I see Charon, floating above me. Never moving, ever stationary in the sky. A sentinel whose constant unseeing gaze has begun to drive me mad. I was sent here as a member of a ten man outpost. Now I am alone.
My craft is disabled, yet it still provides a suitable dwelling. The ingenuity of man and my fear of death have sentenced me to live out my days on this God forsaken rock. I wish I had died with the others but then, well, there is my duty. My sworn duty to set up a forward listening post out in the blackness. This sense of honour has stayed with me so far but I wonder how long before the madness drives it from me. Why don’t I just walk out into the cold, empty blackness and die? If there is one thing that ties me to this life, it is the memory of my last day on earth.
My colleagues and I spent nine months in the deepest reaches of the ocean undergoing psychiatric evaluations and the tests! My God, the tests! They were endless. We had no contact with any other person besides our crew. Nine other crews were undergoing similar tests. Ours was the only one to pass. And yet we still failed. Once the tests were complete, there was a month of hiatus as we waited for the final preparations of the launch.
I was a man totally unconnected with earth. My parents died when I was young and I had no known relatives. My luck with the opposite gender proved equally poor. I was emotionally unencumbered. The morning before the launch, I went for a run. Part of the rigors of my work require that I maintain a certain level of physical fitness. I normally run for about ninety minutes each day as part of my regimen. This particular morning seemed no different. The darkness of night was still wrapped like a coat over the sky. It would be nearly an hour before sunrise.
My course would take me to the peak of a nearby mountain, if I timed it right I would be able to watch as the sun blinked it’s first beams of light across the horizon. It was important on that day to see the sun rise for one last time. With my running shoes on and dressed in a track suit, I set off. I set a pretty good pace and was on track to meet my sun rise deadline at the peak of the mountain. The greyness of the morning had begun to lighten the world around me and other, shall I say, less committed?, runners began their morning ritual.
I love to watch as they leave their houses and set off on their courses. Some of them will invariably find their way to the top of the same mountain that I climb. It is a popular course. I reached the mountain peak with ease and sat at the top waiting for the sun to wake from its slumber. The track below came up from the east so I was able to watch the runners snaking their way up the track as well. I took mental snapshots of the sunrise. The clouds glowed pink and orange as if the very sun itself had set them on fire. I remember thinking, no wonder the ancient peoples worshipped this orb. A daily event that is so spectacular is difficult to put any other way.
I would normally give a warm greeting to runners as they puffed and panted their way to the top of the mountain. At the point where I sit is a ledge of rock that must be climbed to reach the final summit. I took a glance at the sun just before it had assumed its full spherical shape in the sky and a shadow of a fellow human passed over me. The sunrise became dull and boring as she entered into view. Her hair shone from behind and a sweaty tendril of hair clung to her cheek. She bent down to catch her breath momentarily. Even though I was sitting and fully recovered from the climb, all of a sudden I was breathless.
‘That’s a bitch of a climb’ She said still breathless.
I would write down what I said but since it was unintelligible it doesn’t matter. I had never seen such beauty before or since. We sat for a while. I enjoyed the smell of damp earth, the eucalyptus scent rising as the sun warmed the trees and her. She smelled delightful. To me at least. I imagine that we both smelled horrific but at that time and in that place it was perfect. Her name was Susan, she was married and had two small children. My heart didn’t mind so much. This morning was perfect and I had met the love of my life on my last day on earth. She seemed happy and that made me happy.
The rest of the launch and trip to Pluto seemed dull, but I thought of Susan often. She is why I am here. Waiting. The dawn on Pluto isn’t so great. It takes 6.9 earth days just to happen and it’s remarkably similar to watching a bright star rise during the night. The sun gives no warmth. But I’m here for people like Susan. Our crew, we had a job given to us and I will do it with whatever strength I have. Our mission was to set up forward listening posts in case of alien spacecraft entering the outer sphere of the solar system. My equipment lit up for the first time today. If I can provide some extra time for Earth to defend herself in time of trouble, well then, so be it.