This is the first translation I made of one of my stories. Thanks a million to Barbara C and Joanna for proofreading and polishing my English style as well as for their highly encouraging comments! Also thanks to Anita & the Brazilian Alphans (You know what for!) and last but not least to Barbara S for being my "story-writing-pacemaker"!
The light of day has gone forth
I don't know what I'm here for. I don't know how I got here,
who these beings are, why they handed me paper and pen and signified that
I should write everything down. I don't want to write, I want to know what happened.
I don't want to be here on my own with my memory of those dreadful images.
I feel as if pain and fear will tear me apart while I'm writing, and these lines appear to be barely legible. But really, it doesn't matter, who is going to read them, anyway?
I am alone.
Endless time is passing by, I look at the writing utensils and wonder how something so terrestrial could get here. I can't. I don't want to. Like an overwhelming cruel nightmare the pictures reappear and lacerate my heart.
I had awoken with a start from an inky, dreamless night and had found myself in a place, white and alien, quiet and soundless, when two strange beings came into view. They grabbed me abruptly, and regardless of my terrified attempts to establish a contact, they dragged me through a labyrinth of confusing glaucous tunnels where I could tell neither walls nor floor nor ceiling apart and constantly had a feeling of not just stumbling along the walls but in defiance of gravity literally on them and of following my escort upside down. Tunnels, corridors, elevators, invisible platforms. High resounding domes and beyond them the darkness of an everlasting night. I was dazed, foolish, and when I caught sight of an exit I just ran away, along the corridor and passed an arch-shaped tunnel which had attracted me with its green, calming presence. Behind it I only found a crossing point with several possible passages, and I chose the next best entrance at random, being aware of the fact that my flight was nothing but a futile panic reaction. I already had felt nauseous with desperation prior to entering the hall, but in there I was forced to face reality. I felt as if my heart had jerked to a halt.
The air was of stifling density, just like in this place,
and hot, the light a pale bluish semidarkness, and I saw countless objects
floating in the chamber, shells in the shape of bodies, shimmering in
a lackluster purple from underneath.
The beings had been following me and now let me flounder through orderless rows, and the shells sank to the floor when I came close as if to reveal their contents to me, exclusively. I threw a confused glance into the first shell, which lowered itself down to my level, and I saw in it the naked motionless body of Sandra Benes.
I couldn't believe what I saw, and only when my shaking hand
found no pulse, my eyes diagnosed wide fixed pupils and I failed to initiate
any reflex, I realized that she was dead. She was icy cold amidst the dry heat,
stiff and waxen.
The beings watched me staggering numbly and all in a fluster to the next object, knowing what I was going to find - another dead body. More dead bodies, as far as the eye could reach, and those were my friends, my co-workers, my family. The only people left to me. I found them all, I ran through the hall, shaken and disbelieving, Victor, Bob, Alan. John. He was the only one I really looked for among the bodies. I was out of my mind, and the peaceful blank face of every Alphan I saw cut into my heart as if with thousand knives. I realized I was losing control over myself, but I couldn't stop without making sure that he was there. I had no hope, just wanted to see him with my own eyes.
He was there. Dark and distant. Not with me anymore.
I felt faint and dropped to the floor while they kept watching me. I don't know what they were thinking, if they understood what that experience meant to me. Probably my behavior was as alien to them as they seemed to me, gray large figures only remotely humanoid, with recognizable limbs, a head, a mouth like a constricted tobacco pouch, as wrinkled, and opaque. Eyes like coals, runty, and glinting stonily. A dark chirping of words, incomprehensible, curling off softly and being swallowed by the light of the walls.
I stay seated on the floor and look down on my body. I wear
nothing but a whiff of a soft gauzy chiffon gown, shining and shimmering gently
in the twilight.
I can't get up.
Above me the shells are set in motion. I stare upwards and see how they start to rotate around their longitudinal axis. They change and become cocoons, starting leisurely to rise up and float towards the exit. They vanish, disintegrate.
Impassively, I watch John leave.
I feel nothing.
The spook went by, and the hall was empty, ghostly as I was,
remaining motionlessly in the middle of it. They approached me and reached out
their hands, I took them, hesitating. They felt dry, like abrasive paper, hot,
and they seemed to be as dead as their empty faces. I permitted them to
me and didn't attempt to break out another time. Where to. What for.
They took me here. I call it my quarters. No furniture, only an area on the floor like a carpet, an interior designer's night mare, I think, in brown. No door, the room is open at the front side. I can't get away. Where to.
In the wall close to my bed there is a window, or at least the wall is sort of gaining transparency. I can't describe it otherwise, it's a smooth transition. The brown color of the wall, as dark as nut wood, turns into the inanimate blackness of space. I don't see any stars. It's all an illusion.
They don't talk to me. I don't know how I got in their hands or why the whole crew of Moonbase Alpha was snuffed out. Why do I still live? I don't see any sense in it and I desire to share the same fate as the others. But, yet I am in an odd state which I hardly can call life. It is a timeless hovering in an emptiness, which is disturbed by the unreal actions of daily routine, mechanical fulfilling of physical requirements.
I try to eat what they bring me, although I don't see what good it will do to keep me alive. They place bowls with sage lumps in front of me on the floor. I can't urge them to pass my lips. I drink their water and throw it up again. I feel weak and helpless. I can't cry. I don't want to live.
I don't sleep but lie awake on the carpet and stare on the
ceiling, while I imagine how the Fates crouch above me, giggling, just
about to cut
my thread of life.
"Just do it," I beg of them voicelessly, "what are you waiting for?" But they don't listen to me, they prefer to leave me behind suffering.
I don't want to think of the past, of the treasures I possessed with my life on Moonbase Alpha, but independently thoughts and memories emerge, and my meager Moon suddenly looks like heaven on Earth, like paradise. But even now when I think of John, I feel as if the heat of this place has made all my tears vaporize and my heart has gone dry like a prune, only stirring faintly in my chest. I hardly feel it anymore, or perhaps I only feel the pain, nothing more, and it has made me die off inwardly. I am a parched Wadi, the Sahara desert. I believe I already have died. I am in a merciless purgatory, where I have been forgotten.
I don't know how long I've been here already. Some time must have passed by after my last notations since the fountain pen was dried up. I had to moisten it with water until the black ink diffused down to the tip and it was willing to write down my senseless thoughts again.
I feel stronger now, and I believe the beings took me out
of my quarters for a while. I have tags of memories in my head, some hasty bustling
about, unknown devices. Blinding lights. I guess they have saved me from
death. I still don't know why. They insistently point at the pile of blank paper.
I don't read what I've written before. I'm not interested. Instead of continuing
to write I've folded paper planes and ripped silhouettes. An Origami crane and
a water lily. White paper garlands. Are they not interested in Earth arts? Oh,
well, then I can't help them. I don't know what they want of me. Should I thank them
for saving my life?
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! You made sure that my dying would take a little longer.
They bring me more paper.
They also made sure that I now can drink the water they provide
me with regularly, without having my guts come up to have a look at who is being that cruel to them.
God, I'm being cynical. I'm no cynical person, cynicism won't help
to better this situation. I'm beyond any help here.
By now I even can swallow their food, in my imagination the dunnish chunks turn into a gala dinner, and I swear if I want they also taste like the real thing. Lobsters, truffles, caviar. I don't like caviar, though, it reminds me of cod liver oil we had to take as kids in order to strengthen our immunity and protect us from evil bacteria and viruses.
I'm not grieving over my childhood. I don't grieve over anything, really. Not over the past, not over the present. And my future here? It consists of white sheets of paper which I am to fill with writing. And then? Then I will lose my language, my thoughts and my humanity. I will become an enfant sauvage, a bit aging of course, but sans words, sans heart and soul. What would they do with me then? Would they save me again? Would this animal still be of any worth to them? I don't want to think of it. I don't want to think of anything, because every thought, every memory makes my soul die a wee bit more. But it is no death of mercy, no redeeming death, which releases me, it's only locking me up deeper and deeper into the darkest dungeons.
During the Middle Ages in castles, prisoners were thrown to the bottom of a deep hole, and food in a bucket was lowered down to them. I am sitting together with them in their hole, feeling cold, starving with them and being bothered by their pests. I imagine the cold winter sun climbing over the rim of the hole once a day and sending a fistful of its yellow beams down to them. I'm as far as envying them for that. But in reality, the winter sun never climbs over rims of prisoners' holes. I'm eaten up with envy in vain. I stare through my window out into nothingness. All around me there is silence. I think I'm on a space ship. It must be huge and it must belong to a powerful race. All noises I make now sound eerie to me.
I find it so hard to avoid all thoughts which possibly could hurt me. I tried to think in songs but the nature of a song is that it's sentimental, so this idea backfired, even if I just tried to sing. There was no missing tone, no lacking lyrics which could prevent me from losing my voice as early as reaching the first rhyme. Poems are even more desperate. Feelings don't help me, they just tell me what I'm longing for. They cry for company, for other people, and they cry for John. A life without him is no life. And again I see only one possible conclusion: I don't live anymore.
The paper. I letter it with nonsense. Sheets fly all around
the room, but I don't care. I draw. I draw what I see. A fountain pen with black
ink is a useful means for the production of pictures. In the past, they
made ink drawings. They used quills which had to be dipped into ink. Blotting
paper was useful to avoid smearing. But this is not necessary if one pays
attention to not blurring the strokes.
I guess they don't like my drawings. Perhaps, because I still can't tell them apart. I don't know if every day the same being comes here, or if they take turns. For my eye they are interchangeable, but I would be happy to be able to recognize one of them. I try to distinguish the cheeping, grumbling and buzzing of their language, and I try to imagine what the meaning might be, but it doesn't make any sense. Without their help I won't be able to understand them, in which tongue they speak. Neither do I believe that they feel a need to teach me their language. Some simple instructions would've helped me further, showing me one or the other term, and some words would've also been easily understood by context. They don't want to. They want me to write. To write what?
I don't want to think of my personal disaster, of the extinction of my world, I've already been thinking too much.
I have tried to leave my quarters. Nobody stops me, I can move about the ship freely wherever I like. But there's only one thing, I've learned so far: Behind the next corner, beyond the first junction at the latest, it is impossible for me to find my way back to my place. Orientation doesn't seem to work the way I'm used to in here. I don't belong to those people who are lost in a foreign country when they have moved two blocks away from their apartments and who only get back after questioning half the residents. I'm no stereotype of disorientation, but the term "direction" does bear a completely different meaning in here. Or perhaps no meaning at all. I don't know where I've been roaming. I was now close to saying that this ship was devoid of humans, but I notice that I'm being at risk of becoming cynical again, so I prefer to state that there are no souls to be found in this place. I did not see many, neither in the widest sense of the word nor in its proper sense. In the proper sense less than ever! The areas I found - or rather which found me - were curious rooms and halls with no obvious function to me. Optical mumbo-jumbo. When I met a being it took me by its hand and guided me back to my quarters.
I would love to give them nicknames. But I don't feel as if one nickname for all would be acceptable. I just leave it. I feel so alone.
My window is like a rubber membrane. When I bore into it
with my finger, perhaps I can produce a hole which destroys the window and sucks
me out into space. I'd be dead instantly. This idea is the most stupid of all ideas
which came to my mind concerning this subject. I'm seeking my own life and I
try to think
of a way to end this meaningless existence. I was close to death already once
when I couldn't eat or drink. Why didn't they let me die? I still don't understand
My shimmering robe is the only means which really could be of any help in order to advance me from here to there, but there's a snag to it, there is no knob, no buckle, no tab for me to hang myself. I find it perfectly legitimate to deal with suicide - in this miserable existence, in this empty graceless world which has taken everything from me.
I don't want to think of John.
This paper is white, pure white I should say. It seems real, it feels and sounds real. For a long time,
I hadn't held a real sheet of paper in my hands, and this fountain pen is equally
as genuine - and acts as if it was a relic from some long gone human culture.
Since childhood paper and pen have always appealed to me, it was a pure
wonder that thoughts embodied as letters could stream down from the spirit of an individual
and take shape, could form words being visible and
understandable by others. I used to believe it was some kind of magic, the spirit being able to change
the world by jellying, forming up, touching hearts, speaking truth but
just as well telling lies and deceiving. Now, it impresses me no longer. Then, while
I still lived, on the Moon, I wouldn't have stated as candidly that I don't
believe in the miracles of my childhood anymore. But now the times of enigma
are all over.
Why do I waste paper with my vacuous expressions, with thoughts which should vanish, vaporize immediately, a short glimpse, and then already gone? Why do I ask myself - I know the answer! As intensely as I search for a way out of this existence I do cling to it! Perhaps I'm afraid of what will be coming next, of the possibility that not only my thoughts but I myself am but sound and smoke, not even a twinkling in the eye of some cosmic all-engrossing intelligence. I don't have hope. I've lost it seeing John's cocoon, how it drifted away from me out of the hall of corpses and into nonentity. Yearning does get me again and again, and I'm craving just to stand close to him, in Main Mission, and being able to imagine that in the evening I would lie in his arms and feel his breath on my cheek.
I still haven't shed a tear. That I don't understand, as little as many other things that happen to me here. Why don't I feel anything? Do they mix drugs into my food? I don't think they are able to comprehend my bitter hardships enough to strike on any idea of acting against them. They want me to write, but what I write doesn't seem to be the right thing.
I'm afraid of becoming totally numb soon, of not having the simplest sensations anymore, carpet fluffs on my arm, the elasticity of the window pane against my hand, the wall's gruff brown color, the hideousness of my daily gala dinner. I put myself to the test and sing Auld Lang Syne. It's with the first line "Should auld acquaintance be forgot" that I'm already choking... but with laughter since I don't hit a single right note. I try to carry on. "..and never brought to mind". It's a wild goose chase, I laugh hysterically, senselessly, at the top of my voice, and every attempt to continue with the song only provokes another laugh attack even being worse than the one before. I stop singing squirming with belly-ache and I don't recognize myself anymore. This is an unknown woman, this mad laughter can't have escaped from my mouth. It's ear deafening. Widely sounding black despair. This is not Helena Russell. Not me. A strange person sitting on the floor next to the wall, not worrying about her transparent chiffon robe being covered with filth now, dirty herself, with strands of hair dangling ruggedly into her face. I wished I just could take a shower for once! A trace of soap. Rushing water.
I dream of the sea, of cresting waves, foaming breakers, a fresh breeze and a fine layer of salt on air-dried skin. I swim in an azure blue, cool flow while I squint against the sun which looks down on me from a cloudless sky, and I feel freedom and weightlessness. I feel high and my heart leaps, when I see John sitting on a plank. He is tanned, seems to be recuperated and cheerful, and he asks me if it is cold with his legs dangling down. I signify him to join me while I splash water at him and with a loud plash he plunges into the sea, and the dream is gone. I stare at the structure of the carpet in front of my eyes, soft knobby curves of strange fibers, a melancholic chestnut and mahogany brown derangement, so close, so real.
It's absurd but still I am ashamed of
dreaming of happiness. I know that I won't relive it. No sea, no Earth, no boat
in the sunshine, no love. Nothing being inevitable for a normal healthy and appreciated
life. Now I would be ideally suited for brain washing; I could be prompted
to do anything just for a moment of affection, for an instant of concern
for me, for a mere glance from caring eyes. But
I know that I'm waiting in vain, because these beings are no humans. Probably
they assume to have taken care of me adequately, perhaps they believe that my living conditions are
since they can't imagine the multitude of components I'm consisting of turning me
into an individual, this one being who is Helena Russell. I would presume
too much of them, really. To them I'm nothing more but a petty beetle that stopped to merrily scramble around on its leaf, and they
can't ask themselves why it stopped to do so, since they don't know that
scrambling around is part of its nature. And how should the petty beetle
tell them, it understands them just as little.
But opposed to the beetle I know that they want something from me. The paper is eyeballing me, and for every lettered sheet, for every wasted sheet, I get a new one. White and empty. If I wrote what they want me to would they go on passing me new sheets or would the declining pile be a sign of me complying with their wishes? I still don't want to write. But I am the historian of Alpha. That was the reason why they selected me from a crew of three hundred people, I believe. Which other criteria should there have been to influence their choice?
Moonbase Alpha, status report. Dr. Helena Russell recording. But I am not recording. In the meantime I've got into the habit of running away. I prowl around in the ship and allow myself to be astonished by the amazing sights of this whole construction. It was only once that I made it back to my quarters on my own. I'm going on sight seeing tours being in for a surprise of what I would find. They always know where I am. There are no candid cameras here, no visible ones, of course, but I know that they observe me. I don't mind. I have nothing to hide, anyway, and even if I did, I bet they couldn't care less. I try to guess the meaning of the rooms I find, and the devices I see. They make me curious and somehow I get the feeling of coming closer to the beings by seeing the way they live and what their world is like. Strangely enough, until now I haven't found anything that is consistent with my comprehension of facilities for social life. No common rooms, no place of recreation, no quarters. I'm afraid these aliens are loners who do not emphasize communities. This would explain why they leave me here on my own unhesitatingly. But on the other hand, when they know that I'm the Alphan historian, they should at least have dealt rudimentarily with the human society and have noted that humans don't live on their own. I can't make any sense of all this, but it isn't my job, is it?
On one of my excursions I discovered an unbelievingly beautiful view. It can be found in a huge corridor close to the hull of the space ship, with an extensively glazed facade, at least 20 meters high and certainly twice as long. The view into space is mind-blowing, it feels as if I'm floating in emptiness gazing at eternity. A band of myriads of stars is cleaving the blackness of the universe in a clear cut, and some stars are so close that one can almost discern the shadows of their planets. On the right-hand behind it at the farthest edge a nebula can be seen, a rearing, feral colossus fighting the night by the turbulent play of colors in its conflicting dazzling gases. The view made my heart skip a beat, breathlessly and quiveringly I fell against the window which allowed me with a smooth easing to lean myself against it, permitting me to firmly lock even the outermost angle of this monumental spectacle within my memory. This was the only instant that I fought tooth and nail when they came to bring me back here. That they wouldn't understand either, the excitement, the human sense of beauty and the desire just to stay for a while, to merely watch. But now I know again that I'm still capable of feeling something. In me there is still a teeny spot which hasn't died yet.
It is time to cease my running off. With every sentence
I put down I'm fleeing the truth. I flee myself. I know very well what I should
write down for the aliens. I just don't quite grasp what they need my words
for. Perhaps they are the archivists of the cosmic tales, perhaps they have them
told by beings like me, beings, who are the last ones of their communities,
so that they may earn their negligible small space in the history of the Universe.
Did they make the others die, so that I became the last one?
It is obvious to me that I'm staving off the start by speculating possibilities I can't prove, and the reason is that I still don't want to write.
Tomorrow I will give it a go.
I still don't write - I write, but not the essential, which really matters. There are no excuses anymore, there's nothing more important, urgent that should be done, but I simply can't begin. My hand is willing, it obediently takes the pen and then it waits for the words to be dictated by the spirit. However, the spirit remains silent. It searches for other issues to sound off about, and the reason is fear, it's frightened that it might not be able to bear the truth. I have forgotten my life on Alpha, I have sent it into the void together with the cocoons. Remembrance hurts and I have suffered enough.
To remember would mean to leave my safe terrain and throw myself into a brawling and roaring sea of emotions. It is impossible for me to report with the unconcerned rational words of the historian, since I have to write an obituary on my world, of which I am the sole survivor.
It started on one of those peaceful days on Alpha that gave us hope time and again that maybe we could have a chance to survive as community despite our odyssey through an incomprehensible, unforeseeable and sometimes hostile Universe. I recall being in my small studio tidying it up, cleaning my pottery wheel from remnants of adhering and almost petrified clay, also the kiln which once had kindly been given to me by the technicians, and taking the left-overs of clay from their closed plastic bags in order to check on their applicability. I'm not a messy person but when the artist pops up to the surface she tends to disregard issues of order, and then sometimes I had to set my hand to my studio when entering not as an artist. I was controlling my equipment, spatulas, wire loop and boxwood tools in different sizes when the alarm went off. I ran into Main Mission and on my way I contacted Mathias, who was on duty, by commlock and asked him if there was a problem in Medical. There was none and I reached Main Mission together with Victor, and in there was a frenzy of activity with the attendants looking for the reason of the alarm. It turned out that the tele-sensors had set off the alarm being excited by some optical phenomenon, and Sandra Benes tried hard to put this alteration for us up on the main screen in a nicely visible manner.
Unfortunately we didn't see all too much, only a faint barely
visible shimmer lit up the screen, and this only after having applied every
known software knack by using image enhancers and filters. We puzzled over whether
it could be of natural cause but did not attach too much importance to it until
it became clear that the phenomenon was approaching the Moon. Victor suggested
that we send off a probe with multifaceted measuring systems. Paul, always trying
to economize our resources, made an effort to pull other alternatives out of
his magic hat, arguing that the production of probes with all extras was extremely
lavish considering that they had the annoying habit of not always returning
Victor prevailed. He has the gift of being able to pass his scientific fervor on to others, and it takes only a few minutes with him to make you feel the urge to solve his questions. He is - was - a very special man.
I find it so hard to talk of them in the past tense, for me they still exist, and really, I don't want to believe that I cannot just simply walk through a door to meet them, to talk to them. But it doesn't do any good to mourn things that cannot be changed, my words bog down as if sticking to my pen, but they cling to my soul which acts like a filter and won't let them out, although I try just to give a plain report of the events. I feel as if I would lose them by writing them down, as if I would give them away and with them those people I have to save for myself. That must also be the reason why I don't want to mention John. But obviously, as Commander, he can't be missing in this report.
The probe was sent away, and came back without bringing new insights. It had entered that area in question, and the measurements did not show anything exceptional. No electromagnetic fields, no measurable abnormal radiation or other space anomalies, no exciting particle emissions, no hints of anything else but bare, empty space with common cosmic background noise, whatsoever. We were able to see that something was approaching us, though, and the closer the phenomenon got the better we could see it. It consisted of an orderless jitter and flicker of multicolored particles escaping our analysis sensors. They still appeared to be harmless, while they were flying through space, as if they were scattered randomly and did not seem to have an effect on any of the probes we applied. But it was soon clear that they were aiming at Alpha, since they swung into an orbit around the Moon adapting its slow rotation so that they hovered over the base like a stationary satellite. We suspected some kind of intelligence but were not able to prove it. Establishing contacts wasn't only difficult, it turned out to be downright impossible. Establishing contacts? What am I talking about? I'm living here amidst alien beings and I am unable to establish a contact although I can see them, classify them as intelligent, well, even close to being humanoid! A contact with shimmering particles now appears to me even more absurd than at that time when we were trying to contact them.
John was worried, I can still see him angrily storm out of Main Mission after Kano had stated light-heartedly that he liked the phenomenon and that it would hopefully be benign to us. John wanted it to be eliminated, at least removed from our orbit and our sphere of influence, and he considered bombarding it with laser weapons, but he was aware of the fact that an attack could be of high risk. We neither could evaluate the phenomenon nor know whether our weapons would affect it and our defending systems would be sufficient. Alpha's lack of defense had always been a weak point and a thorn in John's side. But on the one hand how should anyone had known during construction of the complex that the peaceful scientific base once would fly through unknown space, and on the other hand how would it have been possible to take adequate precautions? We had our bunkers, the catacombs underneath the surface of the Moon and Victor's doubtable defense shield, the effectivity of which was obviously dependant on the mercy of the respective offender. Besides, the shield was energy consuming and could not be utilized constantly, and so it was out of the question to use it permanently.
We both debated endlessly about that issue and I admitted he was right in terms of our defenselessness but I showed not much enthusiasm for a base armed to the teeth, a Fort Knox, simply because measures as he fancied were unfeasible on the one side and on the other side would not have conveyed an impression of a peace-loving community. I still see him pacing up and down like a trapped wolf and I hear him shout angrily that I was not right. This piece of memory is so vivid in my mind just as if it had happened moments before: He jolted suddenly as if he just had recognized whom he was talking to, and then he sat down close to me on the sofa. Harshness vanished from his face and a very strange expression of affection and emotion shone in his eyes which made him look young and vulnerable. I knew that I was his vulnerability, that his heart was beating for Alpha indeed, but his soul and his whole subsistence belonged to me, and I lifted my hand and closed his mouth with my fingers. I didn't want him to voice it, I knew that his most sincere concern was for me alone.
That was the last time I saw love and sympathy in John Koenig's face.
Instead of feeling piercing pain at these thoughts there's only a numb sensation of loss - just as if I was located a thousand light years away from my feelings and tried to comprehend what that bond between John and me was all about. My memory becomes dawdling now and doesn't want to show me what I have to report, but I know that I must make it tell me the truth. Only when I bring this matter to an end I will be able to find that peace my hosts have in mind for me. Whatever it will be like. I have decided to accept it. The one who has nothing to lose would honor any compromise.
I have thought of reading my notations from the beginning - but I won't, I'm not keen on knowing how I felt when I started to write down my thoughts and emotions. That time lies behind me, wrapped up in a misty, murky veil, now even more confused and unapproachable than my last memories of the Moon. I think I must have suffered severely. My very private dread lies before me neatly summarized on a few handwritten pages, and I'm too much of a coward to have a look at it. I've never been a heroic character, just a mediocre doctor, who masterly spoiled her glorious career. Some people told me it would happen, but those days I was young and ignorant. Arrogant since I hadn't regarded myself as mediocre. Stop! Again my mind is inventively trying to distract me. It is my mind which has to guide me through these events, I have nothing else to rely on.
The discussions about safety measures for the base became unnecessary when the quaint phenomenon suddenly vanished from our orbit. Nobody had an explanation where the fluctuating flickering had gone. We felt uncomfortable about this, but we couldn't do anything else than accept it as it was. But really, the truth is, it didn't make any difference since the Moon was free again and there was no obvious hazard anymore. Immediately daily routine on Moonbase Alpha recommenced. Alas - it was no daily routine.
I can only depict the situation by means of my own memories,
if they venture out of their forgotten hiding-places, but I believe
that the other crew members must have experienced pretty much the same.
I ran out of steam, lost interest in everything - even my work. This was the first indicator that something had changed after the glimmering cloud's visit. I sensed that I wasn't sympathetic anymore when injured and sick people came to the emergency reception, I experienced their presence and their wish for help merely as a disturbance of my peace. Feelings like that had been completely unknown to me, the weak and the sick had always been of highest importance to me even under great strain. After all, it bothered me enough to talk to John about my observations. He appeared to be absent-minded, unmoved, and was more interested in a, let us say, more intimate finale of the evening we shared. In retrospect I'm not surprised at the fact that I swiftly yielded to his desire and soon forgot my worries.
Shortly after that not even those motivations counted anymore, I felt no more appetite, no wish for recreational activities, no healthy needs anymore, and this gloom afflicted me massively. Something in me tried to fight it and knew that my behavior was bad, vile, and I knew it would lead to an end of our community soon if all Alphans were suffering similarly. I realized that I was on my way to change into a motionless puppet, but at first I guessed the reason for this was another space phenomenon, some fields or radiation that were sending us all together into a collective depression. I fell on deaf ears with my churned out concerns, more so, I met aggression, it couldn't be overlooked by then that we all suffered from the same disease. Victor, meanwhile looking like a scruffy birdie from the gutter, came to my aid and told us at the last command conference which had been established with tremendous efforts and an impetuous force of will that the flittering space field was to blame for the damage and that its particles had taken possession of us. He recommended that those who didn't believe should pause for a moment and contemplate. He was right, there was no ease inside us anymore, and what we hadn't noticed before, we saw now due to his help: We were full of alien voices, that made us apathetic. And if there was no apathy it was superseded by anger and aggressiveness, and so we behaved either as if nothing was of our concern or as if everybody else was seeking our lives.
I lived with a feeling of irrelevance, in me there was no
anger, but in contrast this was John's constant companion, which wouldn't allow him to recognize
his responsibility for the base. Nobody was behaving responsible anymore. I
didn't blame John for that because I understood that his liability was limited,
and also because I was too weak to stand up against the voices in me. They were
ruling me now, without compassion, intransigently, without reflection. I felt them
in every single fiber of my body, how they occupied me, how they lived there
in the lap of luxury and turned me into an empty, vapid vessel. My solicitation
for warmness and caring, for love and understanding went unheard, and I myself
had also become unable to offer just the slightest fraction of compassion to anyone
else. I couldn't
care less to have lost my self-determination although knowing it preyed on my
mind diligently. I, my personality, the being who was Helena Russell, was inferior
in my own body, and soon I knew that I was living with malevolent, intelligent
beings who had colonized me. I sensed them laughing gleefully inside me and heard
them making a show of having me - us all - in their hands. Well, it was the truth,
they could do with us whatever they liked, we were their servants, but most
of all it hurt me that they drove John and me apart.
Why they did that I didn't know then, but now I assume that they feared our emotional bond. I think they believed it was endangering the accomplishment of their objectives and it was a weapon against them, but we didn't know; we were mere pawns in an incomprehensible game of which we knew no rules.
I have to correct myself. I wrote that I became an emotionless
being. - How bizarre and frightening to compare my former situation with my
present status. Now I see the inhumanity of my wish for callousness in the light
of the fact, that on my last days on Alpha I really was subjected to it - and
I know that an existence completely without emotional level is not consistent
with human life. A human being without feelings isn't human anymore.
My correction refers to the fact that coldness really had come to my life, but for reasons I don't understand, again and again was interrupted by mad fear, great concern and inactive and helpless rage. They made me feel what they did to me, they were like a perfidious factory of sadism and barbarity in me reveling in my agonies. What made them become like this? Has Nature got cruelty in its inventive catalog of intelligence's features? Or which premises are needed for the requirement for bestiality, pitilessness, inhumanity? What brings it out? I can't even guess. I know human brutality and violence, destructiveness, and I know that those are not always a consequence of a corresponding past, but this? Do they regard us as lower creatures whose pain is of no value at all? It's of no worth at all to meditate over that, since by now it is over. I know they are now not in me anymore.
The ending of my report doesn't elucidate the end of my community, it only causes a really awful pain in me, which is naturally associated with the ruin of Alpha, but not only. It shows that the invaders wanted us to suffer and even bothered to search for individual thresholds and triggers of pain. They stirred up a controversy between John and me, which was also controlled by them, which I know since I not only felt the intrusion but also on my own wouldn't have been in a position for a violent altercation like that, anymore. We were standing in the middle of Main Mission and I remember that I felt like a bystander, I was helpless, panicked and terrified. A dispute on the lowest level came up of which I can't recall the cause. Probably there was no reason at all and our statements were both inadequate and an unimaginable tangle of bogus, untrue blames and imputations which had no place in Main Mission, and under normal circumstances would never have had the chance of being said, not even in private. It was a programmatic course of instigating malice on both sides peaking in an unthinkable voracity for violence. I have never felt something near it before and now I'm still horror-stricken when I think of me being capable of such abominable feelings.
The ending approached due to the fact that John carried a
weapon. I saw him draw the stun gun. He aimed at me, and for an instant
time seemed to stand still. I didn't even think about an escape. He was barely
three meters away from me, and I couldn't believe that he leveled his weapon
at me, his face a distorted mask of hate and repulsiveness. This was not John,
it was not him, who set the laser on "kill", not him, who inflamed
with rage aimed again, not him, who shot at me. Not the others who stood gazing
inactively. A lightening beam hit me on my left shoulder, and this was the first
time I gained mastery over the thousand voices in me. I cried out his name and
saw his eyes petrified with the same horror I felt, fear and dread, while his
mouth still squirmed with grim features of revenge and triumph. All of a sudden,
my legs gave away and lurching I fell down on the floor just in front of
him. For a moment I believed he would shoot again, but then the weapon escaped
his hand, and he sank down at my side, reached for me and cried out his
pain inarticulately, helplessly, desperately.
Then like an intrusion from an outer world the shrill tone of the alarm joined his tormented cry, and in an overpowering blinding flash around me all of Alpha disintegrated.
That was my last view of the base, of my world and of John. I have lost everything.
A large drop of water slaps onto the black letters, cries and torments run away in dissolving clouds of soluble ink. I deliberately look up to the ceiling, unrealistically assuming a dripping water pipe, but then I notice how my sight becomes veiled and the overwhelming pain in my chest cleaves through into the subdued light of this world. For the first time I'm mourning for what I've lost.
Helena Russell was pottering around in her quarters. She needed more space and had started to sort out disused stuff from a book shelf which was inserted in the wall of her living room. John was seated on her sofa, bent over a big box full of music discs and had taken over the honorable task of re-arranging them and labeling them with Helena's name. She was about to give them over to the common library, like others had done with their discs, so that they might be opened to the community. He did his work non-seriously, jested with Helena and now and then hummed melodies of songs he recognized on the disc covers.
"My baby don't care for clothes, my baby just cares for me!" he sang radiating with joy, and with a smirk Helena looked up from her files she was flipping through.
"Surprise!" she said, "Those days while planning Alpha, you failed to arrange for an appropriate garment industry and shopping malls up here!" She put the pack of paper aside and stretched to reach for the contents of the next shelf.
"If you need the large boxes from up above, let me get them for you!" John offered but she shook her head.
"Later," she said, "now I just want to see how much of this stuff here I still need." She took several blue folders and opened them one after the other. Those were computer printouts of her former reports concerning the Alphan situation. While leafing through she suddenly paused, puzzled, and removed a bundle of sheets.
"What have you got?" he asked interestedly and stuffed a handful of CDs, that had been occupying him, back into the box.
"Don't know," she replied and examined her discovery, "this is real paper. I don't believe we've ever had some of that quality up here on Alpha." The pages were loose and she turned the first one only to find that they were lettered on both sides. "It's my hand writing, but I can't remember having written these lines." She gave him the first sheet. "Look at the writing, the characters are crooked and barely legible. It looks as if they'd been written down under great pressure, in despair or fear. I have never composed handwritten reports. I can't quite imagine how these sheets got here."
"Perhaps we should read what they say?" John suggested, and she nodded approvingly.
Together they went through the report, startled at first, then, when it became clear that Helena really had been the writer with growing uneasiness and increasing dismay. No one remembered those events that the report referred to. Helena finished the last lines with sweating hands and a heavy heart.
"Do you believe we really underwent this experience?" John wanted to know. "I mean we are not exactly dead, are we? And I really don't have the faintest knowledge of a situation similar to the one described." Helena bent herself over in John's direction. She was trembling notably.
"Help me with the zipper, will you?" she demanded and he unzipped her uniform top, not quite getting what she was up to.
"See?" she asked and showed him her bare, white, left shoulder. There was a very fine pale jagged scar which ran from close under her collarbone to her shoulder joint. "I've always wondered where I got that from!" His fingers touched it gently as if to make certain that his eyes had not been deceived.
"Helena, what's written down here really is terrible! In my wildest nightmares I couldn't imagine doing anything of that kind to you!"
"No," she replied with a faint smile laying her hand on his cheek. "Neither can I. - But if it really happened I am greatly relieved that we've forgotten all about it." She was just putting the last page down onto the table when she recognized that there was an additional sheet that she had overlooked before.
The characters looked like Helena's handwriting once again, but still, being printed, they had obviously been generated artificially.
The lawless colony from the people of Arkess know about the applicable law in the Zone of the Alliance, but it decided against applying this law in order to indulge their illegal passions and do utter harm to guests of the Alliance. The Guardians were engaged to neutralize the colony. The individuals of the colony who countlessly invaded the personalities of the foreign guest entities were removed completely by an elaborate procedure, and all damages done were resolved. For legal reasons the historian of the guests had to bear witness to the kind of deleterious intervention in her own words. It is asked to excuse all inconveniences suffered by the historian. For humanitarian necessity it was decided to delete the experience from the guests' memories, but the law determines an obligation to inform them about the incident. The further journey of this community in the Zone will proceed without any further offense, however.
"We had no contact with aliens who mentioned an alliance," John said pensively. Helena nodded thoughtfully.
"I'm afraid it won't be possible to match the event to a certain time. I can't even make a rough estimate of when the scar on my shoulder first caught my attention." John lifted the lettered sheets with a look of inquiry.
"What are we going to do about this?" It was out of the question, certainly, to open this incident to the public in a complete version. Helena's words had been too intimate, her suffering far too evident, the experience too terrifying.
"It is a scary document of which I'm not happy that it was penned by me," she answered reluctantly, "but it is a document. Perhaps one day it will be of help to someone. So we should at least put a summary of this report in our official history adding a cross-reference to the original. For once the original will stay with me." John agreed.
It was a further documentation of the human fragility in the alien ocean of the Universe and also the proof that sometimes it was only the help of others that made survival possible.