It was early and I felt tired, although not hung over. The bed hung over me like a giant blanket, waiting to swallow me up. Something disturbed me, but I didn’t know what. I turned over to look over to the side of the bed only to find Periclum’s face staring back at me. My eyes wide fixed on his. His eyes turned into a smile and then it felt like he shouted good morning. I screamed and pushed myself back. Breathing heavy I turned back to Periclum as I realised what had happened.
“Sorry James, I was trying to gently wake you up.” he looked at me as if he had some great news to tell. “The Galactic Union have finished their investigation on the cargo ship you were on!”
I looked at him confused “That’s great but why does that concern me?”
Periclum continued, ignoring my apparent angry undertone, “They have told us they will allow us to go back there!”
I looked at him still confused, “oh good! I hope you find something.”
Periclum looked at me for a moment and tilted his head, “We won’t find anything, the Galactic Union is thorough. They told us that the data that would help bring the companions back has been destroyed. But I was thinking this is an opportunity for you and me to figure out more about what happened to you!”
I looked at him for a moment, trying to register what he was trying to say, “Wait, what? You want me to go with you? Back to that crazy, confusing place?”
He looked at me with innocent looking eyes, “Yeah!”
“No, no, no, no, no. I am not going back there. That for me is like every nightmare, dream and weird experiences all rolled into one!”
“James, it will help you bring closure” Periclum said with a concerned overtone.
“Periclum, that place is a place of nightmares! I can’t face it!”
“Yes you can James!” Periclum bounced onto the bed and hit me. “Does that hurt!?”
“Ow, yes, stop doing that” Periclum continued to hit me.
“How about this, and this, and this!”
“Periclum, stop! What’s your point?”
“I hurt you but you can still talk to me, you’re not afraid of me?”
“No, but you are…”
“It’s the same with that cargo ship. If you don’t face it, you won’t be able to put those crazy thoughts to rest!”
I looked at him confused for a moment, “Wait, how do you know so much of human psychology?”
He looked at me and sat, leaning against a pillow, “I don’t but I guess that your imagination is as wild as a Tuhingan’s. Which means your mind made the situation of what happened to you more wild than it was.”
I sat there for a moment, considering what Periclum had just said. It was silent in the room for a few seconds before I broke it with, “Periclum?”
“Why don’t I have a hangover?”
He looked at me confused, “Why aren’t you sick?” he asked me
“Yeah, I feel great yet I felt that we went crazy with the drinking last night.”
Before Periclum answered he seemed to consider it for a few seconds. “James, we get rid of any contaminants, defects or deficiencies in the drink when it got scanned for the EMC. You had the purest form of the drink last night that works as it’s supposed to with your body… At least I think it will work the same for humans….
Oh, I should also tell you that you may be feeling random moments of fear, paranoia and anxiety today with no real cause.”
“It’s the side effects of the Lenimen in your system!”
“Oh…” I considered it for a moment. “Yet another reason I shouldn’t go to that cargo ship today!”
“Come on, James! It will be fine. There isn’t anything there that is scary. It’s just a ghost of what it was.”
I took a deep breath and looked at Periclum. He looked back at me and moved his lips up in the corners with his fingers. I burst out laughing at the sight. “Is that your attempt at a human smile?” Periclum smiled back at me with his eyes. I paused for a moment and thought about the situation. After a few seconds I realised that I should face my fears and go to this place. “All right! Lets go!”
Periclum looked pleased, as much as any Tuhingan can. “Oh, fantastic. Quickly then! Get changed, I’ll wait for you in the corridor!” He said this as he got out of the bed and began moving to the door. Once he had gone into the corridor, it felt like the room fell into silence. I laid there for a moment and stared at the fabric that hung above my head, trying to get motivation to get up. I took a deep breath and pushed forwards. Sitting up, I realised it was the first time I could look at the room. It was a large, luxurious room. It had what looked to be a fire pit in the centre, lifted from the floor with what looked like blackened concrete. Above it was a chimney that looked like an upside down funnel. I could see a door next to the bed to a room that looked to be a bathroom. All the furniture around the edges of the room were made of wood, the walls were decorated with gold hieroglyphics with a red background.
My eyes soon came across the wardrobe and I approached. The handles were low on this wardrobe and it was a little smaller than the previous one I had in the environment. I had to bend down to open it. I went for some colourful attire. Went with khaki brown trousers, red shirt and a dark blue blazer jacket. Then left the overcoat I was wearing the day previous on a chair in the room. After I took some black, supportive, walking boots from the EMC and placed them on the floor. Materialising a toothbrush and toothpaste, I went to the bathroom to freshen up.
I entered the bathroom and it surprised me to find it looked similar to a bathroom on Earth. Everything appeared more plain. There was a wooden countertop with an enamel sink. Cupboards under with plain doors. Inside were wooden shelves and nothing stored. The toilet I could sit on and flush the toilet using a button. The tap on the sink also had a lever. There was a shower jutting out from the wall over a bath on the opposite side to the sink with twist knobs for taps. It reminded me of a power shower my father once owned. There were plain white tiles all above the top of the bath. It all felt so homely. The only thing that felt out of place was the fact there wasn’t any toilet paper and there was a bidet right next to the toilet. I brushed my teeth, did some business and cleaned myself up.
Soon I put on my shoes and coat, then I went out into the corridor to meet Periclum. He was wearing a dark blue t-shirt, some black trousers and black shoes.
I looked at Periclum, “The bathroom, it almost looks like it is from Earth.”
“It’s the one part of your room that was renovated for you. Re must have found out some information to make it more like a bathroom from Earth.”
I was a little confused where he would have taken that information from, but soon shook it off and looked around. The corridor looked like it was decorated much the same way as my room. With gold hieroglyphics all down the corridor, from floor to ceiling. Periclum stood up. “Ready then!”
“Yup” I replied as I was watching Periclum begin to move down the corridor. I followed him down and was admiring the luxury and quality of the building. Under my feet it felt as though I was walking on carpet, but the floor looked to be some wood texture. Like it was made of giant planks coming from giant trees. We soon got to some simple wooden doors that opened as we approached. It revealed a small room that was white inside. Above the door there was a number displayed on the wall. It was bright like an LCD display but there wasn’t any display, only writing on the wall paper.
“I called the lift before when I saw you come out of the room. Come on!” Periclum said when he turned and looked at me from within the lift. I was trying to read the number above the door, but I couldn’t quite make it out. It was fuzzy and looked as though it was trying to be two shapes at the same time. One that was a number I know and recognise, the other, something I didn’t. Once inside I saw that there was a framed panel of numbers and names. They were framed in this carved frame with a dark wooden background. I glanced at the numbers and names. They were just as fuzzy and confusing as the number on top of the lift door. Periclum pressed the bottom number. The lift closed its doors and we felt it go down.
“I can’t seem to read this writing in the lift,”
He looked confused at me for a moment. “Hmm, perhaps your mind is requesting that you see the original, while also wanting to know what it means. It doesn’t work with writing.”
“I guess, I find everything is beautiful here.”
“Hmm, instead of focusing on the beauty of the writing, try just understanding it.”
I stared at the writing and it appeared in English. It relieved me. The lift continued to move down and I could see each name light up as the lift moved down. I noticed there was a name for each floor. There was one named ‘The Liberty’, one floor named ‘The Drunken Hole’, even one named ‘The River’, whatever that meant. I looked down to the bottom button where Periclum had placed his finger. It read, ‘The Temple Subway’. I looked at Periclum.
“The Temple has its own Subway?”
“Yes James, the Rehew built this to be an entertainment place. When they were drunk, they wanted to get home quickly.”
It wasn’t long until the lift stopped and opened its doors. We stepped inside the Subway tunnel and the lights came on, startling me in my tired state for a moment. It was a large Subway, made to cater many people. I saw sofas, rugs, bookshelves with books and even toilets down there. It looked just as luxurious as upstairs, with gold covering around the doors to the pods, and black hieroglyphics covering the large concrete walls. There were several places for lifts to come down but there weren’t any stairs that lead to the surface.
Periclum went straight to a vacant pod and beckoned me to follow. He turned to me, “First we will have breakfast with the Captain in the canteen on the bridge. She wants to see you again, especially now you are better!” he said, I replied with “I look forward to seeing her” and got into the pod behind him. We strapped ourselves in and were soon off. This time the pod started and twisted around a few turns. After around a minute of turning around this turning, we soon came to a junction where I saw another pod whizz by.
“Looks like someone else is going to the bridge.” At that moment my grip tightened on my seat. I felt like I knew what was coming. We soon came round into the tunnel, which the other had just passed on and sped further down. We came to a ramp that headed down into the tunnel below. Once we went down the ramp we were going much faster in this tunnel with the lights in the tunnel speeding past us. Once again I was thrown around my seat as we went around bends and changed tracks. I felt us slowing, I was being thrown forward into the seat belt and soon, as we came into the station, we braked hard. We were soon slowing to a turtle’s pace as we came to the platform.
The platform was the same as it was when I first saw it. Periclum was getting out and stood on the platform waiting for me. I struggled with the seatbelt to get out, pulling hard it came free. This time when I was getting out I didn’t feel so sick, just hungry. I struggled out of the pod feeling like an old man and held onto Periclum as I stumbled onto the platform. I was glad to be on stable ground.
“It will be nice to see the Captain again. I felt like I didn’t get to know her the first time and I was a mess.”
“What do you like to eat?” Periclum asked as we were beginning down the stairs and then the corridor.
“I fancy a bit of steak,” I replied “steak with pea’s, carrots, a bunch of vegetables and fries.”
“Hmm, you must tell the chef what all of that is. Hopefully they will understand. It all sounds very exotic.”
I burst out laughing at the thought of steak and chips being considered exotic foods. “That is more of a dinner time thing. I will just order toast and eggs.”
Periclum gurgled, “that will be much easier for the chef to prepare.”
Our conversation continued about Tuhingan food and human food. Before we knew it, we were at the canteen. We entered a large room that could clearly seat two hundred people, and there was around one hundred Tuhingan in there. There weren’t many aliens of other races, only two apart from me. On the opposite wall from us I could see box cutouts into the wall that was coated in metal. It drew the eye since it contrasted so much to the plain wooden panels that seemed to decorate the walls of the room. To the right there were large windows covering the whole wall, looking out into the centrifuge. To my left was a bar and a Tuhingan behind serving customers. Behind her was a kitchen with a chef that appeared hard at work.
They made everything for Tuhingan’s, the tables, chairs, bar, EMC machines, everything was child size. I then saw someone approach one of the box cut outs in the wall opposite that I was sure were EMC machines. The sound of wind filled the hall as flashes came from in front of the Tuhingan standing at the wall confirming my hunch.
“Periclum?” I asked.
“Why is it you have a kitchen and someone serving if you have EMC machines on the wall?”
“We are social people James, It’s nice to ask someone about your food requirements and to talk about anything regarding food. Plus some would argue that cooked meals taste better.” He was saying all of this while we were walking across the canteen, down a set path in the centre of the room. We soon came to the wall of EMC’s, but Periclum didn’t stop at one. He continued walking down towards the bar and I noticed a door to the right of it.
“The Captain is looking forward to meeting you again. The first time wasn’t the best and she knows that.”
“Thanks for reminding me.” I said, ashamed at what I was like. We came to the door next to the bar and Periclum went to hold it open for me. I entered to find a room that they had decorated the same way as the previous room. However it seemed to have a large video screen covering an entire wall on the right. On the screen were alien fish swimming in an ocean under water. On the left side of the room was another bar with direct access to the kitchen and the chef. They decorated the opposite wall to me the same as the canteen with a single EMC machine in the middle. In the centre of the room was a large oval shaped table that could seat at least ten people. A chair that sat next to the Captain was wider than the others..
The Captain was sitting there at the opposite end of the table from me with smiling eyes. She was in the middle of eating what appeared to be green vegetables with some eggs drooping over the top of it.
“Are you on your own Captain?” Periclum began.
“Yes, just going over the reports. Please sit…” she gestured out to the large chair at the table while looking at me. I sat next to her awkwardly, nervous about meeting her again. Periclum sat in the chair on the other side of her. “The chef should be out in a minute. She is wonderful and makes the most fantastic dishes.” She continued as we sat at her table. “So James, I hear you are going back to the Nkri cargo ship?” She said while settling back down into her seat with me next to her. I stretched my legs out on this low chair and wriggled until I felt comfortable. “It’s a very brave thing for you to do, especially after everything that has happened. I hope you get some closure.” she said as she looked at me with concerned eyes.
“It wasn’t completely my idea!” I was attempting to move the focus onto Periclum rather than myself in any way possible. But it was clear that this meeting was about me.
“Well who’s ever it was, I am still glad you are facing that. I wish that all the different species could go back, but then most of them would be unpredictable. They are already finding it hard to settle on this ‘magical spinny land’ as some of them call it.”
At that moment I felt terrible for the others. I hadn’t even given them a second thought, and some of them took care of me in the Myrmekes. “I will have to visit them myself at some point. Make sure they are okay and try to help bring them round to the idea that they are in a safe place.”
The Captain looked surprised for a moment. “You seem better James. That would be a great idea. What did you have in mind?”
I could see that she was fishing for something in particular. Guessing that she wanted to make sure I knew what was going on enough to get others to better understand the situation. I thought about the question for a moment. “I can take a group of them, sit them down and ask how their stay has been so far. Try to explain that this ship is not magic and you Tuhingan are the ones that are keeping it going. I can try to create science lessons to teach them about the science behind the g-forces produced from a circling object. Explain about the Higgs field and a variety of other things that I know from my time on Earth. I was a scientist and so I feel it will be great to use that knowledge for something.”
She moved her head side to side for a moment with smiling eyes. “I think that could help settle a few of them well. So I guess you could say that this would be a self-help group to soothe them?” I nodded in agreement.
“He means to say, ‘yes!’” Periclum explained.
“Oh, yeah.” I continued.
“Interesting idea James, but you would need to be a calm figure for them to turn to. You will have to deal with some tough situations and you only just got on top of your own emotions.”
I thought for a moment, contemplating on what she said, “Wouldn’t that fact mean I know better what they have been through? Be a better candidate to guide them as I am struggling with similar emotions?”
“James, these are all different aliens with different emotions. I don’t think they will feel the same way you do. However, there isn’t any harm in trying. We can give it a go for a week and see how you do. How does starting next week on Monday sound?”
“Sounds good!” I replied with a smile, knowing that this will give me a sense of purpose and recenter myself. The chef came out at that moment apologising about the delay. He asked us what he can get us. Periclum went first with the order. He ordered a dish I didn’t understand and drinks that were alien to me. I wanted something familiar, something I craved but was easy for the chef. “I would like eggs on toast please”. To my surprise, she understood and wrote it down. “Can I also get some orange juice?” She looked at me for a moment.
“Is that a fruit?” The surprise of her understanding eggs on toast made me hopeful. That question crushed those hopes. “A citrus fruit!” I replied. She gave it a thought for a second. “Would you say it is a nice mix of sweet and sour?” I looked at her for a moment, thinking about what I should say to get something similar to orange juice. Then I realised that it wasn’t worth it. “Sure.” I smiled back. She looked at me with a tilted head for a moment and then said, “Sure, I’ll get you something similar.”
She left after that and I was excited to see what she will deliver. It would have been easier to go to an EMC to get my breakfast, but this one-on-one experience was a nice change. It felt exciting and familiar to think she may not have understood me at all, or there maybe something not right with my order.
“How long has she been a chef here?” I asked, trying to weigh up the risk.
“A few weeks, I think. She had some time on her hands so she volunteered here!”
I looked at the Captain for a moment. “Volunteered?”
“Yeah, there are quite a few volunteers now. Each one taking one shift per week, more or less.”
This conversation took me back to the conversations I had with Re and Periclum the night before. I remembered how everything was democratically socialist, if you could call it that. There was a hint of capitalism with the energy credits that you can earn to run energy intensive projects. But everyone gets all their needs met and enough energy credits to materialise and eat whatever they wanted. I guess being a chef on a ship able to materialise any food meant the Tuhingan volunteer, just because they enjoy being a chef.
“Do many volunteer?” I asked.
The Captain replied, “Oh yes, this whole ship works on volunteering. I mean there are few jobs that are necessary and those who do them earn energy credits. But most other jobs are unnecessary.”
I looked at Periclum in a confused fashion. “I don’t get paid James, I enjoy the adventure and danger.” he said to me. It was shocking for me at that moment, realising that Periclum risked his life to gain small bits of information and that job isn’t considered necessary for the Tuhingan. “It’s the boring jobs that people get paid for, like drone mechanic… Eh” he seemed disgusted at the thought of becoming one.
“Does Re earn energy credits?” I asked the room.
Periclum replied, “No, but he is often gifted energy rich materials that his guests give him. He can then claim energy credits by dematerialising them and adding to the energy to the reserves.”
The food then came out and the chef laid it all on the table in front of me and Periclum. I had this very large egg drooping over this smaller piece of toast and then more toast on the side. There was a mixture of herbs and spices over the egg. She also brought out a glass of pale yellow liquid and placed it on the table. I was hungry and ready to dig in. I tried the egg and toast. The bread was a little different to what I was used to and had a little more of a bitter taste. It also had a bit of a sweet twist that balanced the bitterness. The juice was sour, a little like lemonade, however had a complimentary sweet taste. The juice tasted very different to anything I had tasted before. However, it was all very enjoyable.
The conversation continued between us all about the day-to-day operations of the ship and my future. There were many things I could do, many projects I could get involved in. There was a database where people can post different jobs, projects and present their group. It sounded like a cross between Facebook and Trello, however it was focused on volunteering and organising people.
The meal must have lasted for around half an hour and it was soon time for me and Periclum to leave. I felt that it went well with the Captain and I learned better who she was. It felt good to prove that I wasn’t the person she first met.
“James, make sure you register yourself as soon as you get a chance. We need to get you settled in The Liberty!” I nodded and continued out with Periclum.
“She seems pleased with you,” Periclum said as we walked out of the room. He continued to lead me back through the canteen and we began down the corridor. Our conversation continued about what I could do on the ship. He had many suggestions from helping at The Temple to helping with drone maintenance. We both agreed that I should think about it and that I should look at the database when I can. Just at that point we were walking around a curved corridor that curved to the right. Following the right wall, we came across a small platform sitting in a small alcove. Periclum climbed up onto the platform, beckoning me to join him.
“Just to prepare you, you are standing on an EMC platform.” Periclum said as I climbed up. “Get ready!” I looked at him confused but stood facing the same direction he did. We faced outward from the platform and I felt like I was in some Star Trek episode. Just then doors slide open above my head, to the right and left of me. I turned to see there was one behind me. When I turned back I was surprised by one that came down from the ceiling, looking like a camera looking at me.
My body froze. For a moment my heart was in my throat and fear took over. I then relaxed my mind, trying to convince myself that this was all normal. Then there was the sound of wind and light grew stronger. the surrounding environment fizzled out of existence, similar to loosing a signal on an analogue television.
Ohh I do love my feedback, how can I improve?
Tell me what I can do better!
Where do my challenges lie? Please, tell me.