You’ll miss my hugging
You’ll miss my kisses
You’ll miss me, honey
When you go away
For 10 long years, Quinn had dreamt of her.
He dreamt that he was back on earth, with his love’s arms wrapped tightly around him. No research missions to pull him away this time; in his dreams, he and her were permanently tethered, and there was no force in the universe that could pull them apart.
Some nights, his dreams gave way to anxious nightmares. What if she’s dead back on earth? What if she’s forgotten you by the time you come home? What if there’s no home to come back to?
Quinn was nervous by nature, and that nervousness had a tendency to bubble over into his dreams. But for the most part, his dreams were of sunny days, clear skies, and of course, the love of his life. In that regard, the night he finally awoke was scarcely different from any other night.
In his dream, he was sitting by the pool, his love curled up next to him, arms draped across his shoulders and chest. They sat in silence, watching the sun reflect across the shimmering water of the pool. Finally, she tilted her face up to his and spoke.
“It’s time for you to go,” she whispered, her voice as angelic as when she gave her final farewell.
“I…” he responded, “I’m not ready to go. I want to stay with you.”
She giggled. “You have to, silly. They’re waiting for you out there, you know that. Just remember that I’m waiting for you back here. Come back in one piece, will you?”
He smiled, nodding as the dreamscape began to slip away with the return of consciousness. “I promise I’ll be back in one piece. I love you.”
“I love you too, Quinn. I’ll miss you every time I look up at the stars.”
He couldn’t recall what happened after that. Perhaps they kissed, or embraced one final time. The end of his dream was lost when, after 10 years of cryosleep, Quinn woke up.
The first thing he heard upon his awakening was the soft whirring of the cryopod’s mechanisms as the door to his pod slid open, smoke billowing out from the open hatch like a factory chimney. Quinn’s eyes fluttered as he slowly turned his neck from side to side, doing whatever he could to return blood flow as quickly as possible. After several minutes of paralysis, his fingers began to move, and then his arms. Ever so slowly, he re-learned the earthly sensation of putting one foot before the other, and, gripping the sides of the cryopod, began to take his first steps onto the Destiny since his first day onboard all those years ago.
As his eyes began to adjust to the light of the Destiny’s Hibernation Room, Quinn slowly came to realize that he was the only one to have been reawakened; on closer inspection, however, he soon realized that it was quite the opposite. All of the other cryopods had been opened, their occupants long since awoken.
How long was I asleep? Quinn’s still bleary mind struggled to formulate thoughts. Did I… Did I oversleep? Is that even possible? They said the Destiny’s computer was guaranteed to wake me up after 10 years…
Like a recently reanimated zombie, Quinn shuffled to the uniform rack next to the door, where all of the personnel suits had been taken except for one: Q. LARSON. The thin layer of dust on its shoulders suggested that it had been waiting for him for quite some time. He slowly slipped it on, the plain grey uniform quickly conforming to the shape of his body. Still rubbing his eyes, he pushed the button next to the Hibernation Room’s door and shambled out into the Destiny’s main hallway.
If his crew members were anywhere, they’d be in the mess hall at the end of the hallway. At least, that was his first place to look; he was far too disoriented to go banging on every single crew member’s quarter doors. So on he stumbled, the bright lights of the mess hall nearly blinding him even further. The mess hall was empty, he quickly realized as his sight began to clear. There were used cups and dishes stacked about, with food that looked fresh enough to indicate recent occupation. As he mentally checked off any other major rally points within the ship, Quinn noticed something: an old tape recorder, like something his grandparents would have used in their teenage years. He instantly recognized it as belonging to Anna, the ship’s chief engineer; she had explained once upon a time that the recorder was an old family heirloom, and it worked well enough that she still left memos for herself or other crew members from time to time.
Wonder if there’s anything on it to point me in the right direction.
Quinn picked up the recorder, pushing play and wincing as the tape loudly crackled to life. Amidst the static, he could clearly make out Anna’s voice and the message she left:
“Hey Quinn! So uh, if you’re listening to this… good morning! The others and I just woke up yesterday, but, uh… there was a complication with your pod. But don’t worry! The computer says that it’s a nonlethal issue, and that it’ll only be a couple of weeks before you’re ready to join us. So if you’re listening to this, it means it’s been a couple of weeks! We’ve probably taken the Destiny’s cruiser down to the subject planet’s surface for some research work, so don’t go anywhere! Not that you could, I mean, we’re in the middle of space. Ok, gotta go now. See you when we get back!”
The recorder spat static for a few more moments, then went silent. Anna’s message went a long way to putting Quinn’s mind at ease.
“They’re just doing some research,” he said to himself, “and boy, will I be happy to see all of them when they get…”
He turned his attention to the mess hall’s wide open window, giving him a clear view of the vast, starry oblivion.
From where he was standing, he could clearly make out the Destiny’s cruiser, docked and ready to go like it had never been taken out.
Wherever they were, they hadn’t gone anywhere.
The nervous pit that formed in Quinn’s stomach made its much welcome reappearance as he slowly set the tape recorder down, struggling to process his discovery.
So… they’re here then? There’s no other cruisers for them to take, so they’re still onboard… I think? I need to find out.
He exited the mess hall, finding himself once again in the massive primary hallway. The hallway acted as a veritable highway throughout the ship, linking all major rooms as well as crew quarters; put simply, he had a lot of walking ahead of him.
He figured his next stop should be the bridge; it was primarily reserved for the pilot and any extra help he might need, but at this point, finding anybody would be nice. He began to walk, his stride quickening with every passing second spent conscious. It was nice to be up and moving again, even if the situation at hand was becoming dire much faster than Quinn would have hoped. The situation only seemed to escalate when he entered the bridge, only to find all the lights shut off. Not only was that a basic safety violation aboard any starcraft, it didn’t bode well for his search. He fumbled in the darkness for what felt like an eternity, until he remembered that there was a much quicker solution.
“Computer!” he called out. “Respond!”
Suddenly, the ship’s speakers came to life.
“Greetings, Quinn,” the computer responded in a monotone yet effeminate voice, “I haven’t heard from you in a while.”
“Computer,” he ordered, completely skipping the small talk, “turn on bridge lights.”
“Not even an ‘I missed you?’ Very well, Quinn- turning on bridge lights. It wouldn’t kill you to say thank you.”
The bridge lights flashed on all at once, and the nervousness Quinn had initially felt exploded into full blown dread.
The first thing he saw was the ship’s captain, David; at least, he assumed it was David. Their uniforms were all so similar that it was difficult to distinguish between crew members when one of them was found headless. What he assumed to be David’s beheaded corpse was draped limply over the bridge’s central console, the blood covering his corpse having dried up a seemingly long time ago. Across the room, the bridge’s vast window had received a touch up; it now sported a scrawled message, written out in what looked like blood:
“We’re-we’re sorry?” David asked aloud between panicked breaths. “What does… what does that mean?”
He slowly backed away from the bridge, the door sliding shut behind him as he struggled to catch his breath.
“Computer!” he called out desperately, nearly vomiting from the mere sensation of opening his mouth.
“Needy today, aren’t we, Quinn?” the computer remarked. “What can I help you with?”
“Computer,” he ordered, though this time it came out as more of a plea, “can you… can you play the last known audio recording from the ship?”
“Affirmative. Last audio message recorded by… Courtier, James, chief medical officer of the Destiny. His recording is as follows:”
“Ok,” James’ voice came to life over the speakers, “this is research log #7, as recorded by chief medical officer Courtier. David and his merry band of researchers brought back quite the subject; specimen is currently sedated, appears to be a healthy adult male of its species, whatever that may be. What we’re dealing with here is a species of extraterrestrial that may very well be undiscovered up until this point. Features appear to resemble that of the cephalopoda in nature, implying some form of aquatic ecosystem deeper into the planet; note to self, encourage David to research further. This may sound unprofessional, but the subject looks an awful lot like something I read about in some ancient 20th century text; was it Love... cat? Lovecart? Oh well.”
“Hold on… subject appears to be coming to. This is an unprecedented learning opportunity, I will keep the recording on as I attempt to make contact with the subject. Ok, here goes; let’s see if it can understand human dialect. Greetings-”
“End of recording.” the computer abruptly announced. “Will there be anything else, Quinn?”
“Computer,” he muttered, “run a full scan of all organisms aboard the Destiny.”
“Affirmative. My sensors indicate… 14 bodies aboard the Destiny.”
“Ok. Now, run a full scan of all living organisms aboard the Destiny.”
“Affirmative. My sensors indicate… 2 living organisms aboard the Destiny.”
Just then, Quinn heard something from down the hall. It was quiet enough that he nearly didn’t pick up on it, but it still carried throughout the ship: a low, almost mournful hum. The humming started and stopped at rhythmic intervals, and it seemed to grow louder and closer to his position outside the bridge.
“Computer,” he ordered, growing increasingly desperate, “run a diagnostic on both living organisms.”
“Affirmative. Subject one is Larson, Quinn, assistant researcher aboard the Destiny. Age: 29 years old. Sex: male. Date of-”
“Ok, skip to subject two!” he yelled.
“Affirmative. Subject two is… error. Error. Error.”
The computer’s monotone voice slowly flickered and died, leaving Quinn all alone on the Destiny. Well, nearly alone.
The humming continued to grow closer as Quinn struggled to figure out a plan. The cruiser had enough fuel to get him to the surface of the designated research planet, but if James’ notes were anything to go by, that area was even more unsafe than the Destiny. He had to think of something quick, or else…
He thought back to David, and his heart began to well up with fear. His breathing grew shallow and rapid, his hands became clammy with terror, and beads of sweat began to drip ever so slowly down his forehead. He was trapped.
Just then, the humming stopped, and Quinn felt the unmistakable presence of another person near him. Something was at the other end of the bridge, by the door of the Hibernation Room. He stared straight ahead at the wall, too frightened to even face the being that confronted him.
“Gree-tings,” it gurgled in what sounded like a cheap mockery of english, “this is Co-ur-tier. Unprecedented… research. Gree-tings.”
James was right; not only had it understood human speech, it had picked up on it as well. He could hear it shambling closer to him, its feet making unnerving splashing noises as it walked. Its body seemed to squish and shift with every step, if noise was anything to go off of; he still refused to actually look at it.
“Gree-tings,” it repeated as it came closer, “gree-tings subject.”
Finally, Quinn mustered the courage to move from his non confrontational position. He slowly turned to face the creature, and his breath caught in his throat.
He couldn’t describe it even if he wanted to. Its grotesque features, its shambling mass… it was as if their research team had burrowed into the pits of hell and brought back one of its servants to dissect. It flailed about with pale tentacles that sprouted from all over its body, the tentacles that covered its face swaying like blades of grass on a windy day. It reached out for Quinn with scaly, almost reptilian claws as it began to close in on him. He was out of options.
Moving deliberately, carefully, Quinn inched towards the mess hall door, sliding it open as he maintained visual contact with the… with it. Walking backwards towards the table, he picked up Anna’s tape recorder, playing her message from the beginning.
“Hey Quinn!” the message sputtered to life as Quinn quietly turned around, facing the vast open window as he stared at the unmoving stars. How indifferent they seemed, how still and watchful of his fate. Still, it was such a sight to behold.
The voice of a friend and a view like this, he thought to himself as he felt the creature’s breath on the back of his neck, I suppose there’s worse ways. I’m sorry, honey. I promised I would make it back in one piece.
As he felt the creature’s tentacles constrict around his neck, Quinn closed his eyes, taking in the majesty of the lone and level stars for the final time.
With his final waking thoughts, he dreamed of her.
Written by Parlour