tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Last Post

The Last Post

byJack T. Ladd©

Sol 28

The last web-log from ‘Searcher’

Death is a drug.

Not death itself, but the certainty of life extinguished.

I am in a privileged position. Unlike the condemned man awaiting execution, I have no hope of a last minute phone call that will save my life. I look out through the plate glass window that is the Internet, at the crowd awaiting the inevitable conclusion of my life, my death, with absolutely no hope of a last gasp reprieve.

I get to experience the power of this drug called death fully aware. Not for me does it creep up unannounced, stealthily snatching me away in an instant. Thankfully I will be spared the extended, cruelly prolonged incoherent agony of a lingering end. No pain either from wallowing through hope eternal, that evil saviour of the hopeless cause, the cursed refuge of denial.

So, in this sense I, and my crew, am blessed. We are the walking dead. Death is a certainty we have now accepted. The acceptance has freed us, allowing this drug to be fully absorbed. Uniquely, we get this chance to know that our demise is imminent and certain beyond doubt or hope. Despair is pointless, salvation unthinkable, rescue impossible. We are, then, free in a very real sense from vanity and deceit, hope or redemption. Free to absorb. Free to think and love without worry or consequence. Death has the ability to focus the mind and body in a way nothing else can.

As commander of this ship, my duty to my crew is now over. Captain Turner – John - our pilot, has made his own peace and is now alone in the cockpit of ‘Searcher’. I, just like Jane - Colonel Sharp - have no close ties elsewhere. It could have been far worse. We could all be leaving wives, husbands and children, but we were specifically chosen for this mission because we do not, and because we are old.

All of us are over fifty, not the sort of youthful image you might expect for such a hazardous and brave new adventure. But we are all hugely experienced, with a depth of useful knowledge invaluable for this challenge. Plus we have one very special credential for this mission: we are all expendable. We have repaid our training investment to our masters with handsome dividends. The young men and women who may follow us - will follow us – of that I have no doubt, will learn from our end. They will survive.

Jane, (there really is no point in titles anymore) and I have been together now, in a true sense, over the past two days. We have known each other for years of course, back in the time when worldly considerations kept us apart. Now, having no future allows us to say and think, expand on what we truly feel. In our loss, we have found each other. No question, the experience is worth the price. Our regret is the lack of time available to us. So we have crammed a lifetime into two days.

In the past we have both tried various drugs, forcing our emotions and sensations to other levels, heightened to extremes, but these were pale imitations of what we have now. That first time, two Sol days ago, was revelatory. John discreetly partitioned off the front part of the ship, placed headphones over his ears and lost himself in Mozart. We lost ourselves in each other.

Touch was extraordinary. Free of intellectual or moral concerns and now, at last, free of clothes, we floated as fresh new lovers; our fingertips light and delicate as they traced each other’s form, exploring features and treasures forbidden for so long. As we pressed against each other, our bodies melding, entwined, the urge for new life sought its place to grow, unleashing seed in knowing futility. We floated weightlessly, the very first lovers ever to do so, and we raged against the injustice of it all, devouring each other with a desperate need and fulfillment. Our senses filled the void as we became one. No bed to lie upon, no sheets to entangle, we writhed and clung, touched and felt, physically and emotionally locked, we flew and pirouetted together in mid air, bouncing against hard bulkheads and unforgiving plastic, aware of nothing except each other.

Now, Jane places her hand on the cold steel of the useless protection that envelops us and shudders at the cold outside. My hand covers hers as we sense our destiny. We could have chosen a fiery death in the heart of the Sun, but no; we are explorers in life and now in death. It was not supposed to happen. Sun flares of this magnitude are rare. The engineers and designers had provided shielding for these eruptions, the predicted, expected low-level eruptions, but it was hopeless against such ferocity.

From our cramped place behind the lead shielding in our ship, we huddled together and hoped, prayed for the best. Not as brave astronouts, but as simple scared people. Pressed together, our bodies were the only warmth and comfort in this small, shielded area of the ship, because we all knew the end was near. Half of the United States was blacked out by the enormous Solar Flare that swept over the Earth - and through us. The lead shielding might just as well have been tissue paper. It was dark, the ship’s power shut off, all systems down to protect the circuitry from the radiation. We felt nothing, of course; the radiation swept through us with invisible deadliness. It was then that my hand found Jane’s. Her fingers entwined with mine with more warmth and comfort than I have ever experienced. John, who saw the touch, smiled the saddest smile I will ever see.

When the storm was over, the counters told their own story. The radiation dose we absorbed far exceeding any possibility of continued life. In less than a week, we will be dead. Half way to Mars, this ship will be full of nothing but ghosts.

So, we have made the adjustments, the ship will use Mars’ gravity to slingshot us towards the Stars, where our bodies will travel for eons to places we will never know. The radiation sickness is already upon us. The time has come for us to release the atmosphere and relinquish ourselves from any further pain. We will not suffer. It has, in truth, been an honour.

Farewell to all. Farewell, my Love.

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