Traveling has been always exhausting. And not only because of the physical fatigue: that kind of atrophy taking over the body and piling up between the bones’ joints and muscles like scalded remains, but because of the overwhelming mental erosion. Vastly worse. Just as waking up after an endless night full of worries and eagerness, relentlessly, under there, into depths of dreams. And unable to remember any single one. To be turned over the madness. Not even years of training got you ready for that.
He has heard lot of stories about crewmen that ended in a madhouse after the three first dreams. Dreams. Nice word for that suffocating void of consciousness. Why did he think that it could be different anyway? Get undressed, be into a rush of shots and toxins, be connected to lots of wires and machineries, be capsulated into a glass case and sleep for years and years. Did he figure it would be just arrive and wake up just as after a refreshing nap? He doesn’t know what figured in fact. Waking over a new world, maybe, with the gilded orbit of an indescribable planet, twirling around its poles and oceans to millions revolutions, and suns growing and dying in a whirlwind of vastnesses, gone and yet to come. Not that sideral blackness spreading out the window, where found himself every time he came around. Nor that damn quietness disrupted just for the long wheeze of his capsule when he wakes up every decade, or the sequential beeping of the machinery working like a clockwork.
Into that darkness, hardly enlightened by the blink of circuits working steadily on the walls and panels, he seats himself exactly at 03:00 am., on April 15, every ten years, and waits the long slumber’s drunkenness and the first movement’s pain be over. Then he stands up slowly, inspects the rest of the capsules to check any anomaly, according to the procedure, and looks at those other faces faded behind the steamed up pane, trapped in their dreams. Were they perhaps dreaming? Did he have dreams? Was he dreaming just right now?
And that single thought keeps him on hold again, beyond every possible giddiness, known or to know. A bitter and disgusting sick feeling, from which he rids himself taking up the rest of his time to tune up everything: adjusting here and there, verifying this and that, ensuring that everything will be perfect till the next duty. He walks through every aisle and hidden corner of that purring space cetacean, floats between the tight ducts, slipping through numberless chambers, looking into every mirror to discover himself, to remember what he was like some time ago. Was that gray there before? Or that wrinkle? Sometimes, just sometimes, he calls to himself out loud, to hear his own voice in the middle of that quietness. Was that his voice? Could he reach to recall it clearly enough, and also his own name? And faced with that doubt, every once in a while, he laughs; it’s not a loud laugh, not at all, it’s just a giggle, a bit nervous giggle, that’s it, which fades away after a warm cup of tea saved for posterity.
Before coming back to his glass prison, he checks the chart on the monitor and counts: one, two, three, four, five… six. Six what? Years? How would it feel to close the eyes just the right and precise time to heave a sigh at the awakening? He tried to remember, distantly, that feeling, but it got tangled in a dark image of hours and traffic just before he fell asleep.
At opening his eyes the alarm clock was beeping without a break and he was already late nearly twenty minutes. He’s not going to get reach, as usual, because at that hour the traffic… He washed his underarm and face very quickly and had a mug of very strong coffee in order to clear him up from the embers of that dream. Had been it a dream? Was being this one? And thinking about it, his heart ceased to beat for a while, and his legs get freezed right before leaving. He noticed the deep silence in the house for a minute, and the steady purr of the fridge. He released a brief giggle which resounded against the walls. And went out.