Daily Fiction 11:
It’s been 11 years since the ship accelerated. I don’t even think of it as taking off from Earth—I think of the feeling. That weight, the pressing, the whole body being there, feeling your presence. It felt permanent, solid, beyond even how it had felt to walk in the world. Many of the others couldn’t stand it. They passed out, vomited. I helped some of them through it. Pulled them to the infirmary, administered their drips, talked them through their anxiety. I knew I was built for this, I knew they should be too. I could see them marveling at me, wondering how I was still healthy, unafraid. I knew I was built for this.
I’m not built for what we are now. Floating through space, just trying to stay normal, to stay healthy. Be positive. Be social. Be excited about the fact that we’re on the cutting edge of humanity, that we’re joining the Founders and adding a second wave of life, that we’re valued members of The Company.
I know how we’re supposed to keep ourselves strong. Exercise routine in the morning. Endurance, then flexibility, then the main muscle groups. Light breakfast. Keep ordinary hours. Come to social call. Highlight something from your work. Meet with your accountability partner. Discuss any problems. Even reciting the routine gets tiresome. I can’t get through it.
But I have to. Not because it’s good, not because it’s necessary, but because I cannot become a problem. Cannot rely on goodwill to make it through space. Can’t have the others smile sweetly with false concern as they help me through my problems, knowing their power and standing is eclipsing mine, with every duty they cover, every allowance they grant me—grant me, already assuming the legitimacy of their control. And then I’ll have to start smiling more, laughing at their jokes, taking care not to get in their way, spending more of my energy appeasing them, countering their resentment.
I’m not a monster. I’ve loved, I’ve had a family. I know for some people care is a way of life, and though there’s always power being exchanged, always a battle, there’s often enough love not to see it. But these people don’t love me. I’ve spent the past seven years withdrawing more than they have, as their bonds have grown stronger. I see people laughing, smiling, in their accountability meetings. My partners are bored, uncomfortable, a little hesitant, trying to be nice. But there’s still enough to talk about, still enough for me to say about my work, still enough fog, that I don’t think anybody’s fully worried about me yet. At least I can drag it out another four years until we land on Mars. And then I can lose myself in the town, flee that dynamic entirely, never return to the group I never really was part of.
But that’s in four years.