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[Disclaimer: This short story contains content of a sensitive nature which may serve as a trigger for anyone who struggles with themes around death and loss]
About 3 months ago, I woke up.
The sound of whirring and bleeping and muffled crackling voices had disturbed me from my unexpected and unfamiliar slumber, and I had found myself suspended within the confines of a small cubicle, which appeared to be hooked into a larger structure at rest. I still have no recollection as to how I arrived in this place or what I am doing here, although, from my experiences of the past 3 months, I believe I have gathered enough data to determine that I am on a mission of some sort!
I gather that I am floating in space somewhere. Everything feels weirdly fluid, calm even, and my autonomous transport seems to run to a strict schedule, operating on basic repetitive routines with little deviation. It moves around following a now-familiar path, stopping occasionally for what seems to be general maintenance or to refuel. It then docks once a day and I assume the external operators are then off-duty and have other things to accomplish as their voices tend to drift off into the night... and then it's just the light whirring of the engines at rest, keeping the temperature and feeding systems regulated within the vessel, and the slow ticking over of the mechanics, that consume my mind.
I sometimes think that it is playing tricks on me; my mind that is. I hear voices, strange sounds that seem to come from outside my world but are very much inside my realm of personal experience. My environment which started as simply 'cosy' is starting to feel a bit claustrophobic after all this time and the monotony has well and truly set in. I have no idea how I'm going to be able to move around myself when I finally get out; if I am ever released from this somewhat incomprehensible situation. I do what little exercise I can in this confined space but all I can manage is to stretch my arms and legs and shake them around a little, and occasionally I can pull myself into a different position to try to catch sight of another part of my enclosure. I am still looking for any sign of an entrance or exit; a window or door would do, but my almost fixed position is not allowing me much latitude in these endeavours.
I still haven't worked out why my mission details have not been relayed to me but at least whatever is controlling my life at the moment does not appear to have any intent on ending it; just yet anyway! So that is something to be grateful for I guess.
It appears that I once had a companion on this somewhat unexplained journey and the evidence lies in the form of their small and lifeless body that hangs alongside me. It 'kinda' freaked me out at first, but this sentiment has since been replaced with a deep sense of sadness for what might have been. I must have known him to some degree for us to have been paired together on this untold mission and I feel a strange sense of loss for the fact that he is no longer here with me. I often ponder our existence under these unusual circumstances and wonder how it is that he came to pass. I can only assume that the tubular feeding systems being used to sustain us, had somehow failed catastrophically in his case, as I have seen no sign of foul play to date.
Then one day everything changes! I no longer feel weightless. Are we entering another world or dimension? Is the long journey to our unknown destination finally complete? I harbour feelings of fear and trepidation at the thought of what might follow. I had decided a while back that if I ever found an escape from this conundrum, that I would take it! And now, it seemed to me that if I didn't make a break for it, it would be too late. And so I start to toss and turn, desperately seeking a way out.
And then...I see it. I can't believe I hadn't noticed it before. Perhaps it was always just outside of my peripheral vision, or perhaps my one-time companion had been blocking my view. But there it is, the start of a small tunnel in the corner of the room. There is a way out! And it is time to make my move...
I push as hard as I can against the walls of my enclosure and manage to edge my way into the entrance of the tunnel. It is short but narrow, and is going to be quite a tight squeeze, but I am willing to try anything at this stage if only to alleviate the boredom of the past few months. I am quite weak, as I had anticipated would be the case, and so I try to wriggle my way through, lowering myself down the tunnel, using the feeding tubes as a guideline and safety rope.
Unfortunately, there is a little water still in the tunnel and before I can steady myself, I slip. My first thought is the fear of being washed away or, worse still, drowning before I can get out of here, but then the stupid feeding tubes get wrapped around my throat, and the more I try to release myself, the more they entangle and constrict. My lifeline, dear God my lifeline! I’m still attached to the vessel and now I'm stuck and I’m choking. The irony does not escape me! I must be making quite a racket though, as I start hearing voices very close by.
"Young lass may need a little help getting out."
Can you see me? Voiceless, I wave frantically. Right, give us a hand then, I think! The next thing something hard and cold hits me round the head, it hurts, a lot. Easy out there! I am given a push, a pull, a prod... simultaneously, with little movement.
"She's not moving!" Seriously, you just worked that one out. I can barely breathe down here. Make a plan guys.
"Right people, let's cut! We need to move quickly", the voice says.
And then, all of a sudden, the sky opens up above. Bright lights, blinding, I hear voices with distinct clarity as I am lifted to safety. I cry aloud, my once abject resignation turning to joyous relief.
Turning, I find myself cradled in the most gentle embrace with the warmest eyes staring down at me, and the softest voice caressing my ears, and in that moment, as I gaze back for the first time into the eyes of my Mom, I understand my mission; to live and be loved.