The Imitation of Earth
by James Stamers:
Once they had been human—now they shared a
remarkable destiny on an incredible new planet….
He was in some dark, moving medium which pressed him gently and released him and pressed against him again with irregular rhythm. He could not feel his hands. He could not feel any part of his body, except a sort of itching in his calf.
He thrust downward to relieve this mild irritation and, surprisingly, seemed to rise up. He seemed to be alive. He had no idea where, or even when, or whether these were valid questions, for the ship had been entering hyper-spacetime when they hit the asteroid belt. Warps and elongations took place in hyper-spacetime. Perhaps he was now a hyper-spaceman.
He could recall his name. It was John Shepherd. He could remember objective events such as Doctor Adelitka Wynn creating a scene in the Mars terminal bar. Her sociology was better than her sense, as she accused him of making a pass at her. He would have liked to, perhaps, but ship’s etiquette said: “Crews date, captains wait, space is not the place.” He and she had been the last alive, and the last image he had seen on the screen had been a sun. Whose sun, which sun, and where were just uninformed speculations. But he was alive and conscious of himself. And he was buried deep in something.
He tried to define his feelings.
The alternating pressure of the darkness was felt only in one spot, in the area of his heart and about the size of a small bean. The occasional itching came from below this. He thrust again and again rose upward. Yet he had no heart, or no sense of hearing, for he could hear no sound of pumping. After several years in space he was only too familiar with the sound of his own blood circulating in his veins. The voids of space turned men into especially noisy bodily orchestras. There was none of that now.
He thought of himself as having the shape of a man, but perhaps that was just habit. The only area he could in fact feel was the bean slightly higher than his middle … and a column perhaps attaching him to the bean … and this itching down below, in what seemed to be one doubled-up leg. He thrust again and again, rising higher each time. There was nothing else to do. He never felt tired. He never felt anything, except the itching.