Chemical contamination and outer space

April 26, 2015

Four days ago. Or was it fifth or maybe sixth. I can’t remember clearly. My log seems to be missing their daily entries. While mixing herbicides and poison. Mid way I discovered a one inch tear in my mask.

There are all types of the things that I could have inadvertently inhaled, glyphosates to arsenic powder.

I am sure I have been poisoned.

Side effects:

On the second day. Or was it the third. I can’t be sure. I began to notice everything started to smell like rubbish. Followed by mild coughing with yellow phlegm. However my hands were not shaking. I remembered feeling glad. As I can now rule out arsenic poisoning.

loss of appetite. Had to force myself to eat.

Hallucinations. Or maybe it real? I started wearing two watches. As on one occasion. I noticed my submariner had stopped ticking. Impossible! In all the years I had this watch, by every practical definition of reliability, it has never ever stopped ticking.

On the fifth night I woke up to find myself as the sole astronaut in a desolate space ship. I know this allegory that takes the shape and form of a dream well enough to surmise that I was within a dream even when I am dreaming. Past experience informs me. This dream is my minds way of coping with the duality between fact and fiction, illusion and reality…..it’s the mind way of rebooting. My way of regaining some semblance over reality when it begins to dissolve away.

Everything is rendered cut glass real in this dream of a lone astronaut in a space ship. There is nothing fictional about the set pieces that make up this diorama of life in the outer fringes of space.

Usually when I find myself in this dreamscape. I take some time to marvel at the precision and attention to detail that my mind has fleshed out every aspect of this spacecraft – there is nothing kitsch or make belief about the detailing. Everything right down to the texture of the brushed space grade titanium hand rails, the reassuring tactile feel of the buttons on the console to the 15 decibel hum of the air scrubbers in the background is realer than real.

It never fails to amaze me how my mind is able to cobble together such a wide array of accoutrements that one would usually expect to find in a spacecraft – yes….like I said, it must be my mind rebooting. Rearranging itself sequentially like how a computer suddenly hangs only to switch off and start again. There must be something comforting…nourishing…and healing about this place…..maybe it’s the structural discipline of assembling a spacecraft that allows the mind to centre itself again.

Since I’ve be here before. I know the drill. I change out of my cumbersome spacesuit for flight overalls. I remembered the last time, they were indigo with short sleeves…on this mission. They’re all khaki and long sleeved only.

As I make my way to the main control deck. Suddenly a realisation hits me – I am merely a passive spectator. There is really no need to do anything. Not at all. It’s not as if, this is new to me. Like I said, I’ve been here before. I know what I am going to do once I get into the control – read the flight manuals, work the satellite dish to establish contact with earth…but no one is ever there…not even when I keep sending out messages. Or maybe I will triangulate three known stars to get a fix on where I am….but that never works either, as I know from past voyages. I am in uncharted space. No! I am not going to go down there again and spend all my time trying to figure out whether I should splice red or blue wire any longer.

No. I am merely here for the ride. I am not going to scurry around like a monkey. Not any more. Not this time. I decide to press the cafeteria level instead.

Soon the door swishes open. The walls are creme colored concave panels with concealed lighting and there is even a painting of wild oat fields framed against wispy blue mountains. If not the conspicuous emergency airlock with bright red lettering that reads, STAND CLEAR, EXPLOSIVE BOLTS. I could just as well be in a new age designer restaurant on earth. Somewhere between deciding whether to opt for Balti curry with Basmati rice or cheese macaroni, I wondered to myself how far the poison had canaled it’s way into my mind. It wasn’t anxiety that compelled me towards such a train of thought. Rather I was seized by an explicable urge to question only because the sicker I am…the longer I usually have to stay in the spacecraft.

Time passes excruciatingly slowly in space – a minute has the texture of a full hour and so on. The last time I found myself here was when I was struck down with dengue fever. In earth time. I must have spent two years and bit more here. Somewhere between wondering how long I would have to spend on the spaceship and trying to figure out how best to keep my mind and body occupied. I was overwhelmed by a stronger awareness which suddenly swept all these indolent thoughts away from my mind like a tsunami.

On the desk where I usually strap myself down for a meal. Because that’s really the only way one consumes food in space. There was a ledger and beside it a fountain pen with a bottle of ink.

It’s a large book with ornate fittings. A old sort of ledger. The sort of size that maps are usually printed on. I open it ever slowly. I know it sounds slightly perverse, but the texture of the paper was too creamy to resist. Soon I am burying my whole face in it with thoughts of ‘so nice’ flitting thru my me.

I’ve always written by hand. Mostly with a fountain pen, so naturally I found the sight of a physical book, even if it was empty conforting. I began to run my hands across the pages feeling the crispness in between my thumb and index finger.

I guess it’s possoble to document my thoughts by using one of many keyboards on the spaceships. But keyboards aren’t the same as writing stationary. For one they lack the tactile sensation that can comes when a writing instrument glides over paper. A keyboard is too detached…metallic. A pen is a much more primal means of expressing oneself. One can even feel the honesty of alphabets, muscles and sinews as they come out of one’s body. It’s an intensely satisfying feeling.

Then it came to me again…..how long will I have to spend in this space ship this time?

How long?

How long this time?

Then very slowly I look down at the infinity of the empty page that stretches out before me like a milky ocean….I run one finger across the page. It makes a desperate rasping sound like a drowning man. It’s apt as I am the lone astronaut…lost in space.

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