Into the Silence — Chapter 23

The next several weeks were a cold, lonely sort of hell for me. No one came to visit. Apparently my scandal had left enough of them disgusted with me that there was no point in pretending to be my friend anymore. Likely all of them were “being there” for Mearr. Supporting her in her time of need. Protecting her from my betrayal.

Or whatever nonsense explanation they likely cooked up.

Tick-Tock did indeed bring my meals. It was mostly the nutrient-rich schlop that Chief served on the busy days, but it was smooth enough going down that I didn’t have to chew much, and for that I was thankful. I was determined to avoid the humiliation of taking my food through a hand-straw.

I didn’t bother asking Cap anymore questions when he came to check on me. It was easy to tell he didn’t want to talk. He would ask how I was and if there was any new pain. Then he would adjust some things on my bed and leave again.

I would say that tedium filled my waking hours, but the truth is that tedium would have been a welcome escape. Tedium at least implies some manner of activity, no matter how monotonous or repetitive. And any kind of activity, any kind of motion at all, would have been welcome in that room of blank, white walls.

For a while, I entertained myself by cataloguing the tools on the tables around the room. Tweezers, scissors, surgical knives, and the like. But by the time I could recite them in my sleep, it had long lost interest to me. Counting tiles on the floor lost its appeal within an hour. And I knew too much about the dangers of potential vision loss to stare at the overhead light in the hopes of inducing an hallucination.

It never occurred to me to ask for a book or anything. Tick-Tock’s visits were to bring food, and Cap’s visits were to check on my health. I had no interest in talking to either of them beyond that, and my impressions of their attitudes toward me were such that I must have assumed they wouldn’t respond favorably to any request I made. So I never thought to ask.

Later, I would hear stories from the rest of the crew of how they had spent time in the medical bay as if it were a mini-vacation. The food was never great, sure, but the endless free time had been seen as an opportunity by many of them. Guhle had even written a book while bedridden.

I, however, was not so blessed. I lacked even my Bible to distract. So, inevitably, my time abed eventually led me to prayer, as talking to myself — or whatever else was out there — was the only option I had left to actually mark a change in time.

“God,” I would say. “I hope I get out of here soon.”

Eventually, that would become, “God, I thank you for saving my life,” in an attempt to placate the eternal being so that he would reward me with my prior request.

Following that, I began to use, “God, I hope time isn’t standing still in here,” as a means of amusing myself by making light of the horrible dread that was filling me in the hours between Tick-Tock’s visits.

By the end, though, I spent my days and nights with closed eyes muttering, “God…God…God…” over and over again, as if measuring the rhythm of some song only I could hear. Keeping time for the musicians in my head.

***

At the end of it all, I was hollow. Though my body was healthy again — or, as healthy as it was going to get lying in a recovery bed — my soul had grown hollow, shriveled by what seemed like decades alone, hearing only my own voice.

But what really killed me inside, after all that time in Cap’s medical bay, was that I had little better to look forward to coming out. I had been alone in there, yes. But I had been alone out of necessity. Now that I was out, dragging myself up and down the corridors of the ship once again, I couldn’t help but feel myself sagging under the crushing weight of the realization that I had nothing to look forward to.

My Bible? It would bring me little solace after spending my days and nights realizing how alone I was while whispering “God…God…” into the silence.

My work? It was always little more than existence to me. A thing to do. The highlights had been the special projects that the other crewmembers would invite me to assist them with. I doubted that I would ever see any of those again.

Mearr? Don’t even think about it. Things were over between us. I knew that. Things were over between everyone and me. GUL had betrayed me. I had betrayed Sys. Em would frown upon my betrayals. And Gator would side with Cap in condemning my destabilizing presence aboard the ship.

It was the same situation I had seen myself heading toward before the ion storm. Only now it was out in the open more violently and divisively than any slow, gradual revealing could have created. Worse yet, all of us were trapped inside without hope of running into another vessel or even staring out into the void with our sorrows. We all had to look at each other every day and face this ugly truth of despicable actions.

My one saving grace. The one thing that I thought at the time might make it bearable, was that I had a pile of work to go through when I got out of the medical bay.

Most of the rest of the crew had finished their maintenance and repairs on the ship during the month and a half I had been bedridden, while only doing the bare minimum of the cleaning that was supposed to be my job. As a result, I had weeks worth of extra work to go through while the rest of the crew sat around in the lounge, moping over their own inactivity.

And so I descended into the depths of the ship, where I would spend the rest of the storm alone with my silence.

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