Aboard the spaceship Formosus, day 37
The syllables fall apart in my mouth before they can attach themselves to any meaning at all. A technician said to me once, “repetition will do that to you,” but had he the chance, I am sure he would change his tune. The viscous film between his lips that began development two weeks prior (see previous entries) has solidified into a coarse, pale membrane, like the gut of a fish.
I, myself, find it comforting to recite these passages back and forth and then back again, now that real conversation is such a rare occurrence. It has been some time since we last passed any celestial body to orient ourselves by, and everyone is on the edge of their seats, watching the endless dark stretch before them in all directions.
The weightlessness of space descended on us as a fine mist, and we, unprepared and uncontrollable, were found inadequate. It was hard to pinpoint, at first - this being the second expedition in recorded history - and innocent enough. A few sleepless nights are bound to happen, so far removed from natural order. Lethargy, headaches, strange growths - we are not children. Pain is as much a part of life as anything. The medical bay saw frequent visits, even from ones so guarded as Obelyn mercenaries, and I welcomed the company despite the circumstances.
Captain Eli has taken to calling it the guff, no doubt to ease our minds through it all. It seeps into the cracks and bloats our bodies like the flesh of drowned. My crew looks to me for guidance, but to no avail. My concoctions are useless, and I fear for the day these hands, too, will become too numb to keep trying.
The lounge stands abandoned, the homeward comms shut down indefinitely. No two people have the exact same set of symptoms, but they are almost universally impossible to hide. Our families back on Earth will hear of our exploits once that bridge is crossed, but for now, most are content to stow away in their shameful bodies and minds.
Nurse Nolan brought in the last of the leavings not long ago. Some of the research team has been losing their skin in murky, bruised patches, and it stinks up the whole deck. Despite its gelatinous appearance, it resists my scalpel admirably.
Normally, this would be nothing more than a source of fascination, but the process is quite difficult for the patient. I have heard nothing but whimpers and scratching from this pencil-pusher for the past seventeen hours, and there seems to be no end in sight. Nolan has gone to attend to the captain, and I am once more left to scour the shelves for the least destructive numbing agent we have left.
Oh, I see a tear. Now we’re in business.
There has been a change in the hierarchy. The captain is unable to leave their room, ambitions forever preserved in the lift of their leg mid-stride, before their tendons and sinews interlocked in that peculiar way. It has been infuriating, watching the medical bay degrade into a glorified feeding station, but luckily, not even we can outpace this space-sickness, this overflow. The researcher - Francois something-or-other - says we are being punished, that we should have made the most of our resources back home while we still could. Of course, it’s easy to confess to greed and sloth hooked up half-conscious to an IV. I would have told him as much, but the words don’t come as easy as they used to. It’s like the air itself is full, our small, pained exhales choking out the ventilation system.
That may be true, come to think of it. Some of the personnel have given up entirely, their silhouettes stretched and contorted beyond any use. Master Gregory has picked up the slack, restructuring most of the ship to require less manual labor. He got some poor woman from the technicians to name stars for us, to claim everything we pass as counterfeit victories. The lower decks have also been deactivated to save energy, but for some reason, the crew left there are faring just fine. Maybe he has truly accounted for everything.
God bless Verney tech. Or whatever is out there, or was, or — now I am just rambling. It’s difficult to control these psi-devices, and much of my style and composure seems lost in the format. No wonder they were banned. I sure as hell wouldn’t want them picking up stray thoughts as I do my work, and that’s just vanity speaking, unlike some of the others here.
Sadly, with things being as they are, writing has become difficult. My patient is dead, by the way. Since the guff claimed my right hand, administering his blood thinners proved more of a hazard than a benefit, and his heart rate eventually slowed to a halt. At least he spent much of that time passed out instead of raving about our deserved dooms. Hope will be the last thing to die between these walls.
Master Gregory came down for a checkup recently, as well. He’s in shockingly good form, save for a few odd limbs here and there. He borrowed a bonesaw and dismissed me from my post, no doubt aware of the futility of it now. The last of my supplies were given away freely for relief and recreation, as a sort of last hurrah for my shambling comrades. I’m not sure entirely how we arrived at that agreement, seeing as my tongue grows heavy and foreign even now. There was something about their eyes, their presence, that agreed with me.
Tomorrow we chart a new course, taking us ever closer to a strange sun.
Every day, the crew grows louder around me, their heaving forms restless and scared. We want to go home, or something like it. They no longer seem to care about the consequences of such a wish. We want to lay our disgraced heads to rest. The hubris of coming here in the first place, and running home with our tails between our legs seems just the same to me. Food is becoming scarcer as we let go of our inhibitions, unable to follow complex thoughts to their conclusions. This journal has proved integral to keeping me as coherent as I am, but that can’t last forever.
Even so, Master Gregory is patient with us, more than I’d have expected. He manages the calculations and steering mostly by himself, and if he has erred in his judgement, it is difficult to tell. I suppose I should be calling him Captain Gregory now, with how much of the burden he has taken upon himself. He’s even picked up a large object coming towards us on the sensors, one that may even harbor some form of sentient life on it, judging by the readings. If there’s anything good to be found in this cold, unrelenting void, this must be it.
I saw them tear apart Nolan out of hunger, slowly, without malice, like the urge only just took hold on them. To satisfy a pang, and no more. I must be slipping as well, because all I could think at that moment was were his teeth always so disorderly? In his gums, in his eyes?
We have made contact with the aliens.
Well, Captain Gregory did, but I must tell myself this all served some purpose. They seem diplomatic enough, from my limited view of them. There was something about boarding our ship - vastly unsuited for this kind of travel, but still, a formality - and a rescue, as much help as they can be.
It quieted us, for a while, but the days that passed since were enough to throw us all off balance again. What if they were lying? What if they’re malicious? We want to go home. What if the journey is just as long and arduous, the destination inhospitable, our friends and families worlds away, never to hear about us again? We want to be buried on the mountain.
But there’s nothing to be done about it, anymore. We’re breaking down to our essentials, and among the amorphous sacks of organs and meat, it appears hands are at a premium. Captain Gregory doesn’t hear us either, no matter how much we try to reach him with our wordless pleas. There’s a gulf more vast than our string of stars, between what we’ve become and what he still is.
They arrive as a unit of three. In the masks and robes they seem to have no shape at all, only slightly smaller than our captain at full height. Gregory greets them like house guests, his face taking on its usual portrait of boredom. Swift and business-like, he explains how we got here in garbled tongues, gesturing towards the undulating mass of personnel. The aliens make a motion of understanding, and turn inwards to each other as if to discuss matters. The whole ordeal lasts only a few minutes, and when they move to leave, Gregory follows them without looking back at us, without any fanfare at all.
For a second there is silence, and then, like it was never any other way at all, a shrill scream tears through my brain. It’s both thought and sound, and yet it has no shape; and as it’s amplified by each creature it comes in contact with, it becomes a desperate cacophony.
In that instant, when his foot is just about to cross the final threshold —
With wild eyes and a distant smile, Gregory turns.