I m falling he finally realized.
He was not really falling, but he was not really rising or even just staying still either. He kind of just was
Alone. Totally alone.
His brown eyes looked scared and desperate behind the silver gleam of the angular shaped helmet. They searched frantically, the dilated pupils darting wildly back and forth as if a seizure had taken hold of them, for movement anywhere, anywhere out there beyond him. If only he could look behind him, maybe that is where they were resting. They had to be behind him.
Beads of sweat pierced his wrinkled forehead as he thought about it; his entire body was now soaked in a thick film of grease, and he could feel a restlessness rising within his body the more he tried to get a grasp on the situation. His auburn hair quickly became a stringy mat of perspiration.
Yes. That had to be it. They were there, his friends were indeed there. He must have come with friends. Just behind him, where he could not see. Yes, that was it, probably pulling a prank on him. Right behind him. Just a joke, right? Yeah, just a joke. A cruel one maybe, but in later years maybe he too would find it funny. Perhaps he had passed out from drinking a little bit too much, and they thought it would be funny for him to wake up outside the ship with a hangover. Hah! They are probably buckled over in laughter right now!
The ship had to be there. Didn t it? One did not just arrive in a place like this for no reason at all. It was not as if you could just suddenly come into being here. You were dropped off, pushed off, shoved off, elbowed off, and jostled off. Whatever word you used, it did not really matter, you were simply off.
Off of what though?
He could not remember. A blinding headache was shooting up and down his spine. His body winced with the pain while it traveled like waves starting near the base of his head and not ending until it hit the tailbone. Even after that, the residual effects of the waves could still be felt in his legs, and continuing down into his feet, then to the toes where it did not end but seemed almost to bounce back.
It certainly did feel like a hangover. He really did have too much to drink. He must have!
What a hilarious practical joke to play on somebody!, he thought sarcastically.
His hands were cold, very cold. They are almost completely numb, he realized, but not so numb that he could not even feel them. It was making him shiver and his teeth chatter while his body desperately tried to produce at least some heat to compensate for that lost.
Maybe they are not protected?
No, they had to be. He would be dead by now if they weren t. His entire body would have been frozen many times over by now.
Maybe they were not though. Maybe he had no gloves on to protect himself. It was possible; one did not just die instantaneously, even in this place. Or maybe they were just poorly made gloves, and they were protecting his hands but just not very well. How long had he been here?
My God, what s my name?
He could not remember. His brows furrowed deep in thought, but he could not remember. His eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched as he anxiously searched his mind for answers. His breathing now came in slow methodical breaths.
It was there, but he could just barely see it. It was very fuzzy like a childhood memory. The image, the memory was blurred and distorted. There were letters, he could see that, but there were no means that he possessed for deciphering them. It was useless to try. Useless for now at least. He could try later.
After all, he did have all the time in the world to figure it out now.
The ship, yes, that s it, the ship. Where the hell is it?
Behind him, ah yes, behind. Probably no more than one-hundred kilometers. It could not be much more than that, and certainly no less or he would hear it. Sound can travel pretty well when there is almost nothing to obstruct it. Even through the thick metal of the helmet, he would hear it because of the microphones planted outside the suit and the small speakers planted inside. Yes, it was behind him. It must be. One didn t just arrive here. One could not just simply appear in the middle of nowhere.
Or did he? Anything was possible in this universe, he grimly realized. Maybe some tear in the fabric of the space-time continuum brought him here, or he accidentally stepped into a wormhole while playing in a park back in Virginia. Maybe he even traveled through a black hole to get here. Who knows?
There wasn t a thing around him for all he could see. The stars twinkled, but they were all so far away; hopelessly beyond his reach. They twinkled like so many diamonds up above, in front, down below. And behind.
He closed his eyes.
Mustn t think about that.
He could not really be falling. One could not just fall in space. He was drifting aimlessly, although to where or from where he did not know. Maybe something had already grabbed onto him and two thousand years from now his body would be devoured by one of those stars he was looking at with such despair in his mind s eye now.
Where the hell am I?
His heart pounded loudly against his chest, like a parade of elephants marching in unison across the field of a circus. It reminded him of that. Yes yes, when he was little. Going to the circus back in good old Maryland. His name was it was
Dammit! Grab a hold of yourself!
The ship, now where was it? He definitely arrived here on a ship! It was behind him, yes, he already knew that. It was behind him. It definitely was not and could not be anywhere else, so it had to be behind him.
Solve it step by step.
Those words echoed in his mind, but he did not really know why. It seemed to him he thought like that a lot, but he could not be sure. Or maybe someone he knew said it a lot. He was not really sure of anything right now.
All of a sudden he started crying. He yelled, he screamed, thrashed wildly inside the confining metal hulk of the spacesuit. He growled, attempted to beat his chest, and bore his teeth as a wild animal would do when trapped. His eyes took on a yellowish glare, but only for a moment before they began to look sullen and empty again.
His lower jaw, his hands, his legs, his entire body began to shake in a fit of nervous anxiety. He couldn t stop it.
The muscles in his face were spasing. Slowly his eyes began to dry up and tears quickly emerged. His breaths came in short gasps of air interrupted by intense sniffling. Snot flowed in thin white streams down his freckled, pale face.
Dammit! Grab a hold of yourself!
He tried he tried as much as he possibly could. He slowed his breathing, forced his muscles to go limp, and struggled to keep a straight face. It didn t work.
The stars so many of them so goddamn many of them.
They were everywhere, but only simple white specks of light in an otherwise very black void that existed all around him. Somewhere out there, there was solid ground that he could step on. It could be suspended below him, or he could be hanging from beneath it. Perhaps he was drifting parallel to it, or maybe he would crash into it millennia from now.
The dark pressed in on him like some sort of beast. It pressed up against his visor. He could feel it breathing against his chest. It was weaving itself about the spacesuit, feeling the fibers of it for any weak point where it could enter.
It lay there, waiting, just for him. It was ready to pounce, to enter his suit. It was suffocating him. He couldn t breath. He had to protect himself somehow. If only he could claw at it, make it go away.
The darkness glared in on him, it pressed more and more against his visor. He shut his eyes as if somehow the mere act would make it go away, but the intensity of the power trying to get at him only grew. There was nothing he could do.
The suit was a coffin. He was trapped within its whitewashed confines. He would die here, and drift forever within it.
Again he screamed taking in huge breaths of air despite the meager air supply he knew the suit carried, and began to thrash about wildly. His leg tried to move in a way that the suit would not allow, and abruptly he heard something snap. He stopped with his right arm still above his head, his left arm drawn across the torso, the right leg bent at a ninety degree angle, and the left leg hanging in an awkward position. There was a dull ache in that leg. Something was broken.
Out of breath and gasping, he looked around for something that he could use to move himself. There was nothing to push against, nothing to use so that he could propel himself around to see the ship. To finally see behind him.
It was maddening. There was not anything here, anything nearby at all. Not even some floating wreckage of junk or a passing asteroid. And there was nothing else in the distance that would perhaps be where he was in a few days.
On the ground, or even on the outside of a space station, there was always something solid to push against, something to force yourself away from it if you so willed. Here, there was nothing. No matter how much he kicked and punched, he drifted at the same speed, same direction as he already was going.
He resigned himself to this knowledge; that there was nothing he could do to rescue himself. He took on the look of a man defeated. His eyes looked empty, soulless. His muscles hung limp in space. The sweat disappeared from his brow and he finally felt the effects of the suit s coolant system. His hand was still cold, and the numbness was threatening to take over the entire left arm.
My life is over now.
Flashes of his life went through his mind. Little bubbles seemed to pop inside his head and form new ones. There was no sequence of events to what he thought of. It was a jumbled mess. Just one random thing after another.
By now, he was calm, or at least as calm as one could be expected to act in such a place as he was now.
Alright, so where the hell am I?
He obviously wasn t anywhere near a star system or else he would be getting radiation warnings every hour or so, wouldn t he? He did not know much about that sort of thing. He was not a physicist or an astronomer. But he should see a planet, an asteroid, a sun, or something tangible at the very least. Something he could touch. There was nothing nearby, or at least nothing in his line of vision.
That could mean he was in deep space. It was not a definite conclusion, but it was definitely a distinct possibility.
There still could be a space station someone near. One of those specks of light could indeed be a space station. It could be Cook Station, Powell Station, Perry Base, Murphy s Landing, Einstein s Folly, Joker s Cavern, Perseus Hideaway, Alpha City, Walker s Base, Lloyd s Casino, New San Francisco, Aphrodite s Haven, Microsoft Galactic Headquarters, Bates Junction, the Academy, Lover s Cove, or other countless bases that rested nowhere near a system. Or there could be one of the countless secret bases the military kept in deep space and used to monitor whatever the hell they felt like monitoring on any given goddamn day. There were no laws that applied to most sections of space outside a system.
In any case, if there was a base nearby, even if it was over three billion kilometers away, it would pick him up. Heat signatures are pretty obvious against the frigidness and bleakness of space. Indeed, one would have to be color blind in order not to see the red shades of body heat in space through the infrared monitor. A military base, though, may choose to leave him here, but a civilian base would definitely send someone to help.
If there was not a station, he could still hope for a passing ship. Some pleasure cruise, an eccentric businessman off eloping, a spoiled brat showing off a new ship to his friends, a shuttle filled with second graders on a field trip, or some college students off for spring break to one of the pleasure planets.
Even a military vessel would do. It didn t even matter if they were not here right now. If they even just warped on by him, he would show up on the ship s computer. And a military vessel was bound by protocol to stop and assist. Why that law did not also apply to military stations, he had no idea.
He had heard and read countless stories about it. About people lost in space due to some mishap, but by some stroke of luck, some good will cast by God, a vessel, while in hyperspace, passed by him or her, caught the unusual heat signature, turned around, and rescued the person.
It happened a few times a year, and so it could happen to him. But for all those rescued, thousands of others died slowly here.
Here in space. Away from everything and totally alone. He wondered what there last moments were like, and, more importantly, how they died. Was it from starvation? Did their air supply run out? Perhaps they were lucky enough to be able to kill themselves.
Of course, one day he would be found. That, though, could be thousands of years from now, and by then it may be Dolphins finally rescuing him. Although maybe they would replicate his DNA and he would born again when Dolphins rule the galaxy.
The tears again come to his eyes. Suddenly he was hysterical again and kicked and thrashed at nobody but himself.
If only he could pull his hands up against his body. They were completely numb now, probably ridden with frostbite.
Something began to pull on him. It was slight, but he could feel it. A tractor beam maybe?
Elation filled him. He screamed again, but this time with joy. He was rescued! He would live! His eyes, his entire body took on life once again. Someone found him! Soon, he would be sipping hot chocolate and reading the latest news in the ship s galley. Or if it was a pleasure cruise, he could be in a presidential suite, walking around in a soft white bathrobe and watching the newest movie from Earth.
An hour went by.
Elation turned into happiness turned into boredom turned into bitterness and then to simple dejection. No tractor beam. Just a stupid figment of his imagination. People talked about mirages in the desert. Maybe you could perceive events that are not really happening here too.
The suit yes the suit! Each suit had some kind of computer system built into it! He simply had to describe his situation and send out a distress signal. Surely someone would pick it up! Distress signals were sent out in radio waves, and thus moved only at light speed. But if there was someone, anyone, just within even a weeks range from here, he might live. It would give him hope.
How fast did radio waves move? Something like 186,000 miles per hour, he thought. Or was that in kilometers? Whatever the hell it was, someone surely would pick it up!
His jaw moved, but no sounds came from it. He tried again, but the same result occurred. Belatedly, he realized he was a mute. All those screams he made were nothing but guttural noises produced by gurgling and excess tissue from the back of the throat.
He calmed himself down again. He could this, rationally
Step by step, solve this step by step. You can get yourself out of this
His name was on the tip of his tongue. What was it?
It started with a J, yes! It did start with a J! Joseph no, it wasn t Joseph. Maybe John? No, no, it couldn t be. It didn t sound right, didn t feel right.
Jordan! I m Jordan Graham!
So simple now! His name was Jordan!
It was like a jigsaw puzzle. That one piece needed to get at least a semblance of what the picture looked like was discovered. That one critical piece was finally put into place.
He was on a pleasure cruise. Yes, indeed, a pleasure cruise!
It was a pleasure cruise from where was it? Mars! He got on it back on Mars, back at the spaceport of New London in the western continent. It was very clear now. Every event was very clear to him now.
He was traveling to Poseidon system, Poseidon planet. It was a beautiful place. Shallow seas such that you could walk out for miles and still have your head completely above the water. And the fish would swim around you delightfully, and they wouldn t nibble on your fingers and toes at all. There were so many colors of them too, and they came in such great numbers. It was like looking at a rainbow.
And the water was completely clear. No matter where you were on Poseidon, you could see to the very bottom, although it never did get deeper than two hundred feet. The sand too glittered like small crystals on the beach.
The forests were rich with life as well, and rivers, streams, creeks and lakes seemed to flow just about everywhere. The hills sloped gently upward, but never got too high. There seemed to be thousands of shades of green. The whole planet had just one continent, which straddled the equator. That meant the temperatures stayed comfortable all year round. It was a utopian paradise terraformed long ago and to this day it remains the proudest achievement of the terraformers. The results proved near impossible to duplicate every time they tried.
But, no, that wasn t his reason.
He was going on business, important business. There was a person who lived on Poseidon that he wanted to see. A person he wanted to relate very important information to; information that could end the bitter war between Sol system and her outlying colonies. The war that began so misguidingly in the heart of the well-populated Gemini system.
The seventh fleet of Sol was on a routine recon mission, and the flagship was about to dock with Kaufman Station, which orbited the third of the four habitable planets in Gemini system. Suddenly, and inexplicably, the flagship exploded. The rest of the fleet destroyed the station in quick fashion.
It happened possibly at the worst time, on the fifteenth anniversary of the truce between Sol and the colonists, which meant the negotiations for a unified parliament was about to commence. War happened again, and each side unfortunately blamed the other for starting it.
But there was reason to believe the ship had exploded due to mechanical failure, and good reason indeed as Jordan found out. The proof was on a floppy disk probably destroyed now.
Someone in Sol had known about it, and wanted it to be kept secret. Someone who was probably either high up in the military or held vast business interests in the war. Four men jumped him, took him aboard a short range shuttle, and jettisoned him in this space suit.
And now here he was. Drifting to nowhere. Drifting
No emotions came now. The black no longer pressed upon his visor, and the muscles in his chest loosened.
I m dead.
At that point, something began to pull on him, something very hard. He was snapped around. It definitely was not his imagination this time he knew, and again he felt joy rise in his heart.
Poseidon! The planet!
Why hadn t anybody picked him up? He realized it then. His suit was covered with some sort of material that kept any heat from escaping. He appeared as cold and lifeless as any other asteroid on a ship s display. The two stations of Poseidon were probably on the other side, directing all traffic through that area.
The effect pulled harder on him, bringing him to the planet.
I am falling he realized somberly.