XXXV

I’m running. There are others running too, but I don’t know who they are and I can’t see their faces. You’re there. Are we chasing or being chased. Darkness outside, the storm is closing in. There are people parked out front, I can see their headlights.

We race from one side of the abandoned shop to the other. I can’t recall how we got here. Scrambling for an exit, there is a side door that leads us to an alley. The chain link fence to the right blocks access to the street, a gate to the left is locked.

Through a door entering an office, currently unoccupied, just a maze of cubicles. A maze that eventually leads us to an exit. Opening the door, there is a flash of light.

I’m on a bus. Hurriedly drawing or making something. I don’t want others around me to see whatever it is as I’m constantly covering pieces of it up while I work. On the side I notice that I’m scribbling the floorplan of the abandoned store in the corner of a notebook. The bus hits a bump.

We’re back in the store. Just as before. Exactly the same. It’s ok, I’ve already done this. To the side door, across the alley, through the office. It goes quicker this time. Exiting the office, a flash of light.

The bus ride is getting increasingly rough, the driver appears to be in a hurry. Seems the store is a daydream – or nightmare. Is it a manifestation of the anxiety associated with this piece of work. People keep shuffling past my seat, and I keep hiding my work.

At this point I become aware that I’m watching myself in third-person. Is this also a dream? I can see that I’m still scribbling the floorplan off to the side, it’s more detailed now, it hasn’t reset like the dream-land progress through the store. A bump.

The store again. Everything says ‘do something different’ this time, but that’s clearly not how this works.

Store. Alley. Office. Flash.

The bus stops, it’s dark out, and whatever I’m been making is finished but still in a hundred parts. Everyone has scrambled off the bus, I can tell they’re waiting for me. In the rush I haven’t been able to pack everything up correctly, and as I step off the bus I stumble and everything spills onto the ground.

Everyone is glaring at me. It’s started raining. Collecting myself and gathering everything off the sidewalk, my notebook is snatched from my hand.

“Have you finished that floorplan, we’re here now.”

Off.A short story in 12 small parts.

XXIII

There is no sound, almost pure nothingness, just a mild ringing in my ears. It has always been there, or at least I think it has, assuming it is there at all and not just a figment of my imagination.

Maybe what I believe is a ringing is actually what silence sounds like. Maybe I’m losing it. Entirely possible.

The lack of sound is one thing. However, wherever I am it’s extremely dark – can’t see the hand in front of my face, dark. The only exception being the dull red glow coming from a digital clock nearby.

It’s 10:47. Let’s assume pm based on the apparent lack of light…

XIII

Day 4000.

I’m the only one up, everyone else is still tucked away in ‘bed’. It’s my turn to run the system checks. We only have to do this every 500 days, unless word comes through that they’ve found it — if that happens we all get up.

Because all our communications are pre-recorded we don’t really have to worry about any lengthy lag, the messages are just there ready for us when we get up. The sunlight though, it has diminished entirely. ‘Our’ Sun is now just a star like all others, including the one we are headed for.

Ok, technically, we aren’t headed for a star, but a planet. The catch being that they haven’t actually discovered the planet yet, the technology required for that wasn’t around when we launched, and apparently — 4000 days later — it still isn’t around.

All systems are functional. Back to ‘bed’. Onward to wherever we are headed.

XVI

Day 86.

It’s been a little over 12 weeks since we undocked and were flung into the vast blackness of space, we’ve got 2 weeks left until we enter the suspended state that will allow us to carry out the mission.

What’s the mission? Good question. When we left they hadn’t exactly worked that out. They’ve pointed us at a distant star, but it will be years, or decades, until we’re told what we’re looking for. Hence the suspended state.

Once in suspension they’ll wake one of us every 500 days or so for routine systems checks. Sam’s up first, so that should be fun for her, running diagnostics solo while everyone else ’sleeps’.

Until then we’re preparing everything for the journey, most importantly the bio-rings which will become our primary food source – but don’t worry we’ve also got a stack of pre-packed meals just in case something goes wrong.

And failing that we’ll just have to start sacrificing crew members to satisfy our protein needs. Kidding. Or am I.

XXVIII

Why of all the dark rooms in existence am I in this one, why couldn’t it be your typical dark room with a sliver of light peaking out from beneath a door. For all I know this room doesn’t even have a door. Craziness of course, it must have a door, right? How else would I have gotten in here. Must find the door.

There’s that elevator sound again. This time joined by what sounds like faint muffled voices. Distant voices.

I decide to work my way left away from the drawers, feeling slowly along the base of the wall desperately hoping to stub my fingers on a door frame. There is nothing immediately next to the drawers, I must have moved three or four metres along the wall by now – I wonder how big this room is, hard to tell in the dark.

XXXII

Obviously the logical part of my brain thinks that theory is bollocks, but the rest of the brain is running with it. I’m ok with that. I’d rather be calm than hideously scared.

I sit up on top of the table, leaning against the walls in the corner of the room, just gazing straight ahead, hoping that the blurry shapes become clearer and I can work out where exactly I am.

The muffled voices have faded, and there has been no noise since what sounded like a door 15 or so minutes ago. Maybe there was no door. Maybe I imagined it.

XXIV

The last thing I remember was leaving work on Friday afternoon and catching the bus home, just like I do everyday. I don’t, however, remember the actual bus ride itself. It’s worth mentioning that this alone isn’t particularly odd, I quite often arrive at my destination without any recollection of the 40 minute journey I’d just endured.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with me, I just tend to zone out, headphones in, gazing out the window at the not particularly interesting world passing by.

But what happened on Friday?

If we’re assuming it’s night time, is it still Friday? The throbbing ache on the left side of my head, and the sensation that I’ve been asleep for a week suggests it probably isn’t Friday. And this is not Kansas.

VI

Reaching the corner Miles, the self designated leader, went first. What he found was a whole lot of nothing, he motioned for the rest to follow him.

They had no other choice, the elevator had closed and there were no controls to call it back again.

Rounding the corner they were greeted by more corridor, devoid of all features aside from a pair of flickering fluorescent lights about half way down that provided intermittent illumination.

XXVI

Right, well whatever I was lying on before, I’m not lying on it now. I suspect that if I could see anything that I would have noticed everything fading to black when I sat up. Well, at least I now know that there is a floor. Quick glance across at the clock, it’s now 11:38, guess I really did blackout.

Normally my eyes would have started to adjust to the room, but I still can’t see anything except that stupid clock. It is taunting me. The glow from it’s display isn’t helping at all. It isn’t bright like you might normally expect, almost like it is running low on power.

XXXI

I’m back to the table that I had awoken on an hour ago, it’s right next to the immovable filing cabinet. My eyes seem to be slowly coming to grips with the light levels, I can’t make out any defined shapes, just patches of dark and patches of not-quite-as-dark.

Using the table to pull myself up, I slowly examine the length of it. There is nothing else on the table. Maybe cleared off before I was put there? Still doesn’t explain why.

Absolute nothing helpful in the room. 12:01. I’m clearly trapped in here, but oddly calm – or at least calmer than one would expect in such a situation. Maybe it’s the idea that I can’t find a way out, so there mustn’t be a way in for anyone or anything else.

XXVII

Shuffling slowly towards the clock, the floor is smooth, consistent. Vinyl tiles maybe? Confirms one thing, I’m not at home – nothing but carpet and cold, hard tiles there. Oh how I wish I could feel my carpet underneath me right now.

The clock is sitting atop what feels like a small wooden chest of drawers, there are handles, but they either don’t open anything or they are locked. Locked seems most likely.

Reaching up towards the clock, I feel around for a power cord. Nothing. Must be batteries. I grab it and shake it in the hope that it will somehow magically become brighter. It doesn’t, obviously. Flickers a little but stays disappointingly dull.