It’s been one hundred and eighty three days since I last talked to another human being. The last words I will ever speak to another living soul. I know this because one hundred and eighty two days ago the engines failed midway through a routine course adjustment. I didn’t know that that would be what they were. I don’t remember what it was I said; probably something procedural. I don’t know exactly where I am now right now. The ship’s computer cheerily refers to this area as “Unchartered.” It’s dead silent here. Last I calculated I was roughly three parsecs off course. This means I’m well beyond the range of satellite communication, which also means that I’m well beyond the range of any rescue fleet. It’s so deadly, deadly silent in here. But that silence is broken for now. Somewhere behind me a warning siren is going off. It does this, routinely, every twenty minutes. It’s been doing this, routinely, for the past one hundred and eighty two days. And its’ only purpose is to routinely alert me to a fact that I am already acutely aware of: I’m fucked.
It’s tiring being up here alone. It was tiring when the mission was still active, and it’s even more tiring now that all I’m doing is waiting for the end. The waiting is the worst part; the not knowing. Being able to see the end coming, but not knowing when it will strike; when it will take me. It’s no longer a matter of if, it’s when. I know it’ll be soon. It’s got to be soon. It has to be. It’s an eerie feeling watching it gradually get nearer. That chilling, blinding white halo growing larger, spreading out from behind the ships’ enormous sun shield; slowly threatening to swallow it whole; dragging us towards it relentlessly. The maps say it’s a dwarf star, but right now it’s the one that’s dwarfing us. It’s a strange feeling knowing that the end is coming, staring down the barrel of the thing that will wipe you out of existence, but not knowing exactly when it will occur. And here I sit in the rear of this ship, staring out into vast, impenetrable nothingness, trying to simply ignore it as best I can for the time being.
I don’t know why I accepted this mission. I don’t really know what I was thinking. Part of me is beginning to suspect I was never meant to survive, but I doubt that those in the know would have intended for things to go so horrifically wrong. The ship they gave me, the Prosperitas II, is a clunky old galactic transporter. It’s a piece of shit. The idea was that I’d pilot a load of supplies and resources to the site of a prospective colony planet. There is more than enough equipment on board to get the colonising process underway; enough food to last until we could start growing our own; enough of everything for the first people there to survive on. And now all of that, the future of that entire colony, is hurtling out of control into the waiting jaws of a burning hot star, where it will be completely incinerated beyond trace, along with me. By now I’ve no doubt been declared legally dead back home. The search effort long since called off. Maybe it wasn’t even mounted in the first place. It’s too great a risk to send a team into unchartered space to recover just one single man, isn’t it? In their eyes, I am that so-called brave soul who will pay the ultimate price for a greater good. In their eyes, I am a martyr. In their eyes, I am a hero. But in my eyes, I am none of these things. In my eyes, I am fucking petrified, and I do not want to die. Not here. Not now. Not like this.
This isn’t fair. Why me of all people? Why? Have I not been a good man? A humble man? A penitent man? Did I not please God? Was I not kind, or caring, or charitable? I know I’ve committed my share of sins, but what human hasn’t? What crime is befitting of this punishment? This is inhumane. This is torture. This is cold, callous cruelty. It can’t end this way. It just can’t. I won’t allow it to. I can’t allow it to. Not when I’ve got so much more left to prove, and so much more left to accomplish. I’ve still got more left to explore. I’ve still got more left to create. I’ve still got growing up to do; growing old to do. Why does it have to be me who sacrifices so much for so little? Why does it have to be me who endures such a needless, prolonged demise? Why me? God damn it, why me? I am wrecked with fear and I am shaking and I am in a ball in the corner of this godforsaken room staring out into the nothingness that I will disintegrate into and I cannot take this anymore. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die like this. I don’t want to die this broken, frightened shell of a man. I don’t want my last thoughts to be of fear, or of regret, or of lament. I don’t want to let this cruel fate get the better of me, to mock me, to toy with me. I do not want to be the last dangling thread waiting patiently to be plucked whilst my maker laughs in my face. That is an insult. That is unbecoming. That is a fate worse than death, and I cannot allow it to happen. In here, right here and now, I only have control over one thing. I am to die in here, this I know. But I am the one who can, and will, dictate when. I can force its’ hand. I can stare death in the eye and urge it so gloriously to take me that it will have no choice but to do so. I won’t allow it to do with me what it sees fit. I won’t allow it that satisfaction, because that satisfaction is what it wants. It wants to take my mortal body, but more importantly it wants to take my pride. And now I am kicking myself for not having seen that earlier.
I am angry. No, fuck that. I am furious. I’m beyond any rage ever felt by any human man ever. I am fuming. I am ready to explode. And I am sprinting to the viewing deck where the halo glows out from behind the ships’ enormous sun shield. I am sprinting like my life depends on it. My life does depend on it. There is nothing more important to me than this very moment. There is nothing that will ever be this important. I am sprinting and I am in the room and I am face to face with my maker at long last. I am fucking ready this time. I am ready for it to take me, but yet it still refuses to do so. And then I am shouting.
“WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU?!” my words piercing this barren chamber, echoing relentlessly, “COME ON. I’M READY.” My maker does not reply. I am pacing back and forth and I am banging, pounding on the window. My maker does not reply. I am ripping at the earthly clothes that adorn me and I am showing it that I am mere flesh and blood and bone. My maker does not reply. And now I am screaming and I am ripping at my throat and my lungs and my vocal cords until I am blue in the face and spitting up blood. My maker does not reply. I am frantic. I refuse to let it dictate my terms anymore. I cannot allow it to. I will not allow it.
“WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”
My maker does not reply.
“WHAT ARE YOU FUCKING WAITING FOR?”
Again, my maker does not reply. I am pounding at the ship’s control panel, and I am lowering that piece of shit sun shield, and the ship is screaming at me to stop. It is screaming at me and I am screaming at it. I am ignoring it. I know exactly what I’m doing. I am forcing my maker’s hand. I am deciding my end, not it. The shield is down and the room is flooded with blinding, burning, intense light that rips the air from my lungs and strips layer upon layer of skin clean off me. It peels at me, rips at me, tears away the fabric of my body. But it does not end me. It lights every nerve ending in my being ablaze with the most magnificent, all-encompassing pain imaginable, but it does not end me. It strips away at the sterile sheen on the ship surrounding me, but it does not end me. It doesn’t even knock me off my feet. It leaves me standing. My maker leaves me standing and I am furious.
“COME ON! WHAT’S STOPPING YOU?”
My maker does not reply.
“I’M STANDING RIGHT HERE. END ME. FUCKING END ME.”
My maker does not reply.
“COME ON. JUST DO IT. END ME. FINISH ME OFF. FUCKING DO IT.