Goodbye Sol – Page 12

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“You should really be in your cryo pod,” I said looking at Willow. I couldn’t help but think of her condition. The cryo pods could potentially reduce the side effects from her disease, and maybe even slow its progress, but only if she stayed in it.
“I feel fine. Just really hungry. There weren’t many rations left on the Raven when you got there.”
Asher brought over the tray of food for Willow. She nodded with appreciation and began eating before Asher had even sat down again.
Asher bowed his head and closed his eyes, and Willow stared at him quizzically while shoveling food into her mouth. When Asher opened his eyes, he caught Willow staring at him and smiled at her. “Just a quick prayer over the food,” he explained.
Willow nodded and continued eating. “Never really had much time for prayer, myself,” she said between mouthfuls.
“Yeah, I guess spirituality wasn’t very important back when you left Earth,” Emeric said. I was happy to hear a softer tone from him again. “To tell you the truth, when the whole religious shift started happening, I wasn’t so sure about it, but I have to say, even though I haven’t totally bought into it myself, I do see the good it has caused.”
Willow nodded again. The look in her eyes betrayed the truth that she had no idea what Emeric was talking about, but she didn’t ask anyone to expand on it. As each area of the compartmentalized tray was emptied, I half wondered if she was going to lick the crumbs from it.
“What was it like when you left Earth?” I asked. “The records from that time are minimal.”
Willow raised an eyebrow at me, swallowed and said, “what do you want to know? It all was pretty normal to me. Not sure what all has changed in twenty years. Obviously we had space travel, though not as advanced as yours. We had technology, though not as advanced as yours. Really, I don’t know what you want to know.”
“How did people live?”
“Um, in houses, or apartments mostly. Cities, towns, villages, and on farms.” Her brown eyes were wide as she spoke, and she moved her head to look at each of us in turn. “How long have you guys been away from Earth?”
“About eight years,” I said.
“Have you had much contact with them?”
“Yeah, we get periodic data streams to keep us informed,” Asher said.
We ate our meal, making small talk. Emeric didn’t say much, but his demeanour was more pleasant than it had been during his first encounter with Willow.
When the meal was done, I picked up both mine and Willow’s trays. “Do you mind if we have a little chat?” I asked her quietly.
Willow nodded.
I led her down to the lower level and into my quarters and as we walked down the stairs, I walked shoulder to shoulder with her, ready to steady her, or catch her should she stumble or fall. She was a little hesitant as she made the first few steps, but with the support of the railing, the transition was uneventful.
I tapped the button beside the door and only then did I remember that my room was a mess. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled as I picked up my things and quickly shoved them into drawers. “I’m usually much tidier than this. It’s been a busy couple of days.”
“It’s okay,” Willow said gently, her eyes scanning the space, she seemed to take great interest in the displays, especially the walls that were currently set to show a forest opening to a stream fed by a narrow waterfall.
“Please, take a seat.” I gestured to my task chair at my desk, and once I had finished hastily putting everything away, I sat on my bed. I noticed that my cryo shirt was still slightly hanging out from my top drawer but tried to re-focus myself on the task at hand.
“What’s up?” Willow asked. She sounded and looked tired.
“I wanted to discuss with you some of the test results I have from today.”
“Ah,” she said without a hint of concern.
Knots tied themselves within my gut. Her lack of worry made this harder. I knew that my words were going to blindside her. I racked my brain to try and find the most gentle way of telling her she was going to die.
“How are you feeling?” I asked, gently prodding.
“Tired,” she said with a small smile, “and weak, but at least I’m not hungry anymore.”
“Have you noticed any changes in your overall health and wellbeing since you left Earth?”
“Yeah. I’ve lost muscle mass from being in a weightless environment, I’ve been battling malnourishment since we had very limited rations. My mental health has deteriorated from basically spending two years without another human being to talk to. Honestly, yeah, overall I’ve been doing pretty crappy.”
I pushed my hair behind my ears, stood, and grabbed my handheld medical scanner from the desk. The scene on the displays changed and it looked as though we were at the foot of a massive mountain, the green rolling hills leading up to a snowy peak. The sky was many magnificent colours, with oranges, reds and blues marking the setting sun.
“I have looked over your test results several times, and I’m really sorry to have to tell you this. but-”
“I’m going to die.” Willow said calmly. She was staring at the display, her eyes intent on scanning every detail.
I felt my mouth drop open and quickly closed it again. “Well,” I began.
“I have a rare and incurable disease. It attacks my brain, and gives me visual disturbances, affects my co-ordination, and a bunch of other things. It will leave me blind and physically weak and eventually kill me. Do you have any beach scenes? I really love the beach.”
A million questions flashed through my head like shooting stars. I couldn’t stop them from pouring out of my mouth before I had a chance to think through any of them. “Why you? Why did you go on this mission? When did you find out? Did they know? How are you still alive?”
Willow laughed. “Whoa, slow down there. One at a time!”
I stood up from my bed. My legs felt weak. My heart was racing, and I felt a little sick from the anxiety of having to tell Willow she was going to die. I touched the display on my desk, searched through the database of options, and selected a beach scene from a white-sand beach in Cuba. The turquoise water slowly moved in and out, and the cloudless blue sky was almost blinding in comparison to the previous scene.
Willow shot me a smile and I sat back on my bed. She stared at the display walls, and I stared at her.
“I was a scientist and an engineer, top of my fields. I had worked for Orbit Excel, and I was on the team developing the Raven. I had no ties to Earth, no family, few friends, and I was going to die anyways. Who better to send?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It felt like hearing the beginning of a sad story that I knew the ending of. All of my medical training to keep myself separate and isolated from a patient was being stripped away as I quickly came to terms with the fact that she was going to be my crew mate.
Willow continued. “I found out about six months before the mission, I was having some slight issues seeing. At first they thought I was sick from the cryo tests. I was pulled from the project while we tried to get my meds under control, and once I was stable, I begged to be the one sent. After consulting with my doctors and being given more than enough medication for the trip, or so they thought. I was cleared to go. I realized pretty quickly that the medication wouldn’t last and I started giving myself partial doses, only when the symptoms get bad. I also use meditation to try to help when it gets really bad.”

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