Forgotten fragments

Sometimes I wake up from a dream with an idea for a story burning a hole in my brain. This is always exciting. The challenge is getting out of bed and writing it all down before becoming entirely conscious. This never works. By the time I’m a few lines in, I’m wide awake and lost.

Dreams can be vivid and emotional, and it is often impossible for our conscious minds to translate the ramblings of our subconscious into words, never mind a coherent story.

This has resulted in a lot of scribbled-on scraps of paper over the years – forgotten fragments of stories never told. Many of these scraps would make fine kindling, but occasionally I (re)discover an idea that gets me foaming at the creative maw. Some fragments are neither, and just sort of exist – never to be continued, never to be discarded. All of them stay with me in some form or another – waiting for the day doctors develop a cure for writer’s block.

Here’s one I found today under the heading “Space Dementia”. Cliche sci-fi. I think there was supposed to be some kind of Twilight Zone twist at the climax. I can’t remember.

* * * * *

Darkness. Warm and perfect. Time is forgotten. There is only peace.

“Wake up… you’ve been dreaming.”

The voice is familiar and pleasant, yet it is out of place in the darkness. A woman’s voice. She speaks again, “Wake up, Danner. You’ve been dreaming for too long.”

He places the voice and smiles. “Let me dream a little longer, Ally,” he murmurs, reaching unconsciously for her hand. “Just a few more minutes.”

“No, Danner! It’s been too long!”

There is an edge to her voice now; unrecognisable and harsh. Robotic. He stirs, suddenly uncomfortable.

“Ally? What’s wrong?”

The darkness is no longer absolute. There is a pinpoint of light in the distance, a single star floating in a night sky.

The voice changes. “You can’t hide here forever, Doc.” It now belongs to a man and sounds both desperate and angry.

“Tarver? What are you doing here? I thought… I thought…”

The faraway star has grown into a nearby sun. It is a sharp agony in his mind; white hot and relentless. 

“Dammit, Danner! Wake up!” The robotic quality is back, stronger than before. “Wake up!”

The darkness flees as the light explodes and suddenly he is awake and aware and afraid. Peace is forgotten. Time is restored.

The hibernation chamber emptied quickly, liquid di-oxide gurgling down the drain in a frantic rush. Cold air was injected into the chamber, feeling unnatural against Danner’s skin and making him shiver and ache. A multitude of plastic tubes and needles were withdrawn from his body with swift precision by spindly robotic arms. He felt one such tube slithering its way up his throat and when it was finally ripped from his mouth, he cried out. All he managed was a faint whimper.

His first coherent thought was, we made it, and excitement flared in his chest.

Overhead, the opaque glass of the hibernation chamber’s lid cracked open and fluorescent light flooded in. Danner blinked his eyes against the glare and with a great effort hauled himself to a sitting position. His excitement died.

The Mariner’s med-lab gleamed pristine and white around him. The surgical machines were silent, long jagged instruments hanging limply in the air, and the computer consoles were dark. The med-lab seemed dead, the severe light giving it the pale sheen of a corpse. Comprehension burgeoned into panic. The science facilities were located in the ship’s stern, close to the engines; Danner was about as far from the crew quarters as he could be without finding himself adrift in deep space. His heart beat a little faster, a different rhythm to the throbbing behind his eyes.

Hibernation chambers kept their occupants alive and healthy by pumping nutrients into their bodies and stimulating their muscles with small electric jolts. Nevertheless, as Danner struggled out of the glass cylinder, his limbs felt weak and unresponsive, as if they were not his own. His stomach roiled with a vile combination of hunger and nausea. Unsteadily, he rose, still dripping liquid di-oxide. The smooth steel of the floor was a great comfort beneath his bare feet, something solid to focus on while his mind reeled.

Bracing himself against various machines and operating surfaces, Danner moved awkwardly towards the computer consoles. Along the way, he doubled over to retch. Bile, thick and yellow, dribbled from his lips in long threads, spattering onto the spotless floor. Swallowing the urge to lie down and sleep, he straightened and continued. You’ve been dreaming for too long.

After what seemed like hours, he had finally crossed the lab and now stood shakily in front of the med facility’s main console. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the blank computer screen, but for some reason found he was unable to meet his own eyes, strangely uneasy about what he might see. He flipped a switch and his reflection was shattered as the console lit up. A low hum filled the lab as machines powered up.

“Good evening, Doctor.” It was the voice of the Mariner’s central AI. It was a flat, uncaring monotone, but it was at least familiar and Danner felt something like relief wash over him.  

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~ by John E. Roberts on 11/06/2011.

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