ο εγκέφαλος

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We were out there for months, floating, finding nothing. Just black space. I signed up wanting to find something new, you know? To start over, get back on my feet. But there was nothing for a long time, and I began to find myself just going through the motions, doing my job, the same damn thing I was doing before.

We had finally found something. A nebula, I think. Big mass of space clouds, that's a nebula, right? What the Captain said. He knows what he's doing, he's one of the few actually trained to be out here.

We first came upon it Saturday, oh-eight-hundred. That was when Carrie noticed the explosions…

Captain Fischer said, "What do you mean, 'explosions'?" He shifted in his chair, squinting at the blue formation on the other side of the viewport.

"More like bursts, sir. Occurring everywhere in the nebula," Carrie answered. She suddenly felt clammy in her tight Federation uniform. Ian glanced at her from his station across the bridge. Their eyes met for a moment, in agreement: this place was dangerous.

Fischer approached Carrie's station and studied the readings. Noble gases: xenon, radon, combusting. He looked at the nebula again, watching wisps of blue and purple swirling, perpetually suspended. Small white bursts of light became visible as the ship moved closer.

"We haven't found a single thing out here until now. This doesn't feel right," Ian said, and Fischer turned towards him.

"Maybe," Fischer said, "but we've finally found something, haven't we? This deserves a look. Carrie, do those bursts pose a danger to the ship?"

Carrie pressed a series of buttons and replied, "They're occurring in the same places, so there is a way through, but the ship is too big. A shuttle could make it."

Ian recorded the patterns. Circles blinked on his monitor. The rhythm felt familiar, somehow, and as he stared at the digital circles he passed it off as nothing. They were probably random, but he stored the data on his personal pad just in case.

He kissed her.

"I have a strange feeling about this," Carrie said, "the nebula, I mean." She slipped under the blanket and fell back on the bed. Ian did the same. The distant rumble of the ship's engine wasn't inaudible, but it vibrated the walls. A sound they could only feel in their stomachs.

Ian closed his eyes and hugged her, their bodies sharing the same space. Sweet sleep was what he wanted, and her voice was a hell of a lot more soothing to him than the ship's constant grumble.

"I know it's going to sound strange, but when I first saw it, it felt like it was watching us. Like a complex of emotion."

"I thought you could only sense it in people," Ian mumbled.

"This was different. It wasn't a person. It was just emotion, no soul behind it. That's why I don't want you to go with the search team. Something's going to happen."

"Carrie, nothing is going to happen. You mapped out a route through the explosions yourself. Just go to sleep."

And she tried to, but she saw an image of the blue cloud in her mind. The explosions surrounded her like blinking streetlamps. She knew instinctively that this was no dream.


I recorded them. Ten minutes worth of patterns. I didn't bother looking into it, I was busy preparing for the recon mission. I don't know why I was put on the team, I guess it's because I'm the one with medical experience. Like I had any. I barely passed exams in college, and did basically nothing with my degree. Just goes to show how unprepared the Federation is for space exploration. Been running for fourteen years and nothing to show except a crew of misfits.

Blake and Rose were on the team. Misfits, but two good friends I've known only on this ship. I wonder what it would be like to be with them somewhere other than here, in space.

The mission started the next morning, at oh-seven-hundred. I woke up, geared up, and we were on our way. But what Carrie told me put this nagging feeling in my head. Maybe there was something going on. For all we knew, we could have been flying straight in the hellmouth.

"Garren One, you are clear. We'll keep an open comm link. Keep us posted on anything you see in there." The Captain's voice buzzed in their helmets. Rose took the shuttle out of the docking bay, towards the looming blue nebula.

"Copy that," Blake said, and glanced at his monitor. Engine levels nominal, relays functioning normally. He felt his fingers tingling again.

"Ian, do you have the route pulled up?" Rose asked, and turned as far as she could to face him. Spacesuits didn't allow a whole lot of mobility.

"Yep. Entering it into the computer now," he replied, and the computer beeped. Rose saw the map on her screen, and hesitated to turn on the autopilot. She furrowed her brow and pressed the button anyway.

The nebula came closer until blue clouds enveloped the shuttle. They rocked gently in the current. "Garren One, what — see so far?" Fischer's voice was already filled with static. All they could see were shades of blue and flashes of light. Ian clenched his fists as he stared at the cloudy landscape passing by.

Ian, you're not going to make it out. No, shut up. You will. Nothing's going to happen. Nothing will happen.

KRCHCHKRCH. Nothing but static came from the comm.


"Captain, we're losing your signal! Do you copy?" Blake said, and boosted the comm frequency from his console. It was no use. They had no way of contacting the ship, and they were flying deeper into the nebula. The blue hues dimmed, gradually darkening until there was blackness, and the white bursts of light flickered.

The shuttle buckled again, and the bursts paused, then straightened, aligning themselves parallel to their trajectory.

Ian, they're like streetlamps.
Look at them. Look.

Ian walked down the street, holding a red and blue popsicle. Cold fruity flavor dripped from his lips. He held Mommy's hand, squinting in the brightness.

The sun was high amidst a clear blue sky. It swirled and smiled in his face, in his head. Mommy led him down the sidewalk to the house. She wore a yellow dress, her heels clicking on the hard floor as she opened the door to the principal's office.

"Ian, do you know why what you did was wrong?" the Principal asked him. His hands were as big as the table he was sitting at. They were black and smelled like motor oil. Ian nodded, and he knew what was coming for him: a paddle straight for his ass.

Pain shot up into his head, and he collapsed on the sidewalk. The streetlamps flickered faster and faster, blinding him. Neurons in his brain exploded, and for a brief moment he knew what it was he was looking at outside the shuttle window, but then it was gone. The popsicle fell down his throat into his lungs and his insides screamed.

Ian, you have to wake up now. You know what you saw, right?



I'm recording this because I figured out what happened. Or at least, I think I did. But not for just a moment, like Ian said. I can understand it. Maybe it's because I understand what a soul is better than anyone.

The Federation buried my report with all the others, paying no more attention to it than roadkill when you're late for work. No one believed me, and Ian. Well. He's not doing too well right now.

Blake and Rose don't know anything. By that I mean they noticed nothing out of the ordinary. The nebula, to them, was just a nebula, and the explosions were simply chemical reactions. To them, Ian went crazy. For a while, I thought this, too. The shock of seeing Ian crumpled on the floor, no longer able to speak, had that effect on me. I disregarded everything else, until I went into his log and found the patterns.

The explosions weren't explosions. He was right, I was right. We were right about this whole damn thing. They're taking us down a road. What road, I don't know. But I know we were right.

And we paid for it.

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