by Perry MacDaid
You’re not sure how it happened: how the population were conned, but here you are, staring at the only cobalt blue sky you will ever know through the windows of an observation post with dwindling power units. The remote Geiger screen continues to spike grays from the origin; just under 400,000 kilometres distant. You need fresh air. You’re not going to get it.
Have to get out.
The yoga mantra helps you regain control. Being so close to the crystalline inner crust forces the reality upon you. Five hundred sentinels have succumbed so far to the deadly stir-craziness.
Down below, nearer the core, you can delude yourself that the sky is real. The rain-dirigibles help: fashioned like clouds and programmed to keep the transported dirt moist. The boffins even included a randomized algorithm which combines with those of the ventilation programme to produce droughts and storms at unexpected times. They refuse to risk the tremors to which the Lakers, the old surface colonists, had become accustomed. Yes, sometimes you can even forget the insurrection at Serenity and The Great Stupidity.
Here, you’re so close to the crystals you can pick out the copper sulphate formations from the cobalt aluminate and the sparser grey and olive green cobalt monoxide. Some of the latter can almost be imagined as starfish.
Crowns-of-thorns waiting to destroy the beautiful reef.
You pull yourself back from the brink of madness with the mantra. Or do you? You recognize the early symptoms of what has become known as FWS: Final Walk Syndrome. The air-lock beckons. You know you must report to this week’s therapist. It’s time for a furlough – a long one. You swivel on your chair and wonder why the sentry assigned to the air-lock is slumped in a corner.
God, not now!
You fight off the panic long enough to edge around his form, terrified to take his pulse. One small step for man… You close the door behind you and run down the echoing corridor. You fancy you can even smell a certain acridity from the sky-crystals.
No, it’s the blood.
You shake the reality of the sentry’s wound from your mind.
He was just smiling.
You expect a stronger reaction from the psychotherapist as you burst into the room. Your throat constricts, strangling the words needed to relay the soldier’s condition and what it may mean. She just sits in her chair, head back on the rest. She smiles. Your eyes drift to the painting by one of the artists of the inner core, miles below. Armstrong’s Geode is the title: simply a painting of the moon’s surface and that famous flag in flames.
The therapist says nothing. You are attracted to movement as she slouches slightly. Her smile spills more festive red down her blouse to drip onto the floor.
The diffuse light makes the airlock’s bar-handle look like silver wrapping around chocolate.
Irish writer, Perry McDaid, lives in Derry under the brooding brows of Donegal hills which he occasionally hikes in search of druidic inspiration. His diverse creative writing appears internationally in the like of Runtzine; Amsterdam Quarterly; Everyday Fiction; Bewildering Stories; Flash Fiction Magazine; Bunbury and others.