Progress Report


That’s it.

I am officially, totally, royally screwed. Barring a miracle, I have a wonderfully bleak choice: dying of thirst, or of starvation. That is, if oxygen deprivation doesn’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. Whatever air this place has is all I’ve got. Is it becoming stuffy already? Or is 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 twelve hours and, as Douglas Adams would have said, nothing continued to happen. So, I am not overly optimistic about the chances of my survival at the moment. This ship seems to be 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, 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’ve got nothing better to do anyway, so there you go. All I have with me is my smartphone, and not even a good one. Besides the obvious constraints of food, water, and oxygen, I’m limited by my phone’s graphene battery, holding 74% of full charge at the moment. To some extent, we all are dependent on our gadgets’ batteries, almost as much as on air and nutrition, or 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 uninterrupted 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 – and that wasn’t an easy decision. Seriously, the magnificent sight below had just begged for a fitting soundtrack. I could not resist. 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 have happened to me lately, my mind is now saturated beyond any ability to process any feeling. 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 – which under different circumstances would have been breathtaking – was not invoking the emotional reaction 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. I quickly swiped through my small playlist until I found Shine on you Crazy Diamond, popped in the earbuds, and as always, the great masterpiece did not disappoint. The song had suppressed my relentless internal monologue, and I felt something stirring inside me – something that wasn’t just hunger. I finally felt the appropriately sized awe looking at the majestic view accompanied by no 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 just hanging there, beyond the transparent section of the hull in front of me, not moving at all. As far as I can tell, this means that I am in a geostationary high orbit.

But everything good comes to an end, so I have put the phone in spaceship mode… I mean, airplane mode. Ha-ha. Yeah, a lame joke, I know. You will have to excuse me for 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, 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 off my bucket listI’ve always wanted to write a sci-fi novel. I just never imagined it could also be a non-fiction kind. And an autobiography too. Well, anyway, I guess it’s close enough – I’ll take what I can get.

There’s one thing we need to take care of, if we’re pretending this is a book. We need to introduce our protagonist. So here I am – a Russian Jewish guy who came to Canada years ago, running from a crumbling colossus of the post-Soviet monstrosity. That would make 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. Let’s just say it wasn’t easy, and the whole experience was akin to plotting and executing a prison break, which it was, in a sense. It nearly cost me my life. The ordeal has made me wary of trusting other people: a handy quality when you need to survive, but not the one that helps you make new friends, I can tell you that. And my old friends may just as well be on another planet, along with all my relatives, since the RuNet has been disconnected from the global Internet to “protect the new Russian Empire from the demoralizing Western values”. 

There’s not much freedom or privacy in the West anymore – you have given it all up long ago in exchange for security and convenience. What’s left of it is mostly an illusion. But compared to the Russian Empire, living here is a breath of fresh air – both metaphorically and literally, considering what the typical air quality index in St. Petersburg was before publishing it was deemed unpatriotic and censored.

What else should I tell you? 

I’m a rather 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, and almost everything else. As much as I want you to like me, almost everything about me is, well, average. 

I do have a slight Russian accent, along with a tendency to occasionally submerge in pools of dark and self-deprecating thoughts. Hopefully that sarcastic pessimism won’t spill out too much on these pages. After all, it is difficult to engage in long philosophical reflections on an incredibly dumb holo keyboard with autocorrect routine designed by either a sadist or a severely underpaid software developer. Or both.

Oh, and you can call me Art.