Author : J. Rohr
“I’m not taking the job.”
Melissa sighed. Rubbing her temples, not relishing the impending migraine, she said, “You have to.”
“I’ll find something.”
“It’s been six months.”
“We can wait a little longer.”
“No, we can’t.”
Bob opened his mouth, rebuttal at the ready, but fell back in his seat, shoulders slumped, “No, we can’t.”
Melissa stepped over, drying her hands on her apron. She didn’t like to break Bob’s resolve. But it had to be done. The fact she’d been saving water in a bin from the dripping tap to do the dishes proved the point. Smoothing Bob’s hair back, trying to pet some calm into him, Melissa said, “It’ll be all right.”
Without looking up, Bob patted her on the hip and rubbed, “I know.”
“Sir, you’re next,” the tech announced.
“I know, I know,” Bob stepped forward. He felt sweat seeping through his suit. In the future he’d wait till he’d arrived and change at work. Part of him hoped the commute would get better over time, however, he knew himself too well. Even on the days his mind might stray from what it knew, held perhaps too tightly, Bob felt sure he’d always fear the Stream.
“Any solar flares today?” Bob asked the tech.
“Lets go buddy, the weather’s fine,” someone called from the back of the line. Murmurs of agreement rippled through the crowd. Old hands impatient at any delay.
Recognizing the consternation on a commuter’s face, the nineteen year old tech said, “It’s going to be a smooth ride.”
Swallowing hard, mopping sweat off his forehead, Bob nodded. These things look too much like coffins, Bob wanted to mention but impatient murmurs and tapping feet urged him forward without a word. Squeezing his eyes shut, he turned in the tiny space. He informed the tech he was ready with a quick nod.
The surge of power hummed in his ears. Sweat went cold across his body. He’d made sure to tell Melissa he loved her before leaving. At any second the machine would engage. He thought about the dry wall in the basement. Who would put it up when he didn’t come home? It felt like melting. The humming stopped. Bob tried to open his eyes. Nothing but white filled his vision. “I’ve gone blind,” he thought, “Thank god I’ve only gone blind.” Being blind certainly beat traveling the Stream, a relay of energy carrying commuters in particle bundles. At least blindness didn’t mean being scattered across the stars or reassembled improperly. One didn’t have to come back a freak with limbs in the wrong places. A few cells out of place and the brain misfires or the heart won’t beat or the skin isn’t thick enough to hold anything in or etc. His mind went over all the terrors that being blind seemed better than, all the worries that made him hate the commute.
And then colors reappeared, first as pinpoints, gradually in more defined shapes. Bob stumbled out of the Stream Port on Europa station. Fortunately, a tech caught him before he fell off the platform.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m not blind.”
The tech smiled, “First time I take it.”
“Well, you’re all right now. Have a good day at work.”
“I will,” Bob said, a weak grin on his face, “I will.”
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