September 10, 2016 by Alfonso Acosta
7 – Driftwood
The boat rocked gently with the tide. She took a swig from the cold beer and checked the dials on the panel. Ninety-two point six, eighty-three point four… she meticulously noted all the readings in the log.
When she first got here she had hated the monotony of this assignment. Endless days with little else to than keep the logs updated and, once or twice a month, a dive to clean and check the sensors. How weird that she now hold back the tears at the very thought of leaving.
This was her home… at least that’s what she had grown to call it after the past two years. And now she was about to be uprooted once again.
A part of her knew she had no right to feel this way. Hadn’t she joined the corps to see the world? But that had been a younger, more impulsive, version of herself.
She’d been so thrilled by her first tour in the hot sands. She fell deeply in love with the red desert, it’s fiery sunsets and clear nights… she cried for many days when she was sent up to the mountains.
The mountains were harsh and cold, and she had hated them at first, they were so different and strange… but time began to bring her closer to the towering white peaks. She had begun to feel at home… until new orders came and they were gone.
She wrote down the last digits on the log and took another long swig from the beer. Tomorrow it would all be gone again.
It was still dark when she got up. She had at least the right to say goodbye. As she got up to the deck the sun was just a distant glow on the horizon. She watched in silence as the golden rays began to shine upon the waters… it was so beautiful out here. Just as a gentle breeze began to blow, she felt the weird tingling on her skin… then it all began to fade. The sun, the sea, the boat, herself… it all became a pixelated blur at the same rate as the voices in her head became clearer.
“–Jane?” A soft voice from somewhere above her head. “–Jane. How are you feeling?”
She wanted to cry, to tell them of her heartbreak, to let them know about her broken roots… instead she calmly answered. “–I’m ok, Doctor Spencer. Just a bit disoriented, that’s all.”
“–It’s all right , Jane. Coming out of symlink can be difficult sometimes.”
The face looking down on her got clearer, as did the racks of cables and equipment on the ceiling behind it.
“–How soon until I go this time?” She asked, as the table gently folded into a chair beneath her. “–Not for at least a couple of days.” The man in white answered. “–You need to rest before your next assignment.”
“–Two days,” she thought, pushing on the joystick to maneuver the chair into the hallway. As she passed the glass doors she caught the view of the thin and crooked woman on a wheelchair, looking back at her from her reflection.
She had no roots, she had no home. Nothing to hold on to but the certainty of change. It was painful to live a life thru other people’s bodies, enjoying feelings and sensations that would never be her own… but it was still more painful to come back.
At least while she was hooked to the machine she felt alive.