05 Jun 74%
I am officially, totally, royally screwed. Barring any miracles, I have a wonderfully bleak choice: dying of thirst, or of starvation. That is if oxygen deprivation won’t kill me first. It’s eerily quiet here: no whisper of fans, no hum of life support systems, and no sign of anyone on board so far. At least, not anyone alive. Looks like whatever air this place has is all I’ve got. Is it becoming stuffy already? Or is it my mind playing tricks on me? It’s not cold, so this thing must have power, but nothing has happened since I came here. It’s been more than 12 hours and so far, as Douglas Adams would have said, nothing continued to happen. So I’m not overly optimistic about my survival at the moment. It seems that this ship is deep asleep and has no plans for waking up. The only good thing is that the view from here is the one to die for, but I’m not really eager to explore the literal meaning of this figure of speech. Being in space is amazing and all that, but not if it’s a one-way ticket.
How did it come to this? Good question. Well, I have decided to write down the whole mess that has led to this fiasco. Not that the chances of these notes’ being read by any sentient being are anything more than slim, but I have nothing better to do anyway, so there you go. All I have with me is my smartphone, and not even a very good one. Besides the obvious constraints of food, water and oxygen I’m limited by my cheap phone’s graphene battery, which at the moment holds 74% of full charge. To some extent we are all dependent on our gadget’s batteries almost as much as on air and nutrition, at least we think we are. But believe me when I say that at this particular moment the air supply problem worries me considerably more than my phone’s charge level. Breathing is not optional, after all.
Unlike my oxygen addiction that demands uninterrupting supply, phone battery charge can be rationed. I have shut down everything I could, even the Pink Floyd track that I had put on while looking down at the Earth. Seriously, I could not resist, the magnificent sight below had just begged for a fitting soundtrack. At least that way I felt something, which was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think I could anymore…
I have been so overwhelmed by a series of rather impossible events that had happened to me lately that my mind is now saturated beyond any ability to feel. Fear, horror, apprehension… Those can only last for so long – until it all becomes a dull buzz, a background noise, annoying and preventing you from thinking clearly. So even the view of our planet from space – that under different circumstances would have been breathtaking – was not generating any strong emotions that I knew it was supposed to. This wasn’t right, I deserved more after all I’ve been through.
I was in freaking space! This thought just hasn’t registered yet. So I quickly swiped through my small music collection until I found “Shine on you Crazy Diamond”, popped in the earbuds, and as always, the great music did not disappoint. The song had blanked out my relentless internal monologue, and finally I felt something stirring inside me – something that wasn’t just hunger. I finally felt the appropriately scaled awe looking at the majestic view accompanied by not less majestic larger-than-life layered intro of Solina String Ensemble synth, Hammond organ and only god and Rick Wright know what else. Earth is not moving in the transparent section of the hull in front of me, which as far as I can tell means that I am in a geo-centric high orbit.
But everything good comes to an end, so I have put the phone in a spaceship mode… I mean an airplane mode. Ha-ha. Yeah, a lame joke, I know. You will have to excuse me that weakness, given my situation. Are you sure you would do better in my place? Still, judging by the battery drain projection, I only have about eight hours until it runs out of juice, possibly never to be charged again. I have explored the ship, or at least the areas I can access, and haven’t seen any charging plates around. I can’t say that I’m surprised, it isn’t a human ship after all. Or is it? I just don’t know anymore…
So I will try to write down as much as I can under the circumstances. At least that would cross one thing out of my bucket list – I’ve always wanted to write a sci-fi novel. I just never imagined it could also be a “non-fiction” kind. And an auto-biography too. Well, anyway, I guess it’s close enough – I’ll take what I can get.
Before I dive into the story, let’s take care of one last thing. I always get very annoyed when the voice of the protagonist is not described in the beginning of a book. You usually get an idea of how a particular character looks, what he or she is wearing – although sometimes that image is very partial, like a hat and a jacket, leaving your imagination running wild trying to fill (or not to fill) the blanks. Sometimes you get hair and eye colour, age and other more or less relevant details, but rarely a voice timbre or an accent. When I read a book, I always hear the narrative in my head, so voice might be the most important part of creating a believable character, but it gets neglected far too often. And I just hate it when it turns out after several hours of reading that the character is of a different ethnic background, age, or has a different accent than I had imagined. And it knocks me right out of this precious state of “suspended disbelief” that I value so much when reading. Like many people, I like reading for the very process of immersing myself into a vivid imaginary world that reveals its intricate structure and rushes me to a VIP guided tour, like a good movie does to some extent, only better. At that moment, if the book is any good, its world feels almost real to me.
This tangible reality of a fictional world that I envision is how I actually judge any book that I am reading: either it feels real and I see a believable world in all its glory (or horror, or ambivalence) and hear characters’ voices, or the picture keeps breaking up into a myriad of fractured pieces and all the voices melt into meaningless cacophony. When it happens, the book is irredeemably tarnished for me, so I usually give up and never come back. I always thought that if I ever write a book I would make sure this is taken care of.
Well, there you go, for what it’s worth: I’m a Russian Jewish guy who immigrated to Canada years ago, running from a crumbling colossus of the post-Soviet monstrosity. Sometimes I wonder about what really is happening there these days. I can’t even contact my old friends and even relatives now that the RuNet is disconnected from the global Internet to “protect the new Russian Empire from the demoralizing Western values”. Any correspondence from the West is now considered suspicious and bodes ill for anyone receiving it, especially for the Jews that are not doing well in recent wave of rampant antisemitism, personally promoted by the emperor. I consider myself lucky to have escaped right before the Iron Curtain fell down again. That is a captivating story on its own, but… Let’s leave it for another day, shall we? If I live to see that other day, of course. Anyway, you get the idea – I do have a slight Russian accent. Duh! Dial it back a bit though: I’m not a Russian mafia thug from a Hollywood blockbuster, but rather an ordinary, if a bit geeky guy in my early thirties. I have thick, wavy and unruly hair that I pretty much gave up on controlling, brown eyes, average height, build, health, handsomeness, income and most other things. As much as I want you to like me, I cannot think of any extraordinary quality of mine. The only thing that is slightly above average might be my IQ, but for an educated Jewish IT guy – it’s nothing to write home about. I know plenty of people that had achieved significantly more at my age. For instance, I am still single, unfortunately – so girls, I’m available. It would be fair to say that you should hurry, because my availability is limited, although not by my popularity with the fair sex, but rather by the life support systems or lack thereof.
So I do have a light Eastern European accent. Not too strong, but just enough to encourage polite questions such as “what’s your background?” Which, by the way, invariably sound to me as “and what uncivilized hole have you crawled out from?” – but that’s beside the point. Pardon me, as you may have noticed, I sometimes get carried away. Especially when I am stuck on spaceships with limited air supply.
Back to the original subject, though: don’t blame Canadian education for any grammatical, spelling and stylistic mistakes you encounter here – you can safely blame Russian education, together with some incredibly dumb variant of swipe keyboard with autocorrect routine designed by either a sadist or a severely underpaid Chinese software developer. Or both.
Oh, and you can call me Art.