I knew I had to find it before they would let me out. My mind. My sanity. Myself. But how could I find what had been left light-years away? I’m not even sure when I lost it. Until I arrived at Dulex station, I didn’t know how long I’d been stranded on that ship. Lost in space. Alone.
Then the station hailed me and I thought all my problems were coming to an end. But they were just beginning. They hadn’t believed me and the station security thought I’d stolen the Tighar. Luckily, Peggy talked sense into her bosses and, once they realized I was a child of the original crew of the ship, I was allowed onto the station. My triumphant return to civilization.
It was too much. I don’t remember the weeks that followed, but that moment? That moment is seared into my memory.
Amelia turned off the monitor and Peggy’s face dissolved into pixels and then into darkness. The click lay heavy in the sudden overwhelmingly oppressive silence. The silence buzzed and hummed. No friendly voices to break the silence. Only her breath, jagged and rough. Sometimes she didn’t even hear that. Was she still breathing when she didn’t hear it? If she’d stopped breathing she’d notice, right?
Amelia took a deep breath and exhaled noisily on purpose, the huff filled the room and covered up the silent buzz. Peggy said she thought too much and Amelia knew she was delaying the inevitable. Peggy was waiting.
She left the control room and headed up. She knew exactly where the main hatch was. Knew where the station was in relation to her tiny ship. Her home for five years according to Peggy. It felt like decades. It felt like only minutes ago her parents had waved goodbye and headed down to that planet. Amelia thought she could feel the weight of the station looming all around her ship. Like a giant swallowing a silver fish.
The hiss of the hydraulic door surprised her and she looked down to see her traitorous hand still hovering over the lock.
When had she gotten so close? Was she ready? Did it matter? If she didn’t leave, would they come in? Peggy had said to take her time, but Peggy was waiting and the door was opening.
She felt the station press onto as her eyes traveling up and up and up and up the grey walls. She closed her eyes and swallowed. When she opened them again she focused on the figures across the room. There were two of them. One was Peggy who smiled. Amelia smiled back and stepped forward.
The moment her feet left the ship she froze. She was falling into the hugeness of the station. Swallowed by the giant. She could feel the metal floors spreading out beneath her like an ocean of metal. Slipping into the ocean that was the station. And she was a tiny ship cast adrift.
The station was different. The air smelt wrong, the hum of the fans were too high-pitched, the light just one shade too blue. It was all wrong. Her smile slipped as she struggled to keep above the waves. She couldn’t move, not even back into the safety of her ship. The Tighar wasn’t behind her. It had disappeared into this dark ocean.
Amelia’s eyes locked on Peggy’s, a lighthouse on a distant shore, shining. Peggy wasn’t smiling anymore, but that was okay. Her eyes were still smiling. The man next to Peggy moved, but Amelia wasn’t watching him. She was focused on Peggy. Peggy would fix this, she would be the light and guide her to shore.
His touch burned and she heard screaming. Impossibly loud screaming, like a proximity alarm in pain. The screaming bounced around the grey room and Amelia knew it would never stop. She crumpled to the floor and the screaming didn’t stop. She could hear it over her own whimpers. That was all she could hear, the screaming, and her own lost voice. She couldn’t hear Peggy or the man.
“I told him to stay back,” Peggy explained when the drugs no longer clouded my every thought. They still made my mind slow, like thick oil oozing from a pipe and prone to wandering. But I could sit in this room now. Sit across from Peggy in this room and not be overwhelmed by the station. I still felt it falling away from me and sometimes I wanted to hang onto something, anything solid to keep from falling into it. But most of the time it was bearable.
“I told him to stay back, but he thought he knew best,” she sighed. I liked how her sigh filled the empty space of the room. It covered the hum of the fans that were wrong. “I’m sorry about that.”
She’d told me this before. Told me that she was sorry. They said it was a good sign that I was remembering things again. That it meant I was starting to find myself. I wanted to laugh when they said that, but I didn’t. If I started laughing it was hard to stop. And I wasn’t myself when I was laughing. Even I knew that was wrong. Wrong to not stop laughing, wrong to not stop crying.
“I remember,” I told Peggy. She was waiting for me to speak and I knew that’s what she wanted to hear. She didn’t want to hear about laughing and not stopping.
Her smile grew at my words and I had to smile back. Peggy’s smile did that. It made you want to smile. She smiled with her eyes and her whole body. Most of the others didn’t. They smiled with their teeth. Like sharks. I didn’t like them smiling and I never smiled back at them.
“What have you been up to?”
Everyday the same thing happened. I woke up. I took my shower under their watchful eyes. I ate their terrible healthy food and then they would have an activity for me. Sometimes it was fun, like running on a treadmill or taking a nap. Other times it was frightening like coloring the shapes and if you got the colors wrong they would hum at you, like the wrong-hum of the station fans. Like the colors meant something. Every third day, Peggy would come and we would chat. That was the best part. I wished they would let me cook.
“I’ve been thinking about lighthouses,” I answer. It was true. Peggy was my lighthouse and I always thought about Peggy. I thought about what she said to me each day after she had gone. I loved it when she talked about her family. I was always listening, even if she didn’t think I was listening. Even when she thought I was lost. Her grandson was turning thirteen soon. He was going to have a party. It grounded me to hear her talk about what life was like on the station. Here, in this white place, it was too much like the ship – only worse because it was wrong.
“Is Tighar okay?” I ask. I don’t know what they did with my ship.
“It’s fine, they’re keeping it docked. No one is allowed in until it clears the court.”
“For ownership. Don’t worry,” Peggy added as I figured out what she was saying. They were trying to take away my Tighar! “Don’t worry,” she soothed. “It’s just a formality since you were a minor when it came into your possession and so it has to be formally transferred to you now.”
I worried, but I tried not to show it and I did believe her when she said it would be okay. She also said it would be okay to leave the ship and that didn’t turn out well, but I was still alive and I hadn’t drowned. So I believed her when she said they couldn’t take my ship. I knew I was on that ship and even after I find myself here and they let me out, I still wouldn’t be right until we were back together again. Tighar and me.
That was why I had to find it. So they would let me out and I could go back to my ship.
- Tony the Doorman – from Rory’s Legacies of the Sims
- Peggy the Psychiatrist – from Munterbacon’s grandmother Peggy.
- Amelia Echo – from Derelict my room challenge story – This story starts soon after the previous short story: Welcome Back.