Where do I begin?
There were once four of us. Scientists, or so we thought.
What I have seen since those first few days has proven we were never scientists, just kids with a toy chemical set. Mere babes who knew how to make sugar-water.
Where am I now? I do not know. I don’t think anyone knows where I am now. I know where I’m not and that frightens me.
In the beginning it was exciting and exhilarating. The newness was all encompassing and fed our creative hungers. It wasn’t long before that changed.
I don’t often have the luxury of contemplation on who I once was or who I am growing into. I only know that I’m alive and my friends are not.
This morning, if it was morning, I gazed out at a most beautiful sight. A vast city lying atop mile thick columns of pinkish rock. It looked like something out of a science fiction painting, but it was not a painting.
As my vessel approached I grew apprehensive but my apprehension was not over what lived in this city in the clouds. No, my apprehension was the knowledge that this great civilization would be like the others I had visited. Empty, cold, dead.
Let me tell you about my vessel. I call it a vessel because it is a vessel. It is not a ship, not in traditional sense a ship is known or seen as. It is more akin to a cargo container. A box that moves. I don’t know how it moves and I no longer much care. I only know that it does move.
When we first found the vessel, (or did the vessel find us) the four of us were working at a dig site in the Antarctic. A prior research team had recorded some anamolous readings under a heavy sheet of ice near where the Ross ice shelf meets the mainland. We were sent to investigate.
John Mertain was our specialist in all areas magnetic. He had graduated from MIT with a doctorate in magnetic engineering. I not to sure what he did to earn that but I do know some of his theories helped shape the maglev rail system that was used to catapult cargo up into orbit for construction of the space platform. He was a jovial type as well, fun to be around.
Megan Kurn was an animal handler. It was her job to keep the dogs in line. You might be wondering why we had a dog handler on our team but a quick history search will explain that away. Namely in regards to who made it to the south pole first.
Pam Jenkins was our communications specialist. She was responsible for keeping us in contact with base camp and our financiers back home. She had a real knack for electronics and I think she enjoyed our unintended voyage the most… Until she died that is.
Me? I’m not that important. If I was important I would probably be dead by now.
This city in the clouds is obviously ancient. Vegetative life clings to it. Vine-like plants grow in every crack and crevice I can see. Some plants have grown so thick as to dislodge great portions of the city. Much as jungle plants on Earth overtake hidden temples in ancient Asia and South America they do the same here.
The vessel lands in a square depression. A series of lights blink inside and I hear the rush of air as the main hatch opens. I look out, but I dare not leave. I wait, and I wait some more.
Eventually, the hatch closes and the vessel departs. Up, up, up through the atmosphere I go. I know I will never see this world again. I have never been to the same world twice.
The food generator dispenses and I eat. The food has never been what I would call "tasty" but it’s not too bad either. Somehow the vessel knows what I eat and feeds me on a schedule. Everything I need to stay alive is provided, but nothing is provided to allow me to live. I am a prisoner on this vessel and every time the hatch opens I am reminded of the choice I made so long ago.
Even before we left, John was poring over the strange readings from the Antarctic survey team. He told us they were similar to the work he had done on the maglev systems. We should have listened more to what he said then. As it was, he was the first to die.
The only good luck we had was the weather. Our team was dispatched during the Antarctic summer. You couldn’t exactly walk around in a swim suit and take a dunk in the water at that temperature but we did have plenty of day light to work under.
For our camp we had a couple of cargo containers dropped in. We didn’t know just how fitting that was, until a month later when we discovered the vessel.
The vessel was buried under several hundred feet of ice. It rested on top of a strange stone platform that resisted all of our attempts at cutting. Like the vessel itself, the platform had a very strange magnetic signature about it. Though the vessel was closed when we found it did not stay that way for long.
I awaken to a sound. A beeping sound. I don’t know what the sound means. I don’t know what the strange symbols that decorate the interior of the vessel mean either. There could be a button right in front of me marked "Earth" and I would never know.
I look around in the eternal dim light that bathes the interior of the vessel. The lights tell me nothing and then the beeping stops.
I make my way to the view screen. It’s not a porthole because we saw no such thing when we discovered the vessel under the ice. The view screen shows the eternal blackness of space, or it might just be turned off. I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
I look over to the food machine and eat my breakfast. Or is it lunch? Hell, it’s always breakfast because that is what I’m doing, breaking my fast since the last meal.
I don’t know what else to do, so I try to go back to sleep.
To be continued…