Longevity Chapter 8: 3600
Knew I had forgotten something! Story Excerpt:
Longevity Chapter 8: 3600
I hate new ships. Especially this one. It's kind of a lonely place, pretty much on autopilot for so very long. I've spent years and years in and out of cryogenic stasis just to make sure the food supply doesn't run out.
For the longest time, I worked off of what was in the freezers. Designed to last a crew of two hundred for fifty years, I lasted longer than that before I'd eaten everything I could stand in there, and some of the rest. I've picked at it for the last couple of hundred years, but mostly, I just tend the garden now.
I call the ship my garden.
It's cool, and nice most of the time unless the sprinklers are on. The irrigation pipes can only do cold water, and there's usually a short when I start it up. All part of the challenge, though. I've worked out most of the kinks and removed anything that got waterlogged before. I've planted hundreds of trees in here, directly into the substrate of the ship. There's plenty of refuse that I've turned into perfect compost, so nothing is lacking there. I've also ripped out the floor in most of the rooms and installed sunlamps and started growing as much food as I can figure out how to grow.
I've got a field of corn on the third deck, and I've transformed the aquatic center into a giant lake full of cranberries. I've got orange trees, and I've got a good number of insects too to help me keep things going. The stings hurt at first, but I've toughened my skin with serious wrinkles and injections in the last few years, and pretty much nothing breaks the skin anymore.
I also started walking with a cane. Imagine that. I'm feeling old. I don't know if it's the abuse of being alone for so long or the fact that the air in the ship is smelling like stale, moldy bread, but it doesn't matter anymore.
The computer at the front started clicking a countdown about a week ago. I almost didn't notice it. The ship is moving so fast it's almost incredible, but out there in space, you can hardly tell. Occasionally we go by a planet, but it's usually only visible for a day or so. I got to where I liked to chart them. I'd record every channel of their television and radio, and take as many pictures as I could before we went too far, download as much of their Internet as I could, that kind of thing.
It would give me something to do for a few years at least.
I've probably documented a dozen civilizations in various levels of development. On a few planets, there were only cave people. On another, there was a fantastic bronze age going on. A few words were like they were in the 1980s. They never saw me coming or going.
None of them did.
The countdown, though. That got my interest.
I tapped the screen with my cane, really a dead and polished branch from one of the oak trees I planted in the main cargo hold.
A message appeared on the screen saying, "Stop that."
I waved it off. The ship tended to do this kind of thing. As its virtual prisoner, I had lost interest years before.
"Jacob," said the computer.
"We're coming up on it soon."
"I don't even know what you're talking about anymore."
"It's fairly spectacular."
I knocked on the computer monitor with my stick. It shattered the screen, but everything continued to work.
"Well, what's that got to do with my tomatoes, then? Eh?" I yelled and staggered around. I started crawling on the floor where I had a patch of pumpkins growing in a bed I'd made of an emergency escape hatch.
I started weeding, with my fingers, just to show the computer something I could still do with my hands that it could never do.
I was pulling out some clovers that must have come over from another patch on my shoes not too long ago. When I felt it, I had been trying to grow four-leaf clovers.
It was kind of lurch in my stomach. It had been so long since I'd felt the effects of slowing down that I hardly realized that we had come almost to a complete stop. The stars don't blaze past you when you're going at this speed, so I could have gone for weeks without realizing we weren't moving if I'd been asleep when the computer slowed us down.