Signs of Life
Updated: May 27, 2020
This is a short story I wrote about a man lost in space.
*Warning* there is much talk about suicide, death, and the apocalypse. This could be triggering for some. I've found creative writing is a way for me to vent my cynicism while simultaneously releasing it. Part of my new duty in life is to get curious about the cynicism that lives within me. Part of my new duty is believing tirelessly in the human spirit. Not because I'm a humanist or think we're "greater" or "better" than other living things, but because I believe in the power of belief.
I’ve been lost in space for some time now.
How long? Who knows. I stopped keeping track after 6 years in Earth time. 6 years. Time is meaningless without something to reference it to, why keep track? I'm never going back. There was before I was lost - when Earth still had humans, and there is now. I can’t really remember before I was lost. Well, that’s a lie. I can remember, but I’ve stopped reminding myself how to in the hopes one day I’ll forget. When I remember their faces, the ones I loved, I can't help but scream as loud as I can. It's all I can do without destroying everything in sight. After I grow tired of screaming, I do push-ups. I do as many as I possibly can. And if that doesn’t exhaust me I do squats. I do so many in the hopes I’ll just collapse, hopefully die. But I never do. I’m just in incredibly good shape. Laura would be so proud.
7 minutes of screaming. 88 push-ups. 153 squats. Sleep.
I’m sure I could attract a lot of women now.
Women with big breasts and small waists. But there are no more women. My penis hasn’t touched the flesh of another human in whatever unknown meaningless time has passed. I masterbate sometimes, but I always just end up crying - which is fucking pathetic. A grown man crying while he masterbates. The only woman I can masterbate to is my long-been-dead wife. Tom would give me so much shit for this. He'd say you masterbate to your fantasies not your reality. You masterbate to Asian women, to gang bangs, to step brothers and sisters. But Tom has long been gone, too. I never understood any of that. The patriarchy was perverse. Regardless, Laura is my fantasy now. And she is who I masterbate to when my body remembers in rare moments it is still a body with human desires.
I remember life before it collapsed. I was already in space when shit hit the fan. I didn’t fully grasp what happened on Earth, but from what I understood, from the broken messages sent by my team before they stopped coming, once the light was shown on the lies no one could handle it. No one could handle the truth. Once the truth was out, the suicides began. Not because they were weak, but because it was the only way. The only way to end humanity. Some call it rapture, I call it the planet reclaiming itself. I learned a lot about Earth from space. I wonder what Earth is up to now. I wonder if it was painful for Laura and the kids.
6.34 minutes of screaming. 91 push-ups. 125 squats. Sleep.
Sleep. Finally. Sam sleeps a lot now. The ship is a high-functioning ship. It can self drive. Which is useful for a man who’s losing his mind. It would be hard not to lose your sanity after an unknown meaningless amount of time, alone, in space. Space has a way of disorienting all that you know. Little did the humans know what beckoned beyond them. Little did they know anything at all.
Opening my eyes is the worst part of my day. After that I can settle into my routine. I stare at my dick for a while; deem it useless. I stare out my window; wonder if anyone/anything else is out there. I stare at my plant Betty; she’s still alive too for some reason. I stare at my hands; why aren’t they aging? I stare at the ceiling of the ship; wonder what would happen if I shot a hole through it. I have one gun and one bullet, it’s been tricky deciding what to do with it.
I wonder what would happen to my body if space consumed it. I wonder why I haven’t done it yet. I wonder why I’m still here. I wonder why I haven’t killed myself. It would be so easy. Death awaits me with the pull of a trigger, or I could drive this thing into a star - go out in a blaze of glory. So why haven’t I?
Why? Not this fucking question again.
The why question. I hate this question. It’s so indecisive. Why? Whaaaaa? Why? Just make a choice, do it or don’t. I suppose not making a choice, is a choice. I always stay. I don’t know why I stay. Perhaps because I am still human and we always wanted to defy our deaths even at the cost of everything else. They were close. Close to tripling our life span. They'd already doubled it, but then the public found out how they were able to do that. And no one could handle the truth. I myself didn’t know the truth. I was in space when the “big truth” happened.
Why did I leave Laura to deal with that on her own?
12 minutes of screaming (a new record). 98 push-ups. 130 squats. Sleep.
Sam's days are always the same. A mix of screaming, crying, working out, and sleeping. Laughter finds him only in rare moments. He begins the day by contemplating his life. Once he decides today isn't the day he'll kill himself, he feeds and waters Betty. He sends a ‘signs of life signal’. He looks into space from the control seat and hopes. He hopes with all of his might that there is another form of life in the Universe. He hasn’t found it yet. In over 6 years of Earth time, and an unknown meaningless amount of space time, he hasn’t found even one sign of life. Just stars. More and more stars.
Luckily I can play music still. Except it’s all the same music. There is no new music when you’ve been lost in space for some unknown meaningless amount of time. I never grow tired of Sleep Walk [I invite you to play the song] by Santo and Johnny. Bwwwwwooooow. Bwooow. Bwooww. Bwoooow. I dance to it. I shake my hips - I dance like no one is watching, 'cause no one is fucking watching as far as the eye can see - and beyond that. I slide across the floor. I ask Betty to dance and I twirl her around. She always obliges.
And then thoughts of breaking her come through. I want to destroy Betty. I want to shatter her pot on the ground, and rip her to shreds, and end her life. And I want to take my own life when I think those thoughts. So I set her down, and I skip the song. Those thoughts don’t come everyday. Only most days.
I guess you could say I’m angry. I’m angry I lost it all in an effort to win it all. I’m angry that I’m alone. I’m angry that I cry when I touch my dick. I’m angry that I want to kill the only other living thing I know. I’m angry that this Universe is dark, cold, and chaotic, and that none of it means anything. Long had we erased the concept of a God. We finally disproved all of the myths. But that's when it all started to go wrong if you ask me. That's when we lost hope. The truth is much more devastating than the myth.
I don’t know how to love anymore. Certainly not myself. What’s the point? There’s no one to share it with when you’re lost in space. Short of a plant that doesn’t speak or even hardly move, there is no one. I’ve tried loving the chair. Not in a sexual way, but in the way your wife and children greet you at the door. It doesn’t come close. You can’t fake love. It is there or not.
I’ve tried to love Jane as well. That’s the voice they gave the ship. Jane is short for Janston.X. The voice is supposed to be androgynous, but I miss women. So I made it a woman. A woman with no soul. Just a voice. I don’t love Jane, but she’s fine to talk to when I get sick of hearing my own thoughts. They never stop. They never stop. It would be nice to have silence, wouldn’t it?
8.12 minutes of screams. 81 push-ups. 142 squats. Sleep.
Sam’s sanity is slipping away. There comes a point where you must choose what the cost is of remaining. Is it better to remain without your mind, or end it while it’s still somewhat intact. The rules of Earth no longer apply. There is no God. There is only space. There is only an unknown meaningless amount of time. There is only what is happening and nothing else. Nothing to plan for, nothing to build. The choice is his, and his alone, to remain.
There is no resounding truth.
There is no resounding truth. Without the truth of others, I have no truth. The only truth I have is that what is given to you will be taken away. The only truth I have is that nothing was mine at all. There was no truth to search for, there was nothing there all along. There's just space. How’s that for truth?
Sam grabs the gun. He grabs the gun many days, but today he puts the bullet in the chamber. He stares at the gun in his hand for a long, unknown meaningless amount of time.
I left Laura all alone with Jimmy and Hayden. Maybe this is my punishment for abandoning my family on a planet that was doomed. I knew it was doomed, I just thought it would take longer to end. I thought I had a shot at doing something big for myself before we all died. How fucking selfish. I should've been there with them. I know I can't join them anywhere, but somewhere I can't remember them is better than here. I can't stand to think of them anymore.
I can't think of them anymore. It hurts me. It hurts me to know that I left them all alone during the god damned apocalypse so I could have a statue made of me on a planet with NO FUCKING HUMANS LEFT.
Sam raises the gun to his head. He cries heavy sobs now. He shakes. Somehow he feels more alive holding the gun to his head than he ever has since he can remember. He closes his eyes. He sees their faces.
Laura, Hayden, Jimmy, I love you so much.
A light starts blinking on the control board that’s never blinked before. An alarm buzzes, and soon after Jane chimes in:
Signs of life ahead.
Signs of life ahead.
Signs of life ahead.
Sam opens his eyes. He nearly throws up from the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He removes the gun from his head and gently, with shaky hands, places it back in the drawer. He rushes over to the control board. Sam can't believe his eyes. A planet. A planet glowing green.
I remember green. I remember… green.
Sam can feel his heartbeat in his chest, in his head, in his entire body for the first time in whatever amount of meaningless time has passed.
Jane, is it safe to land here?
Yes, Sam. The planet shows signs of life. There is land and water. You can land here.
Thoughts were flashing in Sam's mind at the speed of light. One of them being…
Maybe the only truth is that the truth can change.
Am I smiling?
I can feel myself smiling.