Short Story #1 – Warmth
Walter felt the sensation of light play across his fingertips. It was a haven of warmth in the cold dark recesses of the endless night. He moved his arms methodically through the darkness to explore the entirety of the light, to get the shape and size of it. He let the light touch and heat every part of himself.
A wailing mechanical voice inside his head stole the moment away. “Teleoperated radiation levels reaching critical levels.”
Walter mentally silenced the warning and tried to recapture the moment. The beam of light was the size of a pebble and was invisible in the darkness until you put something in its way to illuminate. He played his hands and fingers in the light.
She had always been the one they would send to pull him back when they thought he had gone too far.
The way she said his name was more of a statement. Or was is sadness, maybe both?
“I found it.”
“They know you found it Walter, that’s not the problem, now is it?”
There was a long silence as he watched the light travel over his leg and then down to his foot. He twisted himself so that it landed on the opposite foot and traveled back up the other leg. He could feel the heat beginning to build up inside him.
“Do you ever wonder why we do this to ourselves? Why do we keep going?”
There was shouting in the background. “How many times are you going to pull this stunt? Do you think you are the only one who has ever wanted a way out, the only one who has ever wanted to give up? You are selfish. Every person who gives up means more work for the rest of us.” She was nearly belligerent and sobbing.
For just a moment, he tried to see her perspective. Depression won out in the end. “Staying alive for the sake of making it slightly less miserable for everyone else who is alive just isn’t good enough for me anymore.”
There was crying. There was shouting in the background. No one tried to change his mind, this had happened to many times before. Walter silenced another radiation warning and used his remaining time to patch the small hole in the ship’s hull. He focused on what he imagined the stars outside looked like as he closed his eyes and tried to remember being warm.