I feasted on steaks and pork chops for six days, three meals a day. It took me 786 days to find the meat stores. Now, having finished the first container, I pondered container number two of 3,865 containers. This one was labelled "MEAT: Human Consumption: LaHoya facility, March 2415". The new container held bacon, sirloin medallions and rumaki. I decided to have some dessert while pondering which of the three I would make for lunch. Desert is a foil bag of Beef Stroganoff, two servings. The foil bag of dehydrated stroganoff is part of the seemingly endless supply of MRE's stashed throughout the ship. I pressed the red button to ignite the emergency stove; the flame sprang to life. I hold the small pot out behind me, catching the runoff of rain from the broad, giant, frond I'm sitting under. I let the water come to a boil and boil hard for six minutes. By the time it's done, by the time it's purified, there's just enough water left to rehydrate the stroganoff and make a small cup of freeze-dried instant coffee. Coffee was something else I have in abundance. Man, I'll tell ya, I could murder a Diet Pepsi right now.
I look around from my rock throne in the foliage; king of nothing, ruler of nowhere. Aside from green and brown tree trunks, the only thing else to survey in my domain is the reassuringly depressing glint of light from the hull of the ISCS Homesteader. It was supposed to take a ready-made community to a new world, a new life; someplace where food could be produced in abundance, where water could be had at the turn of tap. I have to admit, the guidance system may have crashed the ship on the wrong planet but its a world that meets all the requirements. Growing shit is easy here. The water, never a problem. The hull shines in the misty light that comes through the canopy of jungle-like leaves. I stare at it, wishing as I had wished a thousand-thousand times before, that I had forgotten to check one last pod, one that was still functioning. *sigh*. At least the hull survived, though it mocks me. The composite alloy they used to construct it will never rust, the hull will never be 'not' shiny.
The immense bulk of the ship towers in the distance. It was the first one, the first 'ark'; a symbol of an inchoate exodus from famine and thirst. I'm not really sure how long it had travelled before crashing here, or how long I had been in stasis. I don't even know where I am. All I know is that my stasis pod opened up and I woke up alone. All of the other units in my section had failed a long, long time ago. The withered and dried out corpses showing the occupants had not died in their sleep, unable to open the pods from the inside. It took me a week to audit all the capsules in all the holding bays. There were one hundred holding bays for the stasis pods, with five hundred pods per bay. After the first couple thousand corpses, I lost hope of finding anyone alive. There were 49,989 capsulated corpses in total. After checking the first thousand, the rest were merely perfunctory observations to satisfy my need-to-know. I found ten more petrified corpses on the bridge, they appeared to have died on impact, based on the aged smears of blood. Doing the math in my head, that accounted for everyone.
The Red Dwarf, Barnard's Star, was where we were supposed to land. The planetologists said we would find a semi-arid world with high alpine regions and arctic meadows in the north. My first time outside of the ship, I knew that either they were wrong or the ship had landed someplace else. When I came outside, there was no orange light. Instead, it was light like Earth. That meant I was on a planet orbiting a Yellow Dwarf. This planet, or at least the region I had awoken in, was jungle. Very tall canopy trees, plus very low canopy fronds. The ground was dark peat moss, it would have been a farmer's dream, had any farmers survived. The only real issue I had, besides the thumb sized mosquitoes, was the rain.
Every, single, rotten, stinking day.
The rain never stops. Sometimes it's light and spritzy, sometimes it's a deluge. The only upside was that the canopy overhead is so strong and heavy, it's easy to find dry ground. Dry, humid, ground. You just can't move around much. The place stinks as well. It smells like wet peat bog, with a bit of wet dog thrown in. Oh, yeah, did I mention that none of the livestock or domestic animals survived either? Their mini-stasis pods (pets) and massive stasis pods (bovine's, equine's, etc.) had all failed as well.
So, here I sit. I'm on the top of a cliff overlooking the most magnificent waterfall you've ever seen. It has to be at least 300 metres high. The trees and fronds are so large that the waterfall and pool far below me are permanently in shade. My mini stove is about to stuff it from lack of fuel. I might be able to ignite it two or three more times, and run it long enough to boil water. After that, I'll have to sort out a holder thingamabob to put the pot on, over the open fire. Yes, I have a fire pit for cooking up the steaks and pork chops. There's lots of dried out dead-fall under the thick canopy of the tree's, so getting a fire going is never a problem. I'm not sure how the rumaki will fare with open flame, but fortune favours the hungry.
Did I mention how lonely it gets? It gets lonely when you are on your own, God knows where in the Universe, on a planet devoid of life more intelligent than a funny looking purple beetle that can mimic facial expressions ... surrounded by 49,999 corpses. The corpses may be in their stasis pods, but I did check every single one of them. So, yeah, the corpses are in my head as well.
A year after I landed, I found where they stored the fruit. It was irradiated, so even after opening the containers its in, it lasts a long, long, time. I took an apple and carved a face in it. Then I carried it around everywhere with me, even giving it a separate rock to sit on, around the campfire. I called the apple the Doctor. I talk to it. It doesn't talk back. When it finally starts to rot, I bury it in the nearby clearing, then carve a face into a new apple. My only friend regenerates when it dies. That's why I call it the Doctor. On the upside, I now have a burgeoning grove of apple trees. Tending them brings me about the only joy I have in my new life. I'm quite proud of them. However, being the only one to eat the apples of a whole grove means either I'll never need a doctor or I'm soon going to need a dentist.
I think that's the worst of this. The part about being alone. The only human on a planet of 49,999 corpses. I got the emergency beacon going within a couple weeks of landing, but that was over two years ago. So far, nothing. Not even a dit, a dot, or a dah on the receiver. I did get the guidance system up and running for like, thirty seconds. I still don't know where I am, but from what I saw, I don't even think I'm in the Milky Way galaxy anymore.
Pardon me, I need to finish my stroganoff and coffee.
Thanks for waiting.
Now that the mostly protein breakfast is done, it's time for another exciting adventure of doing the exact same thing I've been doing for almost two years; and will be doing for probably the rest of my pitiful life. Tend the apple orchard, gather and purify four gallons of water (I drink a lot of water), go explore the structures of the ancient civilization that are about three kilometres from here. So far, I've found nothing. Nothing survived there: no books, no art, no tapestries, no gizmos, no whizbangs, no widgits, no whosits, not even a single damn piece of green eggs and ham. I haven't even been able to find anything with writing on it, the place is that old.
I sigh heavily, I lean forward and put my hands on my knees, I push myself to a standing position. Oh, yeah, did I mention this planet is 1.27 Earth gravity? Everything is a chore.
I stand on the edge of the cliff and look down at the waterfall, at the swirling pool of lime-rich water far below me. I hoist up my rucksack, I tie the rope around my tattered jacket and pull the hood up, to keep the rain off my neck.
I look down at the water again.
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