So To Bed

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

2nd December 2016
It feels as if I'm falling into the stars. I'm on my back on Doon Bank, staring at Space. The stars have never looked so clear, their perfect bright whiteness stunning against the black sky. I can see the different distances - imagine the vastness between, so the sky looks three-dimensional in a way I've never seen before. Is it because it's the last time I'll see it like this? I try to imagine sleeping, for all that time. A Princess pricked by a needle which is a syringe, a prickle held not by a wicked witch, but by a lab-coated Lorimer employee; someone whose name I'll never learn.

Milo is here next to me, holding my hand in his as if to let go would mean me falling into that blackness. It is as if we are hanging over Space, looking downwards, mere gravity keeping us pinned to Earth, so I thought-weave a little, imagine that he's the only thing keeping me here.

And in a way, he is.

Tomorrow I've got to give my final decision. All week, no, all month, I've been asking the world for signs. If there are an even number of people at the next bus stop, I'll go. If I can hop all the way to the end of the road, I'll stay. If Milo calls me after ten, I'll go. If he calls me before ten, I'll stay forever. If it rains this afternoon, I'll go. It's quite impossible to live like this. The Counsellors try to help, they really do. They won't let you go if you are even a tiny bit unsure, and they can tell. At that moment, when you have to say yes or no, they have you all wired up and they can tell if you're lying. If you try to lie, you can't go. If you tell the truth, and it's a yes, you can go.

I've got to face them in fifteen hours and I have absolutely no idea what to do or say, There've been no clear signs, no helpful comments that have made me feel absolutely that one way or another is best for me.

I sigh my frustration to the air and Milo squeezes my fingers. 'No closer, then,' he says. It's not a question.

I don't answer him. Sometimes I ask myself, who would I be, if I didn't love Milo? Who would I be if I'd never met Milo? Where do I end, and he begins? At night, in my cabin, illegal and passionate, I can't tell which is me and which is him. Sometimes it's as if I kiss myself. I look into his eyes and I see me.

The stars' brilliance tempts me. If I could just let go, and fall into them... just fall into that vastness. Space would claim me and I wouldn't have to decide. Take me, then, I will that huge unfathomable void. Take me, and do with me what you will.

It's not the saftey issues. The Counsellors say everything is in order now. The last ship reached The Station no problem. There were recordings sent back, shared jubilance and success shining in every eye across the miles, connected by the Screens.

The future isn't like I thought it would be, says my grandmother. She was born in 2010. Back then, she tells me, we thought it would be hoverboards and flying cars and answers to the myriad of problems humans had created. But instead, here we are. And she'll wave a hand across barren land covered with water makers that don't work, sqautting over dying crops that can't grow. We knew we'd shot ourselves in the foot, she'll tell me, but we didn't know about the successes that would come as well as the failures. Still, she'll say, I thought it'd be all funny names and numbers like Sector 156 and Europa. Not just boring old ones like The Station and Counsellors. Old words, she'll grumble. Can't we get inventive with language anymore?

She wants me to go. The pride of having a family member who's succeeded at Lorimer Research is massive. She dines out on it every night. My mother is proud, too. But she doesn't want me to go. A father would be useful, but I came out of 'tube 93'. I invent one, sometimes, or I look at all the faces of all the men I meet, looking for my donor's eyes.

It worries me sometimes that Milo's eyes and my eyes are so similar. No tube babies are allowed to be together, just in case. Just in case of what, we've never been told, just as we've never been told about the full extent of the population experiments of the fifties, that ended with our creation. That was Lorimer, too, and that's another reason why I don't quite trust the jubilant smiles on the screens. Did they really get there? Or are they just actors, paid to pretend they arrived on a spaceship?

My thoughts are whirling.

I've tried to imagine going to sleep for five years, but I can't. I don't sleep much, none of us tube babies do. Nobody's ever explained why. It's helpful when you need to pass exams, and I'm incredibly well read, and Milo and I have most of our night hours together.

What if I wake up? What if I wake up, and I'm inside the capsule, and nobody can hear me banging on the glass, because nobody's there to hear me. Just computers, everywhere.

If you don't sleep, you age. And not just five years. You age until you are no longer alive. Something to do with spacetime.

I've never had a dream, either. That's one reason the tube experiments were stopped. We don't dream; we barely sleep. I overheard one of the scientists say I 'unnerved' him, once. My mother gets irritated with the term tube babies. You were never in a tube, she says. You are part of me and part of a man and you slept in a capsule until it was time to be born. No tubes. Tubes make me think of pipes.

She doesn't find my eyes unnerving, she says they are full of stars.

I look at Milo's and see nebulae, swirling magical colours. And I see love.

Milo didn't pass. Lorimer said he could try again next month. But next month's ship will head to a different Station.

We bathe in starlight through the whole long night; not sleeping, not talking. And in the morning, I've made my decision. It came to me like a vision; how I imagine a dream to be. I saw myself.

Milo and I can never be seen together. We part at the Lorimer forest boundary, far away from prying eyes. He can see my decision in my eyes and he understands. We don't linger on farewells, he and I part the same way whether for five minutes or for a month. We do it now: look so deeply into the spaces in each other's souls that nothing needs to be said. Nose to nose we stare until everything's complete. And then I kiss him, and I turn to go.

I don't look back.

They've called me 'entirely without sentiment', which, I know, is one of the reasons I've been chosen. They've wrong. I feel everything, but I feel it and let it go. We tube babies are different, we are more highly evolved. We feel things as they happen, and we know when things have to change. We accept what happens, and we make the most of every single situation. There are never any regrets, not with us.

The cameras pick me up by the North Gate and they send a jeep out to get me.

Inside, my family waits. They may have guessed where I've been, but nobody will say anything. Not this time. Not until they know what my decision is.


The injections never seem to stop. They're everywhere, attacking me, filling me with who knows what to protect me from who knows who. All the while I hear,

'great service to your country' and ' citizens of Earth will know your name' and 'brave woman' and 'helping your fellow humans' but all I can think is, what if I wake up?

For us, the sleep potion is stronger. I was told this but what if they get it wrong? If they don't give me enough?

I'm taken through to my cell and I try not to think about the expressions in my families' eyes. Their quiet pleading and surprised stares. They thought, in the end, that my love of Earth would win out. I try to tell them it's because I love Earth so much. We need to go; we need to bring back the minerals - magical potions form another part of space. If we lose any more of our atmosphere, everyone will be dead. If I work to bring things back that can heal the Earth, how can I not go? How can I turn my back? It is easier for me than them, but still, inside, I feel I will die of grief. I do not let it out and I don't let it show. Or they'll make me stay.

I pass the last test and then everything starts to happen fast; I'm taken to the cell, I'm washed and dressed in the proper stuff, I'm emptied, although I've hardly eaten in the last 24 hours so there's not much to take away. I'm injected all over again.

As they help me get inside the capsule (and I do see the irony, thought I try not to think of death) it is Milo's face I see. As the cool liquid starts to run into my veins, and the murmuring of the doctors gets softer and softer, it is Milo I hear. And suddenly I knew for certain - the way I knew I was going to meet him, before I actually did - that I would see him again. The thought stays with me, as I feel the first tendrils of that unknown thing, sleep, creep over me and steal me from Earth.

'Will I dream?' I ask, and I know that somewhere, sometime, that question has been asked before.

One of the doctors starts to say something but his face is contorted and his words lost as he swirls in my vision, becomes a galaxy, twisting and circling into a spiral filled with eyes and a nose and features that distort some more until he looks alien. I want to laugh; I want to go, I want to not be asleep when that ship takes off. I want to feel that massive force below me, the way grandmother told me it felt when she used to fly, before flying stopped.

'The roar of the engines and the speed... the thrill of take-off... the way you were pressed into your seat and then how you could look out of the window, down at Earth tiny and beautiful...'

I feel my capsule all around me, enclosing me on all sides, soft and warm. It must've felt like this when I was made. I feel the pillow under my head, filled, they said, with something that moves to keep your brain healthy, so the blood cannot pool in one place.

I realise I'm not falling asleep. I look up, and the galaxy-faces have become normal again. Whatever they've given me hasn't worked!

The lid's coming down, now, and I try to move to push it up but my hands are stuck. I'm paralysed. They've not given me enough, is what I think, over and over. I try to signal with my eyes but they've fixed, staring at the ceiling as the lid starts to close me in and -

'Number 357, gone to bed. Goodnight, brave soul. Sleep well.' says the doctor, as the lid hisses shut.