Author: Lisa Jade
It always takes a few moments to remember where I am.
As I wake from a fitful sleep, my eyes fixed on the inside of the tank, it comes back to me. What this place is. What I agreed to.
What life is like now.
When the System boots up there’s a kick of electricity in my gut, and a sharp jolt as the computer finalises the connection. It traces its way through my body, tracking my decreased heart rate and low breathing.
Then, there’s the pain. The sensation is incredible; like someone scraping the inside of my skull with a hot needle. Initially, I tried convincing myself that it was temporary and that I’d grow used to it over time. It didn’t happen. Instead, the pain clouds my mind, fogging my vision, making it hard to think.
Some days, I grow lucid enough to scream. It’s not that I intend to; it just happens. Any distress is quickly followed by a low mechanical sound and a needle prick in my neck, which somehow makes me fall silent again.
Today, I’m not screaming. My vision has come clear, too. It’s rare that those coincide. I shift slightly, surprised to find that I can even move my head a little.
Figures stand beside me in the tank, each one pale and skeletal. I imagine that I must look like that, too. Barely human. I try to remember how I used to look. Red-faced, plump, with a mass of red-brown curls. Freckles on my nose. I always hated them. Perhaps they’re still there somewhere, beneath my blanched, colourless skin.
Kyra had freckles. Her eyes were brown like mine, her hair strawberry blonde. There was a gap between her front teeth that showed every time she smiled.
My chest tightens at the vague memory, but I fight to quell it. Leaving home was the best thing I could have done. A thing of dignity.
Agony zaps up my spine, and I think it louder. Dignity.
Earth had no time left. Too much smog in the air. Too much plastic in the oceans. No settlement planets to move to. Just a bunch of hairless apes standing atop a dying rock.
We’ve been soaring through space for about a century now – ten dozen humans frozen in time, kept alive by computers and drugs. The ship is meant to find a new planet for us to rebuild the human race. But not everyone could go.
Was Kyra my sister? Friend? Lover? Why can’t I remember?
Suddenly, it’s too much. The tightness in my chest, the scraping in my skull. The sensation of something hot behind my eyes. Can people cry after a century in half-stasis?
In the distance, I hear beeps. The ship is scanning again, trying desperately to find somewhere suitable to land. I try to remember how long we’ve got before the fuel runs out entirely and we’re left to drift – but I can’t.
Over a hundred years, my memories have eroded. I remember flashes, faces, names. Occasionally I’ll remember something fully, but it never stays for long.
Who was that girl? The one with the tooth gap?
Another wave of pain. I hype myself up again. This is the ultimate dignity. I’m one of the select few chosen to save humanity. We’ll all be heroes someday. When we find a new home and rebuild. We’ll be the stuff of legends.
I close my eyes against the agony and wait for the drugs to kick in.