"See that brown stain? That's Redzinski."
Every once and a while, Desmond looked up at the spot on the ceiling and thought about Kelvin. He didn't think about Redzinski, because he hadn't known Redzinski, other than the things that Kelvin had attributed to him.
Forty days. Forty days, divided into hundred and eight minute segments. Over five hundred shifts, five hundred times pushing that damn button, all alone.
It wasn't fair.
He remembered the day he'd found Kelvin in the passage under the hatch, drunk out of his mind. "I couldn't do it," he'd said. At the time, Desmond had thought he was referring to pushing the button, but now he had to wonder. Couldn't do what? Couldn't do what Redzinski had done? Couldn't free himself from what was, effectively, hell on Earth?
Through his own drunken haze, Desmond looked at what he had on the table in front of him. Bottle, empty. Book, still held shut with rubber bands. Gun, loaded.
Yes. He could do it.
There wouldn't be anybody to talk about him, though. There was nobody left, nobody to find the hatch, nobody to point up and say, "See that? That's Desmond. Poor bastard went nuts." It would just be him, his final mark, alone forever, forgotten.
He opened the book. Something fell out onto the floor. Confused, he picked it up. A folded piece of paper. How had that gotten in there?
He unfolded it and nearly choked. This wasn't possible. Snatches of a conversation from three years ago drifted through his head as he stared at the paper.
"Did you read your beloved book, the one you were saving?"
yet." "I thought you might have read it while you were away…"
"I thought you might have read it while you were away…"
He read the letter through a veil of tears, not noticing that his hands were shaking.
"I will wait for you. Always. I love you." He could hear her voice in his head as he read it, saying the words, though it all seemed so long ago and far away. If only he'd read this years ago…if only he'd known…
If only. If only a lot of things had been different.
And suddenly, he wasn't sad. He was angry, as angry as he'd been forty days ago when he'd discovered how much of what Kelvin had been telling him for years was a lie.
He grabbed the first thing that came to hand—the empty bottle—and threw it across the room, listening to it shatter. Shards, like his life. Destroyed, like everything he had ever hoped for, everything he had been meaning to get back by entering the race that had landed him here.
It was all gone. He found himself screaming the words as his blood pounded in his ears. There was no one to blame. Kelvin was dead. This hatch, the Swan station, was only a thing; it couldn't be punished for everything it had stolen.
He was on his feet, screaming and throwing things. Books and records cascaded off the shelves in bunches and thudded dully on the floor. He'd never been this way before he came here. There was something about being utterly alone that made him lose control, or maybe it was just that, with no one there to see him, there was no reason to have any control.
There was no reason to live any more.
Finally, his rage abating, Desmond slid to the floor next to the bookshelf, the sadness flooding back. He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, willing everything to go away, mentally begging life to leave him alone, as he had begged so many times before…
There was a noise. He looked up, suddenly alert, listening. A pounding noise. And…a voice? A voice coming from outside?
He had to be imagining it. There was nobody left out there. Kelvin had been the last. And yet…Desmond couldn't just ignore it. He had to know.
He went out into the hallway and looked up, the long, long distance up to the only dirty, clouded window in the entire station. There was someone up there, silhouetted against that little window, yelling muffled words that Desmond couldn't decipher.
Relief flooded over him and his legs nearly gave out. He reached for the nearest light and turned it on, pointing it up at the silhouette. It didn't matter who it was, or how he had come to be there, or why. It just mattered that there was someone else, another person. That other people still existed.
Maybe that hadn't been enough for Redzinski. But, for Desmond, it would do. For now, it would do.