Void fever, you say? Let me tell you about void fever. Everybody thinks it’s just commanders getting a little jumpy from being too long out in the black on their own with no-one to talk to. Yeah, right. I’ve been there, pal. If that’s all it was I wouldn’t be so desperate to get back into inhabited space and get the hell out of this cocoon of a ship, to walk on a station, drink in the Star & Garter, see other human beings again. There’s got to be something else going on here.
At first it was the noises at night when the ship was cooling and I was trying to sleep – little taps, squeaks, pings, scratches, other weird sounds. The demons in the darkness, I call them. Sometimes I would hear fragments of their voices that sounded like they might be parts of words, other times just monosyllables, clicks and insect-like sounds, like cicadas at sunrise. Then came the visual flashes, even when I had my eyes tightly shut – coloured streaks prodding at my consciousness, prismatic, coruscating flashes that seem to be probing into my mind. The computer says that there are no significantly elevated levels of cosmic rays that might be causing them; anyway the shields should deflect anything energetic like that so it must be something else. Sometimes I glimpse them even when awake; faint iridescent geometric patterns at the edge of my vision. Elusive buggers though; by the time I realise they are there, they’ve disappeared again. When they get really strong it’s like my vision breaks up into multiple prisms, a thousand duplicate images clamouring for attention in my peripheral vision – and then as fast as it has appeared, it vanishes again. Maybe it’s just an eye problem – been staring at the instruments too long, most like.
Then there’s the dream. I’ve been having the same one for a couple of weeks now. In the dream, the Daemon (for that is what I call him) is sitting in the pilot’s chair of the Cobra – which is still sitting back in Lushertha by the way – while I sit immobile in the co-pilot’s seat, unable to move my arms or legs. There is an underlying booming buzzing tone, sounding kind of like a thousand bees trapped inside a metal tank. The Daemon is a swirling constellation of twinkling stars and glowing threads, translucent and intangible. Lambent orange filaments flow between him and the console displays, with pulses of light flowing back and forth along them. Whenever he accesses one of the displays, or when the ship does a manoeuvre and he looks at me, one of those shining threads shoots across and lances into my head like a tiny meteor. It’s not uncomfortable, but it feels like cold fire in my brain and for a brief flash I lose all sense of being in my body and it’s like I become the ship. I bank and roll in response to his control, feeling breeze on my skin in supercruise, warmth on my face when close to a star, or a slight dampness like a moist mist, when flying through a nebula. It’s kind of a cool dream, actually. It’s exhilarating and a bit scary at the same time. Then I wake up and I’m covered in sweat, writhing in the tangle of my sleep sack.
Needless to say, I’m not sleeping well with all this going on. I ran out of sleeping pills a week or so ago, and the medkit is really low on anti-psychotics. Not that they helped much anyway. But I’m saving the last blister pack for when we get back to inhabited space. I’ll need all the help I can get to make it back to Lushertha in one piece. That’s if there’s anything left of me to make it back of course. These periods of lucidity are getting few and far between, and I don’t know how much longer I can hold onto anything resembling sanity. It’s getting harder and harder to distinguish between the dream and reality.
It must be some toxins in the atmosphere that the recycling plant isn’t processing properly, maybe too much CO2 in the mix or something; and yet the computer says that all systems are nominal. I don’t know what’s causing this. All I know is that it sure feels real, and these flashes when I’m awake are becoming more frequent and lasting longer. The weird thing is that my flying is actually improving, perversely. It’s like I’m on automatic most of the time. I hardly need to react at all for the ship to go where I want it to.
If I make it back, this’ll definitely be worth the price of a few drinks in the Star & Garter.
Fly safe, commanders.