, then Psychiatry, then Math, then Radio.
We try to record, but it never appears.

You know a neutron star?
They’re so heavy they warp light, and we are
too far away to see it.
It looks like space colored
with blue and white stars. And the thing that we see heads
right for it—
then disappears. Like a bad joke, except the kind that you wish you could remember
so you could tell your friends.

T-minus three months to rescue, and none of us can sleep
at night. We stay up and stare out the windows,
at the viewers;
at each other;
at the void in general.
When Psychiatry says, “It’s OK we don’t sleep at night because
there is no night out here,”
that’s when I know things have gotten bad.

I see it so many times I want to cry.
Somebody does. Someone actually cries, and screams at it,
and begs for it to stop moving, to just come closer,
just a bit,
a tiny,
little bit,
but it doesn’t hear, and none of us think it’s strange
that the Engineer is shouting at a window into space.
We have given up on thinking things are strange.

“It’s aliens,” says Radio, who we all know is only out here because
he thought he might run into little green men,
or maybe reddish turtle-like blobs of goo,
whatever they turn out to be when we meet them.
“It has to be aliens. They’re studying us like we’re studying the star.”
(“Oh yeah,” no one says, “we’re studying a star out here. Forgot about that.”)
Math asks why Radio is an unrepentant romantic;
Psychiatry tells him to shut up.
Pretty One and I aren’t even hiding it anymore. It’s an anticlimax
(ha ha)
when Math finds us in the kitchen, gets his coffee, and leaves.
We’re both still looking out the window.

Little blip...
... and it’s gone.

T-minus one month, but nobody’s counting anymore except the computer,
(and who cares what he thinks, right?).
Radio won’t shut up about aliens
and incidentally falls into Psychiatry’s clipboard,
which is no easy feat in zero-g. Nobody is surprised
when the airlock hisses open and no suit’s missing, and
it’s only a token effort to stop him, anyway,
and then Radio’s out there with the little blip,
with his aliens.
Maybe he’s talking to them now, who knows?
Math takes up the banner, proclaiming that the blip’s intervals are erratic
and in different locations,
like we haven’t noticed or something. Even the Pretty One
can’t calm him down, even with an order. It’s aliens! It’s aliens!
Oh, and when Math says it, he’s so fucking happy fucking god damnit we just want to let him go talk to the elusive fucker with Radio.
But he doesn’t;
because Psychiatry levels him with some five-on-one sedative and then
can’t type anymore, for which
we are immensely grateful.S

I don’t keep track of time anymore.
I can’t, for instance, say when Pretty One and I pull Psychiatry into our circle—
or triangle.
I can’t remember when someone blows the external oxygen tanks—
which are stupidly placed on the side opposite the neutron star—
or when Math wakes up and starts laughing at the pinched space before us,
sharing a cup of smuggled brandy with the Engineer.
I can’t remember what it’s T-minus anymore.
Or, for that matter, what we’re minusing.

But ahead of us, space slowly unpinches, and I think
we can all see the blue-white of the star now,
I know, staring out Pretty One’s window,
I can see the blip. There it is, and
there it goes. Crosses from
left to right.
I think.
I’m not sure, though.


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December 2012

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