Thankfully, I didn’t have to be the one to control him as Willow slipped into the bottom bunk. “I’m taking the lower bunk. I don’t want to risk being thrown from the upper one should something happen to the ship. Seems like it would be dangerous.” She smiled at me. “If Skyler is afraid of sleeping up there, you said he could sleep in his cryo pod, right?”
It took me less than a minute to understand what Willow was trying to do. I had seen my sister use reverse psychology on her children often, but I felt like such a simple ploy could never work on a full grown adult, even one as seemingly dense as Skyler.
“I know what you are doing and I still think this is so unfair,” Skyler said as he climbed the metal rungs of the bunk ladder. He audibly huffed as he slipped under the thin blanket. “I deserve better treatment than this. I am Skyler Grey. I hold an unbeatable record for space diving. I was once paid five million dollars to break the jet powered wingsuit land distance record. I deserve better.”
I turned to leave, Emeric standing still, his hand continued to hover at the border of the pouch that contained his weapon.
“Good night, all,” I said, as I walked to the middle room, my room, and entered.
In the morning, I walked upstairs and Willow was already eating breakfast. I grabbed a prepackaged high protein, low carbohydrate meal and a dried fruit pouch and walked over to her. She was still wearing her cryosuit, an almost spandex-like suit that covered her body. The stretchy hood sat wrinkled dangling from the base of her neck.
“If you have a moment, I’d really like to talk to you,” I said to Willow. My situation on board this ship was so different from the way I had practiced medicine on Earth. There wasn’t any level of separation here. I didn’t make appointments. I didn’t have the luxury of being able to go home and regroup away from my patients.
“Sure,” Willow said gently, with a small nod.
I took a quick inventory of where each of the men were. It only took a moment to pull up their locations on the internal sensors. Emeric was on the bridge and Asher was in Engineering. They were both likely still trying to figure out why the ships were slowing down. Skyler hadn’t come up from his bunk yet, I could only assume he was still sleeping. I decided the best place for Willow and I to talk was in the infirmary area. I gestured for her to accompany me.
“What’s up?” She asked.
I pulled two chairs behind me into the other area and away from the dining table. They slid fairly easily and only made the odd metal on metal scratching noise.
“I think we need to continue the conversation we were having yesterday.”
“The one about how I’m going to die?” Willow asked calmly taking a seat.
I cleared my throat. “Yeah, that one,” I mumbled.
Willow smiled gently. “This must be hard for you. You didn’t imagine you’d have to do palliative care on this mission, did you?”
“Honestly, no.” I shook my head.
“I am so very sorry. I never thought anyone would come and find us. I always saw this as being a one way trip for me. I had a supply of medication to slow the progression of my symptoms, but I used it up a year or two ago. I planned on setting everything up, the best I could, for Skyler’s return trip, but I knew my time was running out.”
“Please,” I reached out and put my hand on hers. “There’s no need to apologise or justify. I mean,” I paused for a moment. I had thought through some of what I wanted to say, but it was difficult to keep it all straight in the moment. I tried ignoring my emotional and empathetic side, hoping to be more clinical, but I couldn’t help but put myself in Willow’s shoes. “I just wish we had known. Maybe we could have planned for this sooner.”
Willow raised an eyebrow at me, and I realized I needed to explain more.
“We only had the bare essentials of your mission details to go on. Two people, sent out in the Raven, headed on this trajectory. We had no idea your names, ages, health or wellness. None of it. It’s a long story, but there was a bit of a catastrophe on Earth shortly after you left that destroyed a lot of data.”
“Oh?” Willow’s face twisted into a surprisingly amused face. “Skyler’s going to be pissed.”
I allowed myself a small smile as well as I thought about how Skyler had reacted to everything so far and I hoped that I would be in the room to see him continue to make a fool of himself. Then I remembered the conversation I was having with Willow and the smile fell from my face. “Willow, there’s a cure for BCD.”
“What?” She whispered, her eyes wide, her mouth slightly agape.
“It was discovered probably a year, maybe two, after you left Earth.”
Willow laughed, but there was no joy in it. “Wow. Really?”
“If we’d had your medical history, I could have made sure we had it with us.”
“The thing is, we don’t have it here. I could put you back into your pod, and let you enter long term cryosleep, and hope that we can get you the cure when we get back to Earth. But honestly, I’m pretty sure the only reason you’re alive now is because of the fact that you woke up so frequently to fix the ship. I really don’t think that your system could survive the strain of being revived, even after just eight years.”
Willow nodded again.
“But if that is your choice, I will respect it, and do my utmost to give you the best chance possible. Alternately, I can give you some of what medications we do have to help ease your symptoms and keep you comfortable. Then just revive you at regular intervals to spend time with the rest of us. There is a small chance that you could survive long enough to make it back to Earth, but more than likely, you won’t…”
“I get it,” Willow said. “I understand how hard this is, but I know what I would like to do. I want to live. With what time I have left, I want to learn. I want to talk to people. Make memories. Please don’t put me in long term cryosleep. What kind of life is that?”
I considered the fact that every time we would wake her up, it would be a risk, and each day spent awake would potentially mean that she wouldn’t wake up next time. “Would you like to send a message home?” I asked. “It will take about a year to reach there, but you could get a response in the next data stream after that. It’s not the same as being home, but it could offer you that connection.”
“I don’t have anyone to send a message to.”
I felt my heart break. I could not imagine life without my family. I could not imagine facing death alone. I wanted to hug Willow, but I kept myself in my seat.