Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
It’s a unique experience to be involved in an explosive space decompression. If you survive, you never forget the sound.
It’s like something turns the volume down sharply in the middle of the explosion. The screams, the shattering of glass, even the rushing wind, all suddenly has nothing to express itself with. The air becomes thinner and disperses. The medium through which noises travel expands to the point of non-existence and you’re left with the silence of space. Even while all around you people are screaming and flailing, alarms are wailing, and everything that was in the room is now clattering and colliding as it spins out into the starry blackness.
And I should know.
We were on our honeymoon in a Galactic Class 8 Yacht on the starboard promenade eating lobster while the musicians were setting up onstage. The bank of space-facing windows were massive. The official reports said there were four hundred and thirty eight people in the hall with us, relaxing and talking to each other. Most of us were wearing our fanciest clothes, pretending that we were wealthy even though this was a discount cruise. Alison and I had waited long to get married. She was thirty-five and I was going to turn thirty-eight in ten days. She looked beautiful as she turned to signal to a waiter for another coffee bulb.
Perhaps the ship was old. Perhaps it was poorly designed. Maybe a safety inspector was hungover and missed something at the previous inspection.
A sharp crunch like someone stepping hard on a champagne flute right by ear and suddenly the wall to my right became ‘down’ and we all fell into space. Fail safes failed, blast shutters jammed and circuit breakers broke.
That is why my nightmares are silent. When I wake up screaming, it’s from seeing my darling wife bloat, freeze, and rupture. In the dream, she screams as soon as the viewing plate shatters, pluming glittering glass dust into space, and keeps screaming as we are both pushed by strong forces into the black. Her hair whips crazily and she kicks like a first time skydiver, reflexively trying to get her balance in mid-air with no up or down. Her scream starts like a fire alarm and very quickly whips down to silence even though her mouth is still wide open. He throat is still vibrating but her voice can no longer travel to my ears.
Other patrons screams, the clinking of silverware and plates, furniture colliding with the instruments of the musicians, they all fade to nothing and the last thing I hear is my wife’s screaming. The last thing I see is her mouth filling with popsicle blood as her lungs shred in their freezing rush to fill the vacuum.
I see it often. Her mouth is a tattooed O on the front of my mind. The nightmare is down to two or three nights a week.
The sticky safety cables that fired out managed to grab me but they missed her. I was reeled in sharply like a fish and I survived. I was one of only six that did. All six of us were paid a lot of money by the company to keep quiet about the accident. We all agreed to take it.
I am back home now with no need to work for the rest on my life. I’ll never go into space again. I need noise around me at all times, even when I sleep.
I cannot stand silence.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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