Space. Mankind’s last great mystery. Our modern day ‘Wild West’. What a privilege to be born during this golden age of space exploration, to have the chance to strike out and see a universe so full of absolutely nothing.
There is nothing out here, there’s a reason it’s often referred to as a void. Okay, yes, the more astute members of you will point out space isn’t truly empty, planets and nebulas, and even us, the humans and our crafts. But for the sake of the scale upon which we view it, its empty.
Just look at me, stuck out here, stranded, in dark space. For those of you still catching up on your terminology, that’s what we call the space in between galaxies. Yes, those galaxies, the big ones that contain untold numbers of stars. No, I don’t know how I got out here. If I did, I would have done something to reverse it.
All I can tell you is that I’m out here with a busted ship that only has enough power for life support and basic functions. Ugh, I bet you the caravan has already made it to Port Dalle, and Swiv’s drinking that blasted sludge he wouldn’t shut up about. They’re probably raising a ruckus at the bar, starting brawls and revelries alike.
And here I am, alone. Well, I have Ping. That’s what I call that eternal pinging. If you listen closely, you can hear it, every few seconds ever so faintly. Ping, ping. I can’t tell if the universe has given me company or is taunting me. My headache leans towards taunting.
I tried turning it off, I really did. But I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It’s almost as if the entire ship resonates with the noise. It’s not a big ship, kinda, cozy. I think that’s the word. I have to duck down to pass through the doors. The bed’s a few inches too short. But I make do, plenty of room in the storage closet if I push the tools to the side. Well, I might have jettisoned them. But, hear me out! It’s not like I’d be able to use them anyway.
‘What are you doing on that blasted ship if you can’t fix it?’ You may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t supposed to break. I was only supposed to be here to press the on and off buttons.
They just didn’t include any for that blasted noise. Maybe it’s coming from behind this service panel here, it seems to be louder in the bridge, if you could call this glassed in closet a bridge.
Note to self: pulling on random panels is a bad idea.
Yeah yeah, keep on pinging, you stupid pinging, thing, a-lator.
That was not a request for you to ping more frequently!
What did I do to deserve this? All I ever did was try to lead a semi-normal life. As normal a life being some intergalactic space trucker, shipper, can be. I payed taxes, obeyed the law mostly, didn’t cheat. I mean, I’m not a bad person. I didn’t do anything wrong! Or did I?
I mean, there are several possibilities. Maybe one of the times a delivery was late it costed someone more then a few extra minutes of paperwork. Maybe I inadvertently stood in the wrong spot, ruining some poor tourists prized photo. Maybe I-
Maybe I’m dead, and this is my eternal torture.
Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t such a thing as fate or karma or metaphysical legacies. Maybe, this is just some freak thing that occurred because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time? How’s that sound? Must be hard imagining not having someone to blame for all the things that go wrong, huh? Well, I’ve been stuck here for who knows how long. No one’s coming. And there’s nothing wrong with the ship except some inexplicable power loss.
Maybe whatever’s making that noise is the cause?
How do you like dem apples, huh?... Well, I guess you like them. Seeing as you haven’t immediately thrown them back at me. Maybe this’ll keep me entertained for awhile, huh?
Out here, you take whatever you can get to pass the time. There is literally nothing.
I even look out at nothing. I mean, sure, I see some of the Milky Way nearby, as well as light clusters that are the other galaxies. But I’m so far off the beaten path that the ship’s computers don’t even register any gravitational pull, and they’re tuned for the center of the Milky Way to set a universal constant for direction. Uh, simple speak, the big thing at the center of our galaxy? That’s down.
There’s some velocity. So the ship will drift for millions of years, preserved in the inky cold of this wonderful frontier, until it get’s close enough to, something, so it's pulled in and crashes or burns. What? It’s not like anyone will find it anytime soon.
I suppose you can’t really see the futility of existence yet. Me? My days are numbered, and I’ve already run out of gum.
Where was I? Right, existence. It’s a funny thing really. Out here, with nothing to do or see, you start to question if anything was really real. Everything turns into this far off dream, the distant past of another person. Here and now, its just you, and the void. Well, that, and the flimsy metal contraption keeping you safe from said void, but even that’s debatable.
Isolation was the worst punishment we were able to come up with for criminals, after all.
Eh. I’m waiting my time. You don’t want to hear a condemned man ramble on, or maybe you do, you sicko, you. You want stories, you want to hear the high flying adventures of traveling this wasteland. Tales of explorations and intrigue. Maybe even a little romance mixed in.
There really aren’t any. Space is, well, space. Big, and-
-empty, and boring. As for the people, well, the Captain Buck and his intrepid crew all work for the military. The only civilians that do this are either, criminals, insane, or desperate. And any combination of those.
So there it is. The reality of this grand fantasy you’ve always held in your head-
-laid bare at your very feet. Not very palatable, huh? Makes me think of that paste you get fed out here. Chemically infused with all the calories and nutrients you need to live. Tastes like they blended cardboard and water into sludge and called it food.
That’s not even the worst example. There was this one time... one time that...
Ah, thank you Ping. There was this one time a station had a rodent infestation. Nasty stuff. You know what they did with the buggers? (Not the Editor, Editor’s Note: Not actual bugs.) Used them for meat! You had rodent steaks, and ground rodent. Didn’t stay at that station for long.
Oh, look. A red light is blinking. Must be time to party.
Ping agrees it’s time to party. Where’d I put the people to party with? Oh yeah. They’re all back in inhabited space. C’est la vie.
Vie la c’est? Why are you asking me?
You know? I’ve done all the talking up until now. I think it’s your turn to tell me a little abut yourselves.
Ping doesn’t believe it either. He’s even making this slight hissing noise. Just like a cat. Maybe Ping’s a cat that goes ping? Or a ping that cats?
Having trouble understanding that one? Do what I do. Don’t.
Stuff doesn’t have to make sense. I mean, does it make sense for some random guy to be stuck literally nowhere? No, it doesn’t. He should be back home wondering what dinner will consist of. Well, truthfully, I’d probably be stuck with the nutrient paste still.
I agree Ping, that paste is a travesty and insult to the human palate. At least include something that gives it some flavor. Maybe lemon juice? And some water, and sugar. You know what? Take the nutrient paste out all together and give us lemon, water, and sugar. We had a name for that back home.... I can’t seem to...
Oh, right! Lemonade. Life’s gift you didn’t ask for. Well, would you look at that? There some ice dust outside. Almost like some rock had a gas bubble inside and it leaked. There you have it folks, the lemonade for today; ice dust!
You know, I’m getting kinda sleepy and light headed. I have been up for quite some time now. Why? Well, you and Ping are such good listeners, I couldn’t just walk away. No, it was my responsibility to entertain at the expense of my own health. I hope I did a good job, I don’t like to disappoint people. Only peaches disappoint, you expect them to be all flavorful, and they tase like the fruit has been soaking in water.
Well, guess this is it for now. Nature calls, and I don’t think I’ll be awake for much longer without really going off my rocker.
Yeah, good night Ping.