if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”
And if you gaze long into the abyss… No – she wouldn’t think about that; that was the road to insanity. You gaze out the window, and you think its staring back at you- only “it” can’t stare at you because “it” is nothing. “It” is complete emptiness, an endless sea of black.
She shakes her head again. Chocolate,
lasagna, chocolate, broccoli – she had to get her mind off the emptiness…and
the memories. Chocolate, steak, oh man,
could I use a candy bar right now. Thoughts of food led to drink, drink led to water, water
led to oceans, and oceans… “If thou
gaze long into the abyss…”
“Come on, pull yourself together,” she
muttered, then jumped shocked by the sound of her own voice after so many
hours. Or had it been days?
She couldn’t remember, it had been so long.
Each second felt like weeks. How
long had she been here? How long
would she stay? She stared out at
the nothingness again and thought back.
It was her first assignment since the accident, a simple survey task actually. Nothing all that important.
don’t trust me anymore. I’m
such a failure, I…> but such thinking would get her nowhere and she
forced her thoughts away, focusing instead on how she had came to be here.
the corps sent someone to check the outer territory. Her job was to look for spatial anomalies, new stars, and to
check the condition of the galactic cloud.
This was a necessary procedure, checking the galactic cloud.
It was assumed that gallium was a non-polluting fuel, but it had only
been used for a few decades. No
one had thought CFCs were harmful at first either; it was only after the ozone
was disintegrated nearly beyond repair that anyone noticed.
There was always the danger that gallium can do the same, only the
danger here wasn’t to Earth’s atmosphere, it was to galactic stability.
So there she had been, light years from nowhere, performing her survey.
For the first few hours everything was normal. No anomalies, no stars, the galactic cloud appeared to be
fine. But the computer hadn’t
finished analyzing the cloud yet, so she had settled back to enjoy the view.
It was breath taking; from her vantage point outside the galaxy she
could see everything. Swirls of
color below her, sparkling with starlight, a myriad of designs, infinite
beauty. How glad she had been
that she got to see this, the people back home didn’t know what they were
missing. In that moment all the
warnings, the worries about being alone, about the danger one could face out
here alone, had vanished from her mind. Here
she could forget everything but the wonder of the galactic plain.
She felt that this was what she had been born for, this moment.
Nothing else mattered. This
was the moment for which she had trained.
It didn’t matter that this was only a routine survey, it didn’t
matter that she wanted to be an engineer and this was a babysitting mission.
It didn’t matter that the computer was doing all the work, or that
she was alone. It didn’t even
matter that when she got back home no one would care that she had been here,
and it wouldn’t further her career. All
that mattered was that she was here. She
was getting to see something few people ever saw.
This was the experience of a lifetime.
At that moment she never dreamed that something could go wrong…
Suddenly bells had gone off in the back of her head, followed by the
shrill sound of the ship’s alarms. Something
was passing close, dangerously close. But
even this had not frightened her, she had felt so content that nothing would
have bothered her. She adjusted
the ship’s course slightly and turned back to the window.
Suddenly the on-board systems had gone haywire.
Lights and engines went off. Only
the life support was functioning, although how she did not know.
Which brought her back to the present.
she was. The unthinkable had
happened; she was drifting in the extra-galactic void.
Her first step had been to attempt contact with any vessel that might
be nearby. However, a quick
glance proved that communications had been shot.
She had then attempted to restore power and when that failed tried to
restart engines only - that too failed. Now
all she could do was wait. For
the first hour or so she tried to figure out what had happened. What could possibly have made the ship die like that?
A few possibilities presented themselves, a passing black hole or
wormhole, a comet or shooting star too close, even an alien ship- it had been
rumored that Xatelien ships sometimes drained power from other ships if they
passed too close. All
possibilities, but none rang true. This
was something different; something unlike anything she had ever seen or heard
She had soon grown weary of this sport.
hours after the accident, she was having trouble focusing.
Nothing had trained her for this, the intense feeling of loneliness,
the ache for human companionship, or companionship of any kind.
How she longed for a cat or something furry to hug.
But there was nothing. Now
in the stillness she fought against creeping suspicions and the slow insanity
that so often accompanies isolation. She
fought against the memories that had haunted her dreams so often recently.
Her eyes were once again drawn to the portal. What
was out there? Was it all
nothingness? She could no longer
see the galaxy; the ship had long since drifted away from that vision.
If thou gaze long into the abyss…
had she read that; heard that? In
a movie; a book? She couldn’t
remember, couldn’t focus long enough. She
stared into the void and suddenly she thought she saw something pass. She gazed deeper into the dark, trying to see something, a
distant star, a ship, anything. There!
Was it real or only her imagination?
She wasn’t sure, but something seemed to be looking back at her…the
abyss will also gaze into thee. Was
that it; was the abyss staring back at her?
How would she know? She
had been too long without sleep, without sufficient food and water.
She raised a hand to the glass and stroked it, staring intently into
the empty space. And the abyss
seemed to take shape, imitating a human face, and stare back at her.
It seemed to communicate with her.
She remembered being a young child.
She was tinkering with a broken communications array in her living
room. And suddenly she picked up
a signal, faintly at first then stronger as she adjusted the frequency.
The person was talking about what they were going to have for dinner.
Just then her parents walked in. She
had only been five or six, but she remembered the deep desire to do this for
the rest of her life, to fix things. That
was when she decided to become an engineer.
Next she remembered career day in the third grade.
The teacher had asked each student what he/she wanted to be when he/she
was older. Most of the children
wanted to be a teacher, intergalactic customs agent, or a spy.
Even among the advanced class she had far outdistanced the rest.
She had stood up and announced that she was going to be an engineer on
a class 1-exploration vessel. And
they had laughed at her, she couldn’t understand why.
Why shouldn’t she want to do that?
Next she remembered parts of middle school and high school, always
followed by ridicule those first few years, always befriending the friendless.
Then, in her sophomore year of the academy, things changed.
People began to respect her, even like her.
She even had a few dates, but she had not forgotten the people who had
always been her friends. She
remembered her friend Susan coming to her in tears, crying that no one cared
and that she was going to lose her assignment.
Susan had falsely been accused of cheating on her exit exams.
It had taken her three weeks to convince the board that Susan had not
cheated. She smiled at the
memory, now Susan was the lead scientist on the lead research vessel in
She remembered her first assignment, and how her partner had been so
afraid to repair a ship from the outside.
She remembered comforting him, reminding him that everything would be
fine. Now he was one of the top
extra-structural engineers in the corps.
Then she remembered her last assignment.
Routine really, but oh, how complicated simple things can be.
Her best friend had nearly been killed when she turned a knob too hard,
and the whole thing had exploded. She
winced at the memory. The
humiliation and sorrow welled up inside her heart again.
How could she have messed up so badly, how could she- one of the most
experienced engineers in the corps- have done that? Tears welled up in her
eyes and she once again became aware of the abyss.
It seemed to stare at her in question and reach for her.
Suddenly the pain was gone. The
void seemed to be reminding her of all the good her life had brought.
That one mistake was more than covered by her kindness of the past.
Slowly she smiled. She had
come on this mission feeling it was just punishment, a dead beat assignment
that she accepted because she no longer deserved to be chief engineer.
There was a clang as a larger ship attached to her own. In her preoccupied state she had not noticed that her rescue
had come. The door opened and a
young Lieutenant stepped in. As
he helped her up and collected her stuff he apologized for leaving her out
there so long. He was sure she
must be nearly crazy. Especially
when she turned back to the portal and smiled slightly.
“And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into
“Excuse me, ma’am?” He asked throwing her a questioning glance.
“Nietzsche, lieutenant. Beyond
Good and Evil. You should
He stared at her, wondering if perhaps, she was not already a little
off in the head. But it was not
his place to question.
“Personally I find all this a little unsettling, certainly nothing to
smile about.” He remarked.
She grinned, before she would have agreed, but now…
Now she wondered if perhaps she had needed to be sent out here.
Had needed her confidence restored.
She thought back to the problems on her ship, they were gone now, only
recorded in the ship’s logs - and her memory.
She wondered if perhaps there was
something out there. Something
that had known what she needed…and provided it.
had gazed into the abyss, and it had gazed back, and she had found it not to
be a frightening void, but a reassuring calm.
Here there was nothing to fear. She
had gazed into the abyss… and it had restored her.