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Solitude Aboard the Doomed Victory


SIKKS66

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Notes:

  • 1,000 word limit is a bitch! I want MOAR! I went a little over the limit (74 words to be precise), let me know if this will f*ck up my chances of winning and I will take a butchers blade to my work.
  • My knowledge of space travel is limited to what I read on Wikipedia. So if you happen to be a NASA nerd don't get hung up on that! tounge.gif
  • Hope you enjoy!

 

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Solitude Aboard the Doomed Victory

 

People talk of isolation as being some kind of luxury in the modern world. Our streets are alive day and night with people going about their business, often rather noisely, the hustle and bustle of city life often deafening at times. Having that feeling of true solitude on planet Earth is almost impossible. Have you tried it? Lie in bed on a night and- even if you live somewhere remote- there is a fair chance you will hear at least one vehicle, one drunken idiot on the streets outside, even in the earliest of hours. Sit in a field with a smoke and a book, chances are you will be interrupted by loud passers-by or yet another vehicle, either on the ground or in the air.

 

Occasionally achieving true solitude is a fundamental part of achieving inner peace, of being content. Apparently, we ought to savour it.

 

Bullsh*t.

 

I have never been so alone. It has crippled me mentally, suffocating my morale and my resolve. Aboard the Space Shuttle Victory- the first US spacecraft launched since the end of the Space Shuttle program in in 2011- I am completely alone, at the mercy of eternal space. A simple excursion to test our "revolutionary" technology. A quick 3 day trip into orbit and back. It was to be simple, a "victory for the American nation". The fools.

 

Day one we lost our power and navigation. The three of us- Meryl, Harry and I- worked tirelessly with our colleagues in Houston to try get Victory mobile once more. We couldn't figure it out; the wiring, the electronics, the hardware; everything was in order. The only remaining piece of kit we had functioning was that which allowed us to communicate to central command.

 

On day two, we lost that.

 

A blind panic descended aboard Victory. I worked none-stop on trying to get the electronics back up, even flying solo outside of the ship to look for exterior damage. Meryl was a relative rookie to the profession; she'd only ever completed three short missions with ISRO. Lord knows why Houston chose someone so inexperienced, I guess they really believed their hyperbole that this was to be a short and simple mission. A sweet southern belle, during our initial troubles she had attempted to keep our morale up by telling us how she was going to treat us both to dinner when we got home. When we lost the guiding voice of Houston, Meryl broke down, weeping for her husband and young child; one month into our isolation she took her life, swallowing a box of pills.

 

“A month?” I hear you wonder. Quite. We never did resolve the problems. To his credit, Harry did keep us motivated for quite some time. A veteran, Harry had seen it all. He lived for the space program, taking any rookies (including myself at one point) firmly under his wing. He was one of the last remaining members from the original Space Shuttle program; on long flights he would regale his companions with tales from aboard Discovery and Atlantis and about how he narrowly avoided the doomed Columbia mission of 2003. By rights, Harry should have retired years ago but space travel was in his blood; after the retirement of his beloved Discovery he moved into the private sector, taking the first space tourists into Earth’s orbit. When NASA unveiled the Victory project, Harry was put forward to be the face of the program. He was already something of a celebrity- his appearances on late night chat shows were legendary- and NASA wanted to exploit that. Despite his advancing age, Harry could still skipper a space craft far better than any of the academy’s top graduates.

 

Harry kept morale up. During our breaks from attempting to fix the ship he would ask us about our lives on Earth. He laughed heartily as Meryl told him about the adventures of her mischievous young son. He lived- with great enthusiasm- vicariously as I relived my exploits in New York's finest nightclubs; being an astronaut did have great benefits when it came to meeting new women. Meryl rolled her eyes and shook her head. Harry beamed with delight, urging me to share more details of my exploits. "Oh come on," I laughed finally, "you're Harry f*cking Sheehan. You must have had your fair share of fun in your time!" Harry's smile grew even wider. He raised his eyebrows and gave me the slightest of winks.

 

Harry died a week after Meryl.

 

I’m no doctor, I couldn’t determine why. My guess is that the weight of his leadership and the precarious situation we had found ourselves in- not to mention the presence of Maryl’s corpse strapped in the corner of our craft- became too much of a burden on his old heart. I strapped him into the cockpit. It seemed appropriate. I had resigned myself to my fate; there was no chance I would need to sit there anytime soon. Wherever this ship was to wash up, I wanted whoever was to find it to know that Harry was the boss. A hero.

 

And now...?

 

Seven and a half weeks have passed. I remain the sole survivor of the mission. Our supplies are exhausted; it was supposed to be three f*cking days. The fact that they survived as long as they did is something of a miracle. In one hand I clutch a pouch containing one litre of water. I stare at it vacantly. I look out of the window at the infinite majesty of space and wonder... what is the point? This water will last me mere days. Why drink it? Why prolong the agony? I hold the pouch tighter, a firm grip of both anger and of despair.

 

My knotted stomach groans. I haven’t eaten in days. My pale colleagues roll and sway in their harnesses. In death they have the appearance of weightless ecstasy.

 

I look into a mirror. My appearance is fraught with consternation, fatigue and pain.

 

Why bother?

 

Alone.

 

Infinitely alone.

 

The vast expanse of space spreads out ahead of me.

 

The homely, warm blue spec of Earth grows more distant with each passing second.

 

In space, nobody hears you cry.

 

Seconds, minutes and hours blur into nothingness. My muscles twinge, my heart beats loud, echoing around my skull. My knotted stomach roars in agony.

 

Alone...

 

Silence.

 

 

 

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Edited by SIKKS66
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Meant to comment on this a few days ago. Good to see a new face, seen you about the Footy Desk of course, but good to see WD attracting new folk.

 

On to the story. Going over 1,000 is fine, to my knowledge. It's more a guideline than a word limit and in the few months since the competition has returned there's been several entries far over 1,000 words, so feel free to expand on it if you like. Although overly long entries are a bit tedious and you have to take into account the average attention span of an internet user is around that of a chimpanzee.

 

The story itself was very enjoyable and fits the theme perfectly. The only thing I had an issue with was the Alien reference. Don't get me wrong, it was quite a clever turn of phrase, but it just seemed a bit out of place and awkward.

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The only thing I had an issue with was the Alien reference. Don't get me wrong, it was quite a clever turn of phrase, but it just seemed a bit out of place and awkward.

I'm actually in agreement with you here. It borders on plagarism, I wasn't too happy after I'd posted it but I didn't want to just cut it out in case somebody had already read it and formed an opinion on my use of that line.

 

When finishing the piece I was getting rather annoyed. Originally it was going to end completely differently but I decided it was a bit too contrived; a "happy" ending seemed a bit lame considering the desolate and doomy build up I'd given the piece. In my frustration and haste to finish I left in that line despite not being 100% happy about it. Oh well, we live and learn eh? sigh.gif

 

Edit: Oh and thanks for posting an opinion Mark, I appreciate it biggrin.gif

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A happy ending would have been a neat twist, because all I ever think about when I'm reading/watching these pieces/films about solitude in space is how sh*tty it's going for the poor sod left on his own. I go stir-crazy being cooped up bored for a few days, so this must be absolutely killing him.

 

To be honest, I completely missed the Alien reference until I spotted Mark's comment and I just had to go back and re-read the ending to see where I'd gone wrong. While it was a bit a poor judgment, it gave me a chuckle as it seems more appropriate here than anywhere else and wasn't too surprised I'd missed it.

 

The main fear I had with this theme was how everybody was going to go down the same route of loneliness and how everybody's trapped on a vessel, unable to escape. To be honest, that's where mine was going until I did some thinking and took it somewhere else. This is like all those sci-fi movies rolled into one. I'm getting hints of 2001, Alien, sh*t, even Avatar for some reason.

 

I see Phil browsing so he'll probably go more in depth. While I enjoyed this, I couldn't help but feel something was a little lacking. It certainly was an emotional piece, but the "left alone" route is so hard to go down and make it seem exciting. I'm not out to be cruel and slag things off because that isn't how I am - I'm just saying, it is hard to do and in a lot of ways, you did a good job with it by adding back stories of other crew members.

 

To sum up, I liked it, and I'd go so far to say it's a strong entry, but I can't help but feel something's missing.

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Yeah, word length doesn't matter one bit, really. The only downside is that if it's 5000 words, well, it's your funeral, 'cos nobody's gonna read it! But a little bit over and nobody will notice/care.

 

Re: the alien reference, it wouldn't be classed as/be bordering on plagiarism at all, I don't think. When it's a quote like that it's more of an allusion. Still, like Mark, I found it awkward, to say the least.

 

I quite liked this as a whole; I think the character's voice throughout is executed perfectly and makes it really engaging. The mixture of sentence types and the way you have those short, stand-alone paragraph-sentences builds everything to a head very well - it's a story that's satisfyingly told and enjoyable to read. Given that the whole idea of a space mission gone wrong is a pretty standard one, I think the personal touches you added here serve the story really well, and the way you've given us a picture of both Harry and Meryl in such a limited amount of space was brilliant; I got a true sense of each of them, and doing that in just a paragraph each is a very hard thing to do.

 

Towards the end, though, is where I think it went downhill a little. Not because of it ending pessimistaclly or anything, and not because it leaves it open (although the character's desolation is pretty much the point of the ending) - but because the character's voice seemed a little off. I've got nothing against what actually happens; but the way he tells it seemed to trail off and move away from the better prose of the story's first half.

 

It starts with the switch into present tense - which is a good choice. But then it becomes a little clumsy. Instead of the character detailing his story as a whole - which is what he's been doing up until now - you go into more active description of that very moment, and for me, it brought me out of the story a little. Up until that point he's pretty much a standard narrator, which works well, but when you start adding in these more ornate descriptions and adjectives, that atmosphere falls apart. Really, really small things like "I stare at it vacantly" and "a firm grip of both anger and of despair" - his description goes a little too detailed for me, and it stuck out a little.

 

As a whole, I enjoyed it. I think it's well written and it's nice to see a new face in WD - so I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled for your next piece!

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... it's nice to see a new face in WD - so I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled for your next piece!

Almost forgot, this too. Stay with us, it's nice to have newbies. smile.gif

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I'm not the best critic but overall I really enjoyed reading this peice, especially the ending. You somehow managed to think up and find the most fitting of words to describe the pain and agony that the protagonist is in. A line I particularly liked was "My heart beats loud, echoing around my skull". For me that line really made me feel weak and "Monged" as I would put it, as if you were on some sort of drug that made you so sleepy and out of energy that you could hear your own heart pulsing around your skull.

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