Ellie, where are you?
They say silence is golden.
But, we humans are not accustomed to true silence, as much as we may be unwilling to admit it.
The hum of a cooling fan. The rush of the tides. The roar of traffic from beyond the apartment's walls. The beating of our hearts. The puff of breaths, chest falling in and out, the creak of leather against a pilot's seat. The buzz of electronics, the roar of the C02 scrubbers. The sound of the stars themselves, twinkling, a manifestation of billion year old light reaching my eyes.
I found comfort in those quiet moments. But I did not know what silence was, I realize that now. True silence steals. It mars, it takes, and leaves nothing but a primal, unexplainable terror.
The fires have been extinguished by Tau Volantis. The baleful moaning of the red-hot shuttle chassis being thermally shocked into submission has ceased. My screams are only in my memories. Time has passed by, and now, I hear nothing. My heart, gone, my breaths, gone, everything, gone.
This is silence, and it is not golden. It is hell.
I can't hear, I can't fucking hear anything. The realization dawns on me as cold as the snow. For a moment, I think I've gone deaf, eardrums shattered by the blast of the hull venting to atmo. But there's no pain, and I'm quite aware I'm lying on my side, curled into a ball, proof my eardrums haven't lost their ability to naturally horizon.
My chest hurts, and the sensation of falling haunts me, sending seizures down my legs. I defocus the pain and try to steal my bearings back from the storm, but all I see is white. Phantom flashes of the shuttle's HUD redding out mar my vision, and the harsh scream of air being sucked from the breach ring in my ears. But, I see nothing, and hear nothing.
What had happened? The metal had torn like paper. I'd been flung like a rag doll, me and my seat and my datapad, into the merciless white. Up and gone, down and into the white, and now I am nowhere.
Alone. Not just alone, meaning one is there with oneself, but really gone.
Isaac, help me. I can't find my heart. I can't find my lungs. The more I try, the more it hurts.
I pound my chest, and am greeted by blissful sound, the first I've heard since the crash. The thumping of my hand on my chest, the reverberating drum of fist on lungs. The wound pinches, and I wince, curling tighter into a ball. Amongst the field of endless, relentless white, a splash of red.
Fuck you, you will not steal the heart of me. I grind my teeth.
I shake the snowflakes from my arms. They're white, my fingertips blue. The clock is ticking. The monotone wind rushes, stealing out sound like a greedy wolf. I begin to call his name, only to have it stolen by a snap of fluttering snow. The flakes hurt my bare skin, more akin to blades of ice than gentile fluff, and I follow the blood trail on hands and knees, adding to it as I crawl.
I find I'm counting now. The wind has stolen his name, stolen my heart, but I refuse to let it steal the simple bliss of making order. I count out the serial numbers of heavy mining equipment I'm licensed to pilot. I get caught on the drill's serial, perversely nostalgic for the Sprawl. How could we have been joking back then? How could he have kept it up for that long? Even on the shuttle, he was strong. It took time, but he found the power to keep whatever was inside of him...inside. I envied him, for my insides were currently disobeying that simple edict: stay inside.
The blood trail ends. Monochrome. I tell myself I am not lost, and to continue forward. Just hands, then feet, Ellie girl, hands and feet. I can't feel them anymore. So, the snow has taken that from me, as well. But my arms still work, if barely, and I continue to egg them on with mumbled numbers. A drill here, a shock-ring there, skyscraper sized jackhammers and Magpie-class mining ships. What would daddy think of his little girl, now?
My numb hand depresses. It sinks into a hold, and for a moment, I'm sure I've found it. The crashed shuttle, and safety! A hissing cry escapes my lips before falling to the wind. My lips, now cracked, frown. A hand print. My hand print.
I've been going in circles.
It's time to rest,
he says, on the shuttle the night after.
How could he rightly say that to me? Come on. I patched up his damn javelin wound, gave him the last medpac. I forced him back into reality, yanked him kicking and screaming from his bloodied RIG. He didn't feel safe, and I ignored the protests, gave no response to the rantings, the ravings. I ran my fingers through his hair that night and said, this is all behind us now.
I tolerated his screams, night after night after god-damn night. At first, I'd wake him up, try to bring him back, but the hold was too strong. He hit me once, did you know that? Didn't know where he was, raised that big, calloused fist of his and decked me across the nose. Didn't hurt so much my face as much as my heart, already breaking. But I never let on. Stayed strong, or at least, I thought I was strong.
He didn't talk to me for three days, that time. Couldn't look me in the eye. Ah, the eye. I guilted him as a joke. Wonder now if he took it seriously. Guilt was killing him. I didn't know what to do.
Changed his bandages. Cut his hair. Cooked food. Pirated food, clothing, medical supplies. I was a stalwart sentinel as the screams faded, as the bags under his eyes melted away. And he always said to me, after each day, it's time to rest.
Tears in his eyes. Or tears in mine? Lost an eye, but the tear ducts still work just fine. Cry like a normal person, though little else is normal. I reach out and touch his hand, but all I feel is flesh. I grip his hand hard, as if my fingers could press through his palms and into his soul.
God, Isaac, I want to fix you. Did it mean anything, at all? Did I try and fail?
He got worse as we followed the bead to Tau Volantis. Bags under his eyes returned, so did the screams. Abandoned his razor, his food, took to staring into the void, but no stars reflected in those eyes.
I fall to my side, a broken steel horse, withdraw my legs to my chest.
Numb was taking the rest of me, soon it would be too late to resist. I can feel the warmth in my fingers and toes already, my nose and my back, all warm and tingly. It's hypothermia, I know, but I don't care. After all this, I find I do want to rest.
It's time to rest, he'd say, a faded smile hinted at by the wrinkle of his face.
Rest tomorrow, I'd always reply, with a wink, my vision vanishing to complete the mannerism I'd once so easily engaged in.
I force my shoulders to move my arms. I open my eyes, black turning to white, but with little difference on my bearing. Rest tomorrow, you dumb, half blind bitch, because now there's work to do, even if it's just crawling two more feet.
I put one blue hand in front of the other.
With all my might, I pull.
A leg drags behind. The other follows.
One more hand. Come on, Ellie. Daddy's girl, you can do it.
The hand lands in the snow with a thump, and I feel a click. The snow gives way, pouring into blackness like sand down an hourglass, sucking my arm along with it. The body, done, falls in tandem, unable to resist. The silence of snow relents just for a moment as steel hinges creak and a heap of snow vanishes into the dark.
I fall with it. There's a thump of flesh against metal, my ears ring. My vision goes black, but the pain doesn't let me slip away that easily. I groan, my voice returned. My lungs rasp, and my heart pounds in my throat. My feet scrape on the cold metal surface as I haphazardly push myself to sitting. Silence has relented, but to what?
I look up to see the white square above me. White flecks of snow enter the chasm, and vanish. I sit in the last square of light, frozen meat. It's considerably warmer down here, but I know I am in no way saved. I look into the darkness around me, then once more into the light.
There are worse things than you, darkness. There are worse things than silence, and snow, and loneliness. There are worse things than loss. The hiss of the oxygen tanks expended. The flashing of a RIG gone red. The crunch of death under my boots. There are worse things than a last, gasping breath. Worse things than a friend, lost in more ways than one.
The worst thing of all is not finding what you're looking for.
I'm warmer now, but still need to find something, anything to help me. I stand, shaky as a newborn colt. One foot in front of the other, Daddy's girl.
I walk into the embrace of my old friend.