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Dark Mornings

Morning routines really matter. It’s so easy to just lie in your bunk, swaddled in damp blankets, doing your best to pretend you haven’t woken up – you’re still asleep and nothing in the world in real. Yet. But you have to wake eventually, and some awful bodily need will compel you out of that burrow and propel you reluctantly into the sheer hell of wakefulness. Best to get ahead of it, dims the resentment a little bit and gives you a Done Thing. Yes, I am down to counting getting up as a noteworthy achievement, because I’ve been through this cycle of just lying in my own filth and refusing to do the world. It worked for a while, but then it didn’t and nothing was getting any better. So now I get up. Not wild early – there’s no point in that – but in time that I catch the tail end of sunrise as it sweeps towards the hab dome. It’s quite a sight, and on occasion I do wake up in time to watch the whole thing. It’s so impressive, apparently, because there’s no appreciable atmosphere on this moon, so I don’t get the awesome polluted and cloudy haze of home. This is crisp, a sharp line of light breaching the horizon with a proper action movie glare, which sweeps over the pitted face of the moon and fills the hab with sharp white light. It’s well worth continuing to use up the supply of coffee for.

Once I’ve completed getting up, having coffee, and checking that the sun is present tasks, I amble about the rest of the day. All deep space structures, even though those securely built onto bodies with gravity, need a certain amount of daily maintenance. We’re well shielded, nestled in the side of a substantial volcanic outcropping, but you can’t do much about the showers of meteors and general space crud that rains down when there’s no atmosphere to burn even the dust away. Thus, the point defence lasers get a quick check to make sure they’re paying attention, aren’t losing power or turning against us. Only joking: it’s just me, and I’m pretty sure the lasers aren’t out to get me. There are dozens of systems like this, and I check them in the order of ways I’d least like to die. That’s why the lasers are first – I don’t want to get sucked out into vacuum to die. Next comes general structural integrity, for the same reason as above, it’s just slower. Then heating, because freezing would suck. Air and respiration are lower down the list than you might expect (or indeed, by the manual’s requirements), but I’m fairly confident that I’d die in my sleep and that’s possibly the best outcome I’ve got to look forward to. I do make sure these things are working, but honestly I’ve lost track of whether I’m doing a good job of checking them. This is “loss of spirit” in action.

There are other daily habits less to do with absolute life or death scenarios. I go to the greenhouse, marvel that anything is still growing, water them if they look sad, spritz the soil for the succulents that I’ve lined up to enjoy sunrise. I try not to eat anything from the garden, unless it’s desperate to drop off the vine, as it were. I don’t want anything to go to waste, it’s just – well, if I eat them all now, I won’t be able to ferment them into spacewine. I’m content to live off the huge but declining supply of tinned and powdered foodstuffs which were always meant to be the main component of our meals, with anything from the gardens as a treat or splash of colour. Thankfully this moon is pretty hefty, giving almost normal gravity so the plants that do grow aren’t freakishly wiry things, sprawling across the space. I probably wouldn’t go in the greenhouse at all if they were like that. I record the daily updates, just a summary of “systems nominal, all still fucked.” I left those out for a long while, and if anyone received the messages leading up to the weeks when I didn’t do anything, no maintenance, no getting up, no nothing, they weren’t concerned enough to get in touch. That’s a bit unfair. We’re a very long way from home, and I haven’t been outside the dome to check whether the dish is sending and receiving properly. It’s empty out there, and I don’t trust myself to just go out there and stay there till my air runs out. That’s fractionally harder to do in here. Even if they did get the messages, we’re three years away at minimum, and they already know that almost the whole crew is dead.

I keep saying “we” out of habit and even though it’s only one letter different from “me”, that slide down the alphabet feels less bleak. Besides, they’re all still here, they’re just not alive. Last checks of the day: the morgue. It’s less of a proper morgue than it is a store room I was able to turn the heating off for, so it’s somewhat colder than most real morgues. I come here every day to check that the door is locked. Then I wait, holding my breath, ear to the door to make sure it’s quiet. Then I open the window pane. Nine bodies. I count them, try hard not to name them. Their names are drifting away anyway, as their cold dead bodies began to intertwine not long after I stuffed them in here. Dallas and Vick are still in their spacesuits, and the big orange letters remind me constantly of who they were. The bramble thing they brought back from outside got inside them, and it’s bent them into unnatural shapes, limbs broken out in weird angles, piercing each other’s suit, and now they’re bound together. It might be near absolute zero in here, but those damn things are still growing imperceptibly. They’ve bound the rest of the crew as if they’ve all been rolled up in barbed wire and shaken violently. They’re all still, cold and quiet. I close the window pane, resist the urge to open it again and see if they’ve moved, and then double, triple, quadruple check the door is locked. Technically, checking on my dead crew ought to higher up the list because I really don’t want to die like that, but who can face that first thing in the morning?

Then I have free time. It’s the worst part of the day. All of my cellular experiments died when I took those few weeks off, and I haven’t the heart to restart them, which just gives me more free time. I read, I run around the hab’s exercise suite and ignore most of the equipment in there. I try not to check on the cold room again more than once. I open the spacewine. It’s not good, but with a spot of careful chemistry and use of lab supplies, it’s about sixty per cent proof. I stare out into the darkness beyond the dome. Maybe I’ll print a jigsaw tomorrow, spend some time on that. I wonder why I’m not dead too, and whether that tapping noise is coming from the morgue, or if it’s just one of the many perfectly ordinary sounds that the dome makes. One more check before bedtime.

Daily Stories

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Dark Mornings

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