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Author Topic: Halos  (Read 1858 times)

Scarmiglione'

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Halos
« on: April 29, 2005, 12:56:07 pm »

Birth



Jack Truman sucked in a ragged breath that felt like liquid fire in his lungs.  He jerked awake and coughed hard, banging his head against a metal wall only inches away from his face.  He opened his eyes, and saw only darkness.  Blind!  Panic leapt into his throat.  His hands tried to shoot up to his face but they were trapped by the wall in front of him.  Another ragged breath burned his lungs.  The air was stale and thick.  Oh god!  A coffin!  Buried alive!  Fear coiled around his neck.  They don’t know I’m in here!  Something insect-like skittered across his hand.  Jack Truman screamed, and the sound disappeared, smothered and buried with him.  Panic sprang from his throat and devoured his mind and Jack Truman screamed and thrashed as terror shredded his consciousness.

Some time later he woke again, drawing a less painful breath of the stale air.  Fear hunched over his shoulder and tickled his ear.  His whole body hurt, all the muscles and bones ached in strange ways.  He was still blind.  Something though, seemed familiar.  The fear nibbled at the nape of his neck as his hands scrabbled around in their confined space.  Something here.  No there, under the lip of the mat.  A latch.  With a safety catch.  Hold the safety, trip the latch.

A beam of light cut through the darkness, merely a sliver.  It was the most beautiful thing Jack Truman could imagine.  With a primal quiver of relief he reached out and shoved the wall as hard as he could and the light flooded in and bathed him in its glory.  It was just a pale yellowed emergency light, but every ray was golden bliss.  The lid of the coffin fell forward, clanging into a depression on the floor designed to fit its shape.

Jack stood there in the light on wobbly knees, taking inventory.  His skin was pale, ghostly, and almost translucent.  The blue and red vessels were plainly visible under the shallow skin.  His arms and legs were weak, covered in tiny, thin muscles.  Did he used to look like that?  Where are the bronzed curves and heavy veins?  The joints of his arms creaked as he moved them to his face.  The chin shaved, just a five o’clock shadow, the hair trimmed short.  There were tiny threads sticking out of his skin.  He plucked at one, and it slipped out and wafted away like a broken spider silk.  He pulled them each gently, letting them fall like snow on the floor.

Far away, like in a dream, he heard something heavy and metallic clang to the floor.  He looked to the left and memories flooded back into his brain.  Coffins!  Dozens of coffins!  People!  Colonists!  HE was a colonist!  The mission!  The mothership!  Men and women!  And they were alive!  Somewhere!  Where?  

Jack stepped out of the coffin on his shaky legs and promptly fell to his knees retching.  His body violently dry-heaved stinks of air out of his belly.  He roared and retched from the pit of his belly over and over and the smell of chemistry and rot from each heave triggered another, and another.  Oh god, what horror is this?  Something in his belly?    His throat burned and gagged.  Something in his throat!  Between involuntary heaves he jammed a finger into his mouth.  There, at the back of the throat, something sitting, tearing at him.  Something rubbery.  He grabbed and found his finger slipped into a rubber loop.  He heaved and tugged it and felt something move in his stomach.  Something inside him gave way, deflated.  He gagged again, retched yellow chemicals and began to pull the rubber tube out of his throat.  Oh god how horrible!  How much is there!  Two feet?  Three?  Finally the deflated bag at the end of the tube raked its way out of his mouth and fell into a slimy pile on the floor.  Jack Truman fell beside it exhausted, and listened to the echoes of another poor soul retching his guts out not far away.

He lay on the cold floor, sweat beading on his forehead, and saw something on a small rack in front of his coffin.  It was a large box, with markings; black markings.  He felt he should know those markings.  Don’t they have some significance?  Aren’t they important?  A sing-song wafted through his brain; some tenuous childhood memory.  Sounds. Silly sounds to a silly tune.  AyBeeSeeDee… no.  A – B – C – D – E!  That marking on the box was an E!  The synapses of his brain raced through long unused patterns, E is a letter.  Letters make words.  Words make sentences.  Sentences are instructions.  

EAT!  

His stomach snarled at him.  It was hollow and empty.  Oh god, EAT!  He grabbed the package and ripped it open, spilling its contents on the floor.  Fuck.  More packages and something cylindrical and liquid.  EAT!  His stomach leapt into his throat, attacking his mind.  EAT!  He grabbed a pouch and tore the top off, shoved the stuff into his mouth.  EAT!  Oh god it was horrible stuff.  And wonderful.  EAT!  His stomach grabbed at the food, lurched at it.  EAT!  Another package.  It’s different, still horrible, but still wonderful.  EAT!  He chewed up the block of foodstuff.  Forced it down his raw throat.   EAT!  Grab the cylinder.  Study it a moment.  Twist the top part.  Again.  Open it.  Try not to spill.  Cold liquid on a hot throat, thick and bitter and sweet.  EAT!  Bite.  Chew.  Swallow.  Breathe.  EAT!

The sounds of an animal broke through his reverie.  Something was snarling and devouring.  Just over there.  No, not an animal.  A person.  Someone else waking up and filling their belly.  A woman.  Naked.  Her hair was cropped short like his and she was gaunt and pasty.  She tore through a package of foodstuff ruthlessly and shoved it in her mouth.  Her eyes flashed at him.  They were bloodshot-red, primal and violent.  She was his mirror.

He lowered his eyes.  Don’t be a threat. Return to the meal.  He ate hungrily, but his stomach was no longer a writhing animal inside him.  It had settled down with the foodstuff to toy and gnaw at it persistently, like a dog with a favorite bone.  He sipped more of the liquid and tried to gather his thoughts and take in his surroundings.  He glanced over at the woman.  She was ignoring him, eating and slurping.

Another package caught his eye.  Behind where the food package had been.  Letters: “C”.  “L”.  “E”.  Word:  CLEAN.  He opened the box, gingerly pulled out the contents; a small can with a nozzle; a rough towel; a tiny package of pills; a small brush; a tube.  He pushed the nozzle of the can and a bit of soapy water oozed out.  Jack lathered up the towel with the soap and rubbed his face down.  A fine film peeled off his skin, some kind of residue from the hibernation.  He rubbed his whole body down prickling his skin with the sensations of wet and rough.  He found he didn’t need to rinse.  The soap simply evaporated leaving nothing behind.  By the time he was done though, the towel was a disgusting mess of human goop.

Behind the CLEAN package was another one.  This one marked DRESS.  He opened it up to discover a soft blue jumpsuit with colored stripes and patches on the chest and sleeves.  It was big and loose on him, but it fit okay.

While he was dressing another loud clang reverberated through the hallway, and a woman fell out of her coffin gagging and puking and panicking.  He turned his attention away from her, back to his zippers and buttons.  He wasn’t ready to deal with this.  The other woman was still nibbling some of her foodstuff and trying to get her bearings.  Her demeanor had lost its primal edge, as he suspected his own had, but she was still isolated and withdrawn.

He turned to the next package waiting on the rack in front of his coffin.  The label on it was different; somehow more powerful and significant.

JACK TRUMAN

His name.  It felt odd to see it and yet warmly familiar.  Jack Truman.  He pulled the package out of its rails and found more words further down the package.

CAPTAIN:  USS Demeter

Captain.  Captain of a starship.  The ramifications swam through his mind.  He was barely getting his language back and here he was captain of a space-faring vessel.  Wait, not a space-faring vessel, the space-faring vessel.  Only one of it’s kind.  Unique, they told him when he applied for the position.  My god, how long ago was that.  How long was the mission?  How long had he slept?

He gently opened the package, fearing the contents.  The gagging and vomiting of a colonist echoed through the hallway and the smell of sulfur and vomit wafted through the stale air.  He sat with his back against his coffin and read his own history.

The packet was a brief on himself.  Every sentence triggered a stream of memories and knowledge; childhood, education, fields of experience, family, friends, a love of the stars and boxing.  It was all here.  Not complete details, but phrases, short incomplete paragraphs that he struggled to apply context to.  Before long he realized the entire packet had been written to jostle memories in his brain, to reaffirm who he was and what he believed and what he knew.  It was a carefully constructed series of triggers to wake and exercise his mind and he found his mind was as hungry for exercise as his stomach was for food.

While he read, other coffins opened, mostly women at first, and then the men.  Each gagging and puking their diaphragm implants out onto the floor.  Each one adding to the stink of vomit and rot into the chamber.  

From her position on the floor, the woman who now sat dressed and clean held her open packet in her hands and watched Captain Jack Truman read.
 
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debeez

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Halos
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2005, 01:06:26 pm »

I like it.  Keep writing.

Damn, but I do love having this Writer's Block section.
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Joel

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Halos
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2005, 03:50:53 pm »

This is a good start!  I'm anxious to see where it goes.
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Docliberty

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Halos
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2005, 05:03:06 pm »

I like it so far.  Keep it going.

(Darn, we are a demanding lot aren't we?) :rolleyes:  
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Roy J. Tellason

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Halos
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2005, 06:37:03 pm »

Quote
I like it so far.  Keep it going.

(Darn, we are a demanding lot aren't we?) :rolleyes:
Yeah,  what they all said!

I'm really looking forward to see where this one's going.
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RagnarDanneskjold

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Halos
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2005, 03:50:36 am »

Good stuff. Shoulda had a disclaimer not to read while eating my P B and J.  :lol:  
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Claire

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« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2005, 08:42:42 am »

I'm a little late getting in on this but ... It's good, scarmig. Intriguing. I look forward to reading more.
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Scarmiglione'

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Halos
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2005, 08:47:14 am »

Quote
Good stuff. Shoulda had a disclaimer not to read while eating my P B and J.  :lol:
I'm running on the premise that trial and tribulation are far more interesting (and empathy-driving) than smiles and puppy dogs.  Sorry about the sandwich.  ;)
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