Author : Duncan Shields
It’s how you react to your life going wrong that defines you.
When you win, you smile like everyone else. It’s how you react to obstacles, changes of fortune and sudden lane changes in your life that reveals a true aspect of your personality.
Take me, for instance.
I never wanted to be cleaning the mobile arrays on the outside of this gigafreighter as we passed through crystal dust fields. I had a girl once. I even had the money to afford a pet. I lived planetside and breathed real air.
I’ve been given a tool much like a toothbrush. Something about the crystalline make-up of the comet trail doesn’t show up on sensors until the build up is too severe. They found that two diligent humans, each working in twelve hour shifts, was the cheapest solution to keep the array clear of crystal dust.
Some of this crystal dust is rumoured to be sub-molecular in nature. I try not to imagine the feeling of tiny shards filling my entire body, lodging in the mile-wide craters of my pores, sticking out of my skin like tiny daggers. It make me itchy.
Being itchy in a spacesuit is not good.
I clump around the array in a ritualistic circle, making sure to scrub in between the struts and under the dishes. I get the whole thing done in about two hours. That means that I clean it six times during my shift.
The comet we’re following must be giving us some pretty impressive data because I’ve been doing this for a year. I was only supposed to be doing it for eight months.
The overtime’s good but I miss my dog and even after everything that happened, I still miss Sara. If that was her real name.
Sometimes I’ll stop for a minute and just look out. I’m standing on a long steel tube in the middle of nowhere stuck in the sparkling tail of a comet. There’s a light xylophone being played just inside human hearing range as the rain of crystal dust collides with the hull. A constant distant ringing that I’m sure I’ll miss when I’m done this job.
If it doesn’t kill me. I’m scared every time my eyes get itchy that my orbits are filling up with interstellar sand that won’t be able to be removed. The bosses assure me that it’s psychosomatic but really, it’s in their best interest to keep me working. I don’t trust their smiles.
The colours swirl around me in blues and violets like a sheer veil thrown over the stars. It’s a belly dancer about to drop the last scarf.
I get back to work before the siren call of that shifting borealis makes me leap off into infinity.
Scrub, scrub, scrub.