The Ouroboros Ship

Author : T. N. Allan

There’d never been any protocols set in place for a disaster of this magnitude, no emergency course of action which might have retrieved the situation; but how could there have been? It wasn’t possible to make allowances for the unknown. Cromwell knew this to be true. Even while his mind struggled to find a way out, he knew in his heart that he was now so deeply lost within the darkness of the unknown, that he would never again feel the reasoned touch of reality’s light.

They’d known the risks, the probability of unknown dangers ahead. When the Misanthropy had become the first ship, the first man-made object of any kind, to hit lightspeed, there’d been no way of knowing what effects such a state would have on the ship or her crew; nothing but speculation. As they’d discovered, the universe didn’t care much for speculation.

It took a few moments for the effects of lightspeed to hit, as though the universe had briefly to play catch up to the ship, hiccuping forward to regain parity. But when they hit, they hit hard.

A sudden, uncontrollable anxiety swelled within every one of the two dozen crew, exploding into full blown panic seconds later. Everybody, Cromwell included, had cried out in terror, as though in fear of some unknown presence. Heedlessly, they’d attempted to flee, as if they could outrun their panic within the cramped confines of the Misanthropy.

Had Cromwell not been in such a heightened state of hysteria, he might have noticed sooner that lightspeed had not just affected the crew, but had also infected the fabric of the ship itself.

Eventually, realisation began to dawn on Cromwell. He’d been running far too long. When travelling faster than light, it seemed space and time took on strange properties, with both of the latter becoming as malleable as the former. . The ship’s access corridor could be traversed in a matter of minutes, yet he’d been running along it’s length for far in excess of that.

Minutes slipped into hours. Hours tumbled into days. Days descended into an indeterminate mass of time. Still Cromwell wandered through the infinite stretch of corridor, lacking either access or exit; the frantic cries of the other crew members fallen silent, leaving only his own breathing and the looping drone of the ship’s engines as accompaniment.

Eventually Cromwell’s legs gave way beneath him, exhausted from the arduous journey. Hunger clawed at the insides of his stomach, while his head pounded to stress’s rhythmic beat. Refusing to be beaten, Cromwell dragged himself along the unending corridor, ignoring the logical areas of his brain which screamed out at him to give up. It was only when he finally came across something different, that he began to wish he had listened.

Cromwell crouched in front of the body, ignoring the searing pain in his calves. His own eyes gazed back at him; dead, but unmistakeably his own. Due to the condition of the body, he’d failed to recognise it’s identity at first.

The body had been torn apart, as though set upon by some hungering animal. Given the unlikely-hood that a predatory creature had been born alongside the lightspeed loop, Cromwell was only too aware who had been using his carcass as a food source; and given both time and space appeared to be looping, he knew he’d have to give in to that hunger eventually. At least now he knew he could hold off it’s agonies for a while longer.

And when he finally did give in to starvation, he’d leave a perfectly adequate food source behind.


  1. observertim

    This is a clever story; I wasn’t sure where you were going, so the twist caught me by surprise. While I’m often grumpy about stories that travel “at light speed” (special relativity is in my blood), it seems to work well in this context. The story itself is enjoyable and thought-provoking.

    From a practical standpoint, why was the ship the first man-made object to travel at this velocity? Didn’t they do any tests? Mind you, it’s not like those tests would have any results.

  2. SimonJM

    Ahhh, the fun and games to be had when you mess with space-time 😉

    Small niggles: “Given the unlikely-hood” – there is actually a word “unlikelihood”. Regardless of any outcome, who the heck would name a ship “Misanthropy”?

  3. wothbora

    Excellent Story!!! Surprised by the ending, but a very nice twist…

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