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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2004 7:12 pm 
The following is my dark take on Ovid's story of Pygmalion and Galatea. If you're disoriented, that's rather intentional.

Galatea
Over the hatch the pictures were glued to the bulkhead, illuminated by the feeble sodium-vapor lamp that flickered and dimmed like a candle?they looked down on the ship?s cabin with the unreal stare of icons. Jonah gently ripped one off and tucked it into a pocket of his suit, close to his heart. He couldn?t kiss it, so he reverently touched it to his faceplate before putting it away. Jonah dogged the hatch, stepped into the airlock and closed the door behind him. A vacuum pump thumped to life, then faded back into silence as all the air was sucked from the closet-sized chamber.


Silently the outer door swung open; silently Jonah pushed himself through the door, floating into the void outside. The sun was visible before him; it shown feeble and cold in the distance, its white light barely illuminating the warnings painted on the side of his spaceship. Just over his right shoulder the planet hung, split in two between the shadow that obscured one half and the swirling seas of blue and violet cloud that raced across the other. Moons stood still in their orbit, gleaming as gem-like points of light, gibbous ovals and ethereal crescents that shown white with the starlight caught by their crusts of methane ice. The whole universe seemed to revolve slowly around him as he and the space station turned in synchronization in the middle of everything, as if he were a malicious god trapped in the center of the shadowy world he had created. Stars without number circled about him, fixed in their courses like bullets in flight, moving inexorably in their chosen path.


Turning to the hatch that confronted him, Jonah found it open. Inside there was no air, just a sickly green light that painted everything inside with its unearthly glow. Inside Jonah found himself in something of a crawlspace, an access tunnel. In one direction (up?) was what he took for the station?s reactor; in the other was a large module, probably built for habitation. Jonah glided down the ladder that ran parallel to the power conduits. It might have been his imagination, but Jonah could feel his body weighing heavier on him with each step he took down. His muscles felt old, old and very weak. His heart began to strain to pump blood up from his legs and from there to his brain. The lights grew dimmer; the ladder no longer existed, nor did the tunnel, nor the spaceship outside. There was the cold, the numbness in his hands and feet and face. What was her name? In vain he groped about his memory for the answer as the image fled from his mind.

Copyright 2004 Will Knight


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2004 7:16 pm 
The ceiling was gray, tinged with green, if there was any color to it at all. The light was dim, but so was his vision. Pipes and wires blended together into some latticework or fabric, their strands indistinguishable but discernable against the flat screen inside his head. Something hissed past him, approaching and fading with a shrill then deepening rush.

Jonah raised his head, straining subtly against the weakness of his atrophied muscles. The world dimmed grayer. He was on a bed. He…he didn’t have his suit on, he could feel the texture of the sheets with his fingertips. Just some underclothes, tight-fitting clothes that constricted his veins, that’s what he’s wearing.

I’m cold.

The light in the world grew warmer; the colors came back into the room. There was a red handle protruding from the ceiling, and a translucent green sign on the wall next to the door, his blue pants, and then there was that glossy piece of paper with a jumble of nonsensical colors splotched about it lain gently atop his space suit. Jonah pulled himself up to a sitting position, clenching the muscles in his neck to keep the blood where it needed to be and leaning against the wall to keep from falling on his back. Again the color faded back into view.

The lights were florescent, at least here, but they had the same strange green tint as, as something he was supposed to remember. The door was opened, revealing some common room with chairs. Jonah swung his legs off of the bed and onto the metallic floor, leapt to his feet. His hands struck something hard and cold.

His face was planted against the slightly patterned aluminum, planted at the foot of the pile of cloth and composites that was his spacesuit. Jonah blinked a few times, then struggled onto his elbows so that he was face-to-face with the piece of paper, the paper that resolved itself into a picture. The woman smiled down on his puzzled face. Rebecca. That’s her name.

Shoes –clinked— against the floor in a regular, formal cadence that contrasted sharply with the erratic, racing beating of his heart.

“You haven’t been in gravity for a while, have you?” a quiet voice asked from above.

“No. Not for the past…what year is it?” Jonah mumbled.

“Which calendar?”

“French Revolutionary.”

“You’re witty for someone who doesn’t have enough blood pressure to even stand.”

“It just comes to me. Tell me the year, in, in the Christian reckoning.”

“Sure,” the voice answered curtly. “It is, well it must be somewhere around 2780 by now, mustn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Interstellar visitor, I suppose?” the voice asked simply.

“Yeah. I’ve come to see some friends that should be living in the inner system. I left in 2737, so it’s been around…”

“40 years, give or take. Almost half a century in transit. Long journey for an old man.”

“As you can see, time takes its toll on me. Even in stasis.”

“You need some endocrine injections to speed up your sluggish metabolism. I don’t think it’s the zero-gravity atrophy (though that doesn’t help) as much as your body adjusting to being, you know, alive.”

“Yeah.”

His arm was pricked and then electrified. Jonah’s entire body tensed and burned as his wide-open eyes suddenly saw the solid world. A flood of smells and sounds and textures coalesced into a single, nigh-overwhelming reality. Jonah breathed.

“Weird, isn’t it?”

“Like getting kicked in the metaphysical ass.”
Copyright 2004 Will Knight


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2004 7:21 pm 
“Now that’s an advance in technology,” Jonah declared, nodding across the table at his host. “Space food that doesn’t suck.” It didn’t, though he had to eat with his eyes closed to avoid the sickly pallor of the sweet-smelling slurry he was shoveling into his mouth.

“I’d like to say that it only meets the bare minimum of contemporary standards of freeze-drying, but I’d be lying. The future isn’t that strange, I’m afraid.”

“Heh. I should figure not. There are rules of the universe to be upheld, after all. So, you haven’t introduced yourself. You should know I’m Jonah by now.”

“What do you do?” the man asked in his monotone.

“Me? I’m unemployed. The boss and I don’t talk much anymore. We had a falling out.”

“Since you asked, my name’s Pygmalion. I’m an artist, or so I’d like to think.”

“Nice view you got out of that window. Come here for inspiration?”

“Spacescapes are overdone. Why should I spend my time in a genre where my pieces will be drowned in the seas of crap produced each year? In any event, I prefer work that is a bit more…topical for human beings, something that draws you to it, seduces you,” he said disinterestedly.

“You do portraits? I’d have you immortalize me in a heroic pose, but I think my days of playing Adonis are over.”

“No. I don’t use models. Why copy nature? Art is about creation, after all. I don’t want to parrot back everything made, I want to make something of my own, if you get my meaning.”

“I think I do.”

The man’s tidy brown hair was parted to one side of his well-proportioned face, the face that framed his medium-brown (if somewhat sunken) eyes between his unremarkable nose and his light brow and those pale lips on the pale skin that was drawn tight over his skull and stained by the light to a putrid greenish gray.

“I am here to be alone with my art,” he explained after a few odd seconds of silence. “But I don’t mind you staying until you adjusted. Honestly I barely noticed you once I picked you out of the access tunnel. I heard the thud, in case you were wondering. You were in shock because your heart, atrophied from the equivalent of three month’s life in weightlessness, couldn’t handle the sudden increase in ‘gravity’ once you started getting pulled down by the centrifugal motion of the station. I don’t mind you being here, as long as you stay in this part of the station and don’t bother me when I’m working. And that’s most of the time.”

“I see. I suppose I’ll be off in a few days. I mean a hundred hours or so.”

“I call them days too. No reason to make things out here weirder than they are already. And with that, I’m going to bed. You should probably go back to your cabin, since the ‘crash’ from your adrenaline shot should be kicking in,” he said, swallowing a yawn.

The station was strewn with debris from Pygmalion’s various projects, from those empty paint tubes that littered the floor and tripped Jonah’s feet to a few half-finished semi-abstract studies of the female form carefully, precariously placed atop shelves and end tables. The objects cast twisted shadows on the wall as the feeble light passed through them. That sculpture looked pleasant enough, but it projected a black outline of someone’s agony, a nonsensical jumble of limbs writhing, grasping out in sick positions. A few canvases stared back at Jonah with their hungry, subhuman stare, while the others simply looked across the room to the void of the gray bulkhead on the other side. Wedged into one corner a delicate skeleton hung from its unseen armature, absurdly upright, as if it would dance. Jonah sat down on the floor.

Damned weak heart. The art supplies he sat on started to prick him and the skeleton seemed to relax into a more natural pose. It was dark here, and the hormones had worn off and he didn’t know what was in those jars but it was not wholesome. Still, he could find his way back to bed. He’d just have to use the urine tube in his spacesuit. Something black moved just beyond the edge of his vision like a strangely voluptuous apparition.

It floated quickly out of sight, down a corridor. Jonah sat still, then shakily rose to his feet and followed it through the darkness. Music struggled through the silent air. It was a baroque melody, civilized and orderly, even warm and peaceful.

“You look marvelous tonight, my dear. Would you like to dance? Perhaps some sherry?” Pygmalion’s muffled voice inquired through the wall. “No? Then I suppose we might as well get to business,” he cackled warmly.

Jonah slid down the wall into a crouch. There was a small shuffle of footsteps and a few mournful exhalations of desire in the next room. A low, almost feminine moan rattled through the thin partition, mingling sensuously with Pachebel.

The subtle heaves of a chuckle contorted their way through Jonah as he realized that he blushed at the noisy lovemaking in the next room. Slowly, very slowly he crept to his feat, climbing into the waiting darkness of his consciousness.

A distinctly high soprano of a croaking climactic scream pierced his numb skull, tripping his precarious balance up, throwing him up right on top of a sculpture, splintered crackling plaster against the dimly chime-like resonance of the metallic floor.

Jonah scrambled, ape-like, across half-finished half-smashed masterpieces until he could close the door tightly behind him and black out right into his bed.
Copyright 2004 Will Knight

To be continued...


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