On a deep-space voyage, a lonely engineer is haunted by love and the deadly passions it can evoke. Appearing in The Worcester Journal Fall 2015 issue.
The day she died, I became a man of God.
All my life, ever since Dad went up with the Jupiter missions, I was a child of science. I grew up truth-seeking. I was all-knowing. There was no myth nor legend that could escape my inquisitive, ever-probing mind. I hollowed out the world one line at a time between the pages of books upon books upon books. All the planet was a wonder to me. I marveled in the majestic and fragile beauty of circumstantial chemical bonds.
When Earthly wonder became mundane I turned my lusting to the stars. It was only natural that as an adult I found myself stepping into Dad’s silver boots. Twenty-two years later, I watch over the Genesis Project, a lone, benevolent engineer drifting through the infinite emptiness. I am inside the womb of the Eden shuttle. I am her child, we are her children, cradled so lovely within her titanium and steel. She is a good shuttle.
Yes, it is mine, all of it. All of them, my cosmic siblings in utero. They sleep in their artificial wombs, sleeping while I drifted, while I watch.
I became a man of God the day she died.
I look out into the thunderous black beyond Eden’s sound womb and hold the edges of the viewport with white knuckles. I am still sick in the seat of myself, that place where hot things go when you feel good, and cold things when you don’t. I am pale around the edges of my jaw and lips, but it had been at least twenty-four hours and the vomiting was finally over. There is nothing worse than vomiting in zero gravity. I try to collect the mighty calm of the universe from that small, insignificant window, breathing slowly, tasting Eden’s faint, metallic breath. It will take me several moments to slow the rapid beating of my human heart.
A tear wells in the corner of my eye, rippling free with the faintest trembles. It is a tiny silver pinprick of glinting life that catches the light of God’s Eye as it drifts before the view port. That’s what I have decided to call the nebula that came into view off the starboard wing over a month ago. For a long time I called the roiling blue dusts that haloed the core of brilliant gold Draco’s Eye, but now, remembering her rubies, I know what it truly is.
God watches me.
I gaze into the brilliant shimmering of that omnipotent nebula as though I could take it into my skin and dissolve into its dust. I want nothing more than to return to that place of peace, the place we all must come from, and to which we all must return. That is where Eden is taking me. I close my eyes to force away the last of the tears. They drift from me and I must turn from them, because the sick feeling is back, and I need to distract myself to make it stop.
But I cannot keep the memories from resurfacing. I am not God. I am not strong enough to face this on my own. I need His grace to hold me and protect me from myself. I move slowly as my body drifts through Eden’s hollow. I try to keep myself busy with the electrical system. There had been a few shorts recently and I know that if I don't keep a close eye on them, Eden may turn on herself. But even as I sift through the and fibres and tracts, I cannot stop it.
I am not God.
In hot, heavy flashes my chest tightens and I taste something at the back of my throat. I am thinking of her, how she was before. I am thinking of the smell of her hair, of the way it moved in the sunlight. All the women on the mission cut their hair, but she had kept it long. She had kept it long even through training, even when she was no more than a sailor on a ship. She flew for the Navy, that’s why they wanted her. Pilots, it was always pilots. They kept a close eye on the men and women who dared to do what God had not intended.
But maybe it was just because she was beautiful.
To me, there were no other women. From the first moment I saw her face, to the moment they put her away in Eden’s womb, I was in love with her. I am still am, in love with her, even though I must bear the burden of her absence now. The space she left in the fabric of the universe is a festering pit in my chest.
I am completely alone.
Her name was Gwendolyn, Gwendolyn Eve. She was kind, intelligent. She spoke to me sweetly, even though the others thought me odd. I like to keep to myself, and to the people who are strong and sought out for these kinds of things, keeping to oneself is odd. But, that was one of the reasons they had picked me, because they knew I could be alone.
But now, I am so completely alone.
I strip a wire to fix a connection, but my mind is no longer with Eden. I am back in the days when I would watch over her as she slept. I was her guardian, her protector. I was charged with the responsibility of her life, all their lives, but hers was the most precious. Every day I went to see her, every night wishing her peace before I slept. I grew to know her even in her silence. No man could have loved a woman more.
But it was lonely.
I am so completely alone.
To think of it now will only make me sick. But I can’t help myself. I should have seen it coming. Humans are not meant to be alone, even if they seek it. Humans are not meant to be left with only the sounds of their thoughts to keep them company. You see, our thoughts, our racing whispers that spin and spin and spin in the infinite emptiness of the universe, are louder than a rocket’s roar. I was drowning in the sound of my own mind. And she was there, my riptide, my unrelenting tsunami, washing over me and taking me under.
She dragged me down, down, down into the darkest reaches of man, until the unraveling of loneliness was more than I could bear. I remember it as a daze, but I know I was completely awake. It was no dream. It was no fantasy. I was in charge of every flicker of every fibre of my body. And still, I did not stop it. The surging and crashing in my mind were too great, and I had been drowned too deeply by her undertow.
I didn’t think she would wake from the stasis. They’re aren’t supposed to unless Eden tells them to. That’s the beauty of technology, the beauty of God’s plan. Because even as I held her, kissed her, I never thought she’d wake. I was blind.
It happened in the midst of my drowning. I was gasping for air and suddenly her eyes were on me, eyes like brilliant sapphires. I could see all our world, all myself in them. I saw God, and He saw me. He knew me, knew what I had done, and so I knew what I had done, and suddenly the tides fled and my oceans dried up. I became parched and barren. All that was left was the weight of my sin.
Blood in zero gravity looks exactly like rubies.
As it drifts through space, it catches the artificial light, magnifies the star light. It sparkles, brilliantly. It is one of the most beautiful things you could ever see.
She screamed. She wasn’t supposed to be awake.
Her body was fragile, my sweet Gwendolyn, after sleeping for so long. What I did is unforgivable. Her heart seized from the shock. All I had wanted was to love her. I tried to bring her back, tried to force Eden’s pulse into her. But Eden would not have her. She was aborted and my hands were red. With every shock she convulsed hideously and I think that was when I first vomited. I couldn’t do it. I am not God. She was gone, and I had killed her.
And God had watched me do it.
I gave her back to Eden's womb, because I could not bear the idea of her body being lost. She would go with them, wherever it was they ended up. They would take care of her and I would go to God.
I must go to God,there is no other place left for me now.
But first, I must fix the wiring.
I slip the panel back into place and check the circuits. Everything works. There is no illness of Eden’s that I cannot cure. I just can’t bring the dead back to life. I am not God. I wipe away more tears as the memories begin to subside. My hands are shaking as I return my tools to their bag. I need to check the panelling in the upper compartments. If I don’t keep myself busy I know today I will go to God.
But she’s there.
I cannot breathe. I am frozen, holding on to the wall so that I don’t drift away like a fool. I cannot speak. I can only stare.
As naked as the day she was born, she is more beautiful than any goddess. Her hair is undone. I undid it. I set it free. It moves softly around her face, as though in water. I grimace, catching my breath then. Her face, her beautiful, gentle face, it is a mask of rage. There is a darkness in her soft blue eyes, one that fills me with a cold, hollow feeling. I swallow back the sick of my guilt, the tears floating away from me in great numbers now.
“Gwendolyn,” I gasp. I want to reach out to her and beg her forgiveness. Dear God…please. Let me repent. But my body refuses to move.
I do not see what she holds in her hand.
When the pain goes in between my ribs, it is short and quick and makes me give a little gasp. At first I do not understand. And then I see them, all around me.
Brilliant, beautiful rubies.
I look down to see the utility knife buried in my chest. She has made no sound, her jaw tightened up in an ugly snarl. My rubies float slowly towards her as my pulse forces them out. They splash against her bare skin. She screams and the moment is shattered. She has killed me and she sobs now, trembling, heaving, shaking in her birth throes. She comes alive now, violent, thrashing and screaming. She is so unlike my Gwendolyn that I am scared, not for my death, but for her rebirth. What have I done?
I try to speak, gasp. She slaps me and screams again.
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…
I see God in her eyes. I see His wrath, feel it plunged into the chambers of my punctured heart. My rubies go everywhere in Eden’s womb. They splash and break across her smooth, plastic surfaces, slithering little ounces of me into her. Gwendolyn is still screaming, a ragged, terrible sound.
I reach out a hand to soothe her and she slaps me again, hard. I see flashes of white, my head twisting to look now out of the view port. It has grown dim. My world grows dim. But I want to see it. Just one more time. I want to see God’s Eye.
I reach for it, but the rubies are all around me. I am sick.
I feel small.
I am not God…
I am not God…