Outland: Chapter One
I’m searching for something. I have no idea what it might be, but I’ll know when I find it. Until I do so, I can’t let anything distract me.
Beep beep beep.
The alarm broke through his dream, interrupting his visions of fields of infinite pineapples, swaying back and forth in the wind; each growing neatly on their individual steams.
“Good morning, Gulliver.” He mumbled.
“Good morning, Andrew.”
Pulling himself out of the seat, Andrew scooted up to the window and turned the crank, moving the shutters outside upwards. The bright noon sunlight glared in his eyes, and he hunched back to avoid it.
Fiddling with the drawer besides him, he pulled out a foil packaged ration and tore it open before adjusting the seat to an upright position.
“How are the power cells looking, Gulliver?” He asked before throwing the newly empty foil wrapper behind him.
“Eight-nine percent and rising, Andrew. What do you think?”
“That’s sufficient I’d say.” He played with the instrument panel, flipping the series of four switches downwards. Behind the cockpit he could hear the linear actuators engage, humming busily before the panels could be heard clicking down into their locked position.
“We were headed south west, were we not?” Andrew pondered out loud.
“Indeed. Would you like me to set a course?”
“Please.” He slowly drummed his fingers on the armrest as the land rotated into view. The sun sat just out of view to the west.
“Say, we’re about midway through summer now, aren’t we?”
“Have we reached the solstice yet?”
“By my records, we have still been slowly gaining a bit of daylight each day.”
“Hmm, good.” He twiddled his thumbs. “We must still have some time before it starts dropping off. I’d like to reach the equator before then.”
“I’ll plot it out.”
Andrew propped his legs up, diagonal across the control panel, worming his way around the instruments. He rubbed his eyes, still trying to look away from the blazing sun that glared into the window.
The seat began to rumble as the machine came to life. The springs under his him creaked slightly as it reached equilibrium with the movements of the cockpit. As his eyes adjusted, the dark blue water shimmered before him, meeting with the land that took up the other half of the view.
“Have your scans been able to glean anything of interest, Gulliver?”
“Take this for what you will, but the water is cleaner than we’ve had along this stretch of coastline. Coincidentally there are more traces of biological matter; algae mostly.”
“A reef you think?”
“The water temperature seems to be right.”
“I would love to get some fish; I don’t want to eat much more of these reserves. They’re not particularly appetizing either. Continue on, I’ll keep an eye out.”
Andrew sat up straight in the pilot’s seat, crossing his legs to give him an once more height. He moved his gaze between the water and the monitor on the control panel, slowly tracing out the shoreline.
Inland, the mountains were still huddled up near to the coast, most likely impassable. Andrew ignored the thought, and went back to examining his fingers for sticky spots left over from the ration. He nibbled on his nails, hoping to spot something out at sea.
The sun started to drop low in the sky, drawing a wide stripe on the smooth expanse of blue. Andrew slung his legs to the side, balancing his heels on the empty co-pilot seat. Resting his head in his hand, he fixated his eyes on the surface of the water.
Something broke the calm, sending ripples around. Just along the edges of the sun-painted water, there was a commotion.
“Gulliver, bring us into the water.”
“Did you spot something, Andrew?”
“Perhaps. Get us in deep enough so I can exit the bottom hatch.”
The vehicle stopped abruptly, before carefully turning itself to the side, facing the unending expanse before them. Andrew jumped up from the chair and started to climb down the ladder to below.
The swaying of the tide gently rocked him back and forth as he carefully took each rung downwards. At the bottom, he threw off his tee shirt and pants, stepping into a wetsuit and stretching it over his body. Next came the diving mask and flippers.
“We’re in position; shall I open the bottom hatch?”
“Please.” Andrew nodded, and the floor started to open below him. Water gurgled as it slowly passed through the hatch. As he strapped on the tank and affixed the seal on his helmet, he looked down into the darkness of the water below him. Grabbing his spear from the rack, he turned on the flow of oxygen and and jumped down into the water with a muted splash.
Opening his eyes after the bubbles around him cleared, he spotted light rays dancing down through the water in front of him. The dark pastel colors of coral sprung up from the sea bed before him, like magical trees from an illustrated children’s novel. Fish danced and darted among the formations. Silently paddling his way forward, he approached the reef.
Carefully waiting for the finned creatures to stop for a brief moment, he was able to impale one. It squirmed, but could not escape the barbs. He pushed its body down the pole; flapping about before finally stopping. After a few more, Andrew secured the fish and turned back around.
The long legs loomed underwater like an abandoned structure. He swam between them, catching glimpse of the light shining above him. Entering the hatch, he slammed the spear down, still pierced through the catch. Finally he pulled himself up and onto the floor.
After changing and putting the fish away, Andrew climbed up to the second level.
“Yeah, a couple of snapper and a coral trout. I’m going to cook him first. Compile and send the records from today down to this screen, if you would.”
Andrew sat at the desk, a bright desk lamp illuminating the table. Outside the small window in the ribs, he watched at the moon slowly made contact with the surface of the water. He stretched quickly and looked down at the remains of the fish, the pale eye staring back at him. Ignoring it, he went back to the paper. Scrolling along the monitor with his fingers, he zoomed in on the image, revealing more of the coastline that had been scoured. The tip of his pen touched down on the paper, carefully coping down the same image.
This is the beginning a new story that just popped into my head. I don’t know what it’s called, or where it will go, but I want to share it with you.