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Creative Writing Forrest Maynock Short story

Crisis – A Short Story

A Sci-Fi short story from Forrest about a man who awakens to find himself alone on spaceship with an urge to escape.

Written by Forrest Maynock

///scanning condition of subject 309///scanning complete///vital signs are normal///scheduled circulation process activated///estimated time of subject’s free movement is approximately 24 hours///cycle 1850 initiated///

The man jolted awake from his deep sleep. He had no sense of awareness or time. He only knew bits of random information. The man was completely nude, and his body seemed sore and slow to react. The man’s surroundings started to come into the focus of his vision. What looked like a curved elevator door lay directly in front of him, and to either of his sides there were blinking lights and a sticky substance in which the man’s body was embedded; only his face free to move. From what the man could see he was in a large cylindrical object of some sort. As the man began to attempt moving he could feel a sharp tugging on his spine. He paused for a moment before forcefully pulling himself until he felt something detach from his neck, then all the way down his back. As he fully detached, the lights to his sides shut off. After a brief pause, the cylinder began to rotate and make whirring noises. The man instinctively froze when he felt the cylinder move. It took a few moments until the cylinder stopped its rotation and settled; the man could now feel blood rushing to his head as if he were standing upright. The man heard a slight hiss, and then he glimpsed a thin, horizontal strip of bright light slowly widening just in front of him. Only a few minutes had passed since the man had woken from his deep sleep, but he had already started to form words and thoughts in his mind. As the cylinder began to open only one thought passed through the man’s mind:

I NEED TO ESCAPE!!

Still from SOLARIS (1972), dir. Andrei Tarkovsky. Courtesy of Mosfilm and The Verge.

Subject 309, can you communicate?

“Umm, yes, I can hear you in my head…why is that?”

A chip allowing communication with the ship’s computer was placed in your head 19 cycles ago.

“The ship’s computer?”

Yes, you are speaking with the ship’s computer?

“Oh… ship?”

Interstellar vessel 7495 designated Quasar. That is the ship you are on.

“I can’t…I can’t remember who I am…who am I?”

You are subject 309. You are the lone human on this ship. The ship is auto piloted by the ship’s computer.

“You are the ship’s computer?”

Yes.

“What is my name?”

Your name is classified, you are subject 309.   

“I see…”

Subject 309 took a few steps away from the cylinder and turned around to look at the container he had been stored in. The solution that had held him place was a deep, dark green, and there were a number of tubular wires in the indentation that his body had left. Subject 309 reached behind his back and felt a number of metal plugs along his spine.

“What are these for?”

The preservation of your life.

A long pause ensued. Subject 309 had regained much of mental capacity, but still had little memory of why he was here. His instincts told him to run, but his body was still reprocessing the world outside of the tank. Subject 309’s mind was crowded with questions, but there was also a feeling of something sinister. Subject 309 needed more time to process the situation. Almost instinctively, one question flashed through his mind. 

“H-how long do I have?”

Approximately 24 hours. Have you remembered why you are here?

“No… But I know I’m supposed to go back in that tank, I don’t know why, but I know it’s going to happen.”

You should exercise. Body fitness is important for stasis.

“That cylinder is a stasis chamber?”

Yes. 

“Alright, well… give me some time to get reacquainted with my body, OK?”

Yes.

A few hours passed. Subject 309 had been released from the confines of the cylinder, but he still felt the urge to escape. He followed the computer’s orders, not wanting to raise any suspicion. The computer seemed to be able to pick up on Subject 309’s body functions. The computer pointed out heart beats, blood pressure, breaths per minute, and brain activity, among other biodata, but the computer did not seem to have omnipotence of any kind. Subject 309’s thoughts remained private and not a point of the computer’s inquiries and suggestions. 

Subject 309, your protein level is far too low for continued stasis, I suggest heavy protein intake in your remaining hours. 

“Yes, alright…” 

Protein can be found in the room to the left of your current location. 

“What sorts of food are there?” 

There is no food, only pills. 

“Ah…” 

Subject 309 struggled to find any tangible memories to cling onto; he only seemed to remember screams and struggling. The computer was the only thing Subject 309 had heard since waking up. One positive that Subject 309 noted was the lack of cameras. There were no mirrors or screens either, so unless there were hidden cameras, Subject 309’s movements within the given area could not be detected, but he couldn’t be sure. Wherever he was he wanted out.

“Computer, how long do I have left?”

7 hours, 23 minutes.

“I’m going to head to the gym.”

Fine, but you must hurry, you haven’t taken any of the required treatment shots yet.

“Shots? What shots?”

Vitamins and long term muscle relief for your continued stasis. You will also receive several miscellaneous shots for potential medical setbacks.     

“I need more details, and you still haven’t told me the point of any of this, why am I here?!?”

That is classified.

“That isn’t fine! I need to know more information!”

Sorry, but you need to calm down, your blood pressure is rising dramatically.

Subject 309 felt as though he were in a hamster ball. He was being monitored, but he could not figure out how or from where. After a few deep breaths Subject 309 made his move.

“Computer, I need to use the shower, I smell.”

Yes, please do so.

Subject 309 made his way to the shower room. This was his plan; the computer’s chip was likely only in his head for communication, so movements would likely be harder to detect. Subject 309 had seen a few unlabeled doors that could lead to a way out; one could lead to escape pods of some kind, or the computer’s central room. He would increase his heart rate by letting the water beat against his chest, and then make a run for one of the doors. His heart rate would be up from the hot shower, so running would not set the computer’s sensors off. It was simply a matter picking the right door and maintaining steady breath. This would be a risky endeavor, but escape was the only possibility for Subject 309. 

“Computer… I’ll be done in a few minutes.”

Take your time.

Subject 309 relaxed his body and prepared to run. The shower room was one big open area. The water sprayed from the ceiling in each corner of the room, towards the middle. Subject 309 stepped in the room. He began to breathe faster to force his heart rate to increase. His breaths labored as he started doing squats.

This is it! Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four three, two, one…go!

Subject 309 bolted out of the room. The nearest unlabeled door was close, but there was one a few doors down that felt like a better choice to Subject 309. Two more turns.

Right there! There it is!

Subject 309, are you attempting escape?

Shit, he must have a way of tracking me.

“Yes. And I’m really leaving, you never said I couldn’t leave, right?”

That is true. However, you will only see outer space. There are no habitable planets in the region.

“Cut the crap! There have to be escape pods or a cockpit!”

Negative. Efficiency. The ship needs none of these things. Allow for a demonstration.

Subject 309 twitched farther towards the door, but it was gone, and so was the floor, and everything. At first Subject 309 thought it was just the lights going out, but then he began to see stars in multiple directions. There was a long pause.

“What is this?”

Space.

“Why? How?”

The ship is nano-solar powered. Translucency is built into the ship’s system. 

“No…why? Why am I here? I don’t want to be here!!” 

Why? Do you wish to know? 

“Yes.”

Please provide the designated password. 

Subject 309 suddenly had an image flash in his mind. It hurt his head a little, but it left a clear answer to the computer’s request. 

“Phi. Kappa. Green. Zeta. Yellow. Haruki.”

Password accepted. Initiating memory retrieval. 

Subject 309 felt a sudden rush of some kind of energy, and then pain. Indescribable pain. It tormented him. Memories began to flash in his mind at random, but none of them made any sense. Screaming was all that filled the air. After a few seconds the hallway rematerialized to its former state. The screaming remained.

Subject 309, can you function.

“N-n-no! Y-y-y-you b-bastard!”

Understood. The ship’s computer will take control of your functions and return you to your chamber.

“Ah-ahhh, no you ca-“

Subject 309 had no control over any of his motor functions, but the pain was gone. His body began to walk back to the stasis cylinder. The memories from before faded quickly after the computer took control. Subject 309 could watch his body return slowly and precisely to the stasis chamber. As his body approached the cylinder, it opened, revealing the same imprint and cables he had left hours earlier. Still without control, Subject 309’s hands attached the cables as his body backed into the gooey substance. Subject 309 wanted to escape, but that was now impossible. As the chamber closed Subject 309 slowly lost consciousness. His last thought was of an immense tree growing in an even larger enclosure filled with many people observing the massive tree in silence. 

///subject 309 has failed the memory regeneration process for the 776th consecutive cycle///this will be the final attempt to return the subject to a functioning state of being as per subject 309’s orders initiated during cycle 1057///the subject’s consciousness is complex///deterioration of the mind is uncontrollable///only fragmentations of vital information seem to have survived the strain of time///the computer concludes that subject 309 will never regain his full memories or state of normalcy///this ship’s mission at this time is failure///no habitable planets have been encountered since departure from Earth///the computer concludes that return to Earth is the only option///time since departure from Earth: 27,750 Earth years///estimated return time to Earth: 25,000 Earth years///initiate///

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