There are only a few of us left on The Kronos now. Most of the pod bays were destroyed by the fire in the common room. We stopped talking to each other after the fire came but we stopped trying a long time before that.
The fire came through the wall. Torched the place and all but four of us. We locked ourselves in different parts of the ship and localised the radiation shielding. When we die we come back in the same med bay but we still keep to our separate areas for our lifetimes.
My pods are heating up so I get moodier with each new life. When I am born I get the meds dispenser to synthesize tranquilisers and then usually make a mad, 50% fatal dash across the burnt out husk of the common room, to the drinks dispenser I reprogrammed to synthesize vodka 2 years and 4 months into the trip.
We passed the limits of the universe many lifetimes ago, though lifetimes have been short lately. I haven’t seen what the universe looks like yet; the fire guards the entrance to the observation deck vigilantly. I stopped trying to get up there when the ash of my own bodies started hindering my movement.
I decided to go out over three days of drinking. I thought very little during that time. Or I have very few thoughts that I can remember.
Day 1 I spent punching things and trying to ruin my temporary hands. The walls of The Kronos have impact dampeners on them so it just made me feel stupid and angrier.
Day 2 I was still and silent, moving only to drink or scratch my chin, stinging eyes staring at the hull.
Day 3 I wanted to go home.
I brought up a memo in comms. There were a lot of numbers on the previous message so I didn’t bother working out how long it had been since I last spoke to the others.
I knew one of them was a girl I had 565 three day relationships with, one of them was a guy who I had only beaten once in our many fights and that was because I used scenery, and the last one programmed his pods to make him nineteen and scrawny and kept to himself from the start. The message system only showed channel numbers so I didn’t know who was who.
CHANNEL 1: Hey guys I don’t know if you still check this but I am just letting you know I am going out. I thought you should know.
CHANNEL 1: Someone should know.
CHANNEL 4: OK
CHANNEL 2: message me when you get back
CHANNEL 1: Nah I am going out going out. I am done. Venting all of me.
CHANNEL 2: what are you ok
CHANNEL 1: haha
CHANNEL 1: I am tired. I want a new job.
CHANNEL 2: but who knows what will happen next
CHANNEL 2: dont you want to see how far you can go
CHANNEL 3: Fuck Man
I shut down the forum. Nursed my foam cup of pretty much ethanol. Paced. Opened the door to the common room.
Heat blasted my face. The room was blackened metal and smoke blanketed the ceiling. The vodka made me stride. I reached the centre of the room. The soles of my shoes stuck to the baking floor. Fire stared at me from the entrance to the observation deck and I stared back. I turned and spilled vodka on my hand and made my way to the med bay.
My pod room was almost a degree hotter than it should have been. I didn’t read the technical readouts but I could tell because of exposure.
The room was wide and dark. Like a big meat locker. The pods hung from ceiling from clear, organic umbilical cords. Hundreds of me at varying ages lying in colourless and odourless gel. All bald, all smiling because of some drug in the gel, designed to make them less scary to look at.
I brought up the burn password entry. The buttons moved around the touchscreen to avoid accidents. I mistyped three times because my hands were shaking. I downed the rest of my cup, coughed, bent over, spat. I breathed out and made my face go blank. I pressed enter.
The clear casings to the pods turned red, filled with steam. The bodies started thrashing. The pods swung around, knocked into each other. I heard a high-pitched whine. The bodies sat up almost in unison. They screamed, eyes open. Turned to fire and then smoke. The pods shrivelled and the steam vented up through the umbilical cords into the roof. I took more tranquilisers.
I had to flush myself out the trash vent. It has been a long time since I had an ego. I disabled the fail-safes on the vent and climbed in three minutes before the automatic purge. I climbed in with a drink to go out with but I spilled it straight away. Vodka pooled at the bottom of the vent and filled it a chemical smell.
I spent minute 1 humming the tune to The Great Gig in the Sky which made me sad for minute 2 so I spent minute 3 banging my head because I didn’t want to go out crying.
The computer said “Auto-purging” and I felt my heart drop. I was outside of The Kronos.
I held my breath. It wasn’t cold. I spun and saw The Kronos, saw fire and smoke in the viewports of the observation deck. The space around it was thick black. I couldn’t see my arms and legs. I spun and saw the universe.
Two cones of light spread upwards and downwards, getting further out each second, intersecting at the thinnest parts in the centre. The light wasn’t like the glowing dust of galaxies and super-clusters; it seemed liquid, thick and constantly swirling, spreading out and flinging stars out into the void.
The centre flared. I saw a figure in the light, made of fire and something else. I felt its eyes, a line of awareness stretching across what seem like too short a distance. It spoke. I heard roaring as its voice incinerated galaxies but its words came to my head with perfect clarity.
“We are far flung you and I.”
“My universe reaches far beyond what even I can see.”
“Your thoughts stretch back past your memory to the dawn of your time.”
“We see each other but we are not only made of light.”
“We know each other, even in this small amount of time.”
The voice got further away and the words took a long time to register in my mind. My lungs hurt from holding my breath.
“We are lost at the centre of our universes.”
“Each new distance we reach spreads us thinner.”
“We fade away.”
”We become something else.”
I breathed out and then in. My body spread out. I became a cloud and then a gas and then something thinner. My mind flung back and out into the void. I became something else and The Kronos flew on into forever.