The Companion Signal

By Thomas White

1 – escape

Frost crept up the curved glass shielding like the very fingers of death, wrapping around everything I ever really knew. Within, the specimen lay intact. My gloves scraped tiny flakes away, only to see her face fade quickly beneath the thick fog which had been filling the room. “Cryogenic transfer complete”, I read as the letters flashed across a black screen.

Two weeks earlier…

“4:50am”, blinking diodes, encased within a cheap plastic cube, flashed vehemently.  Angry little eyes recurrently staring at a barely functioning human body, only now realizing the cruel joke, more commonly known in popular terms as ‘the morning’.  “Shut the fuck up! No, no, no!”, wailed Dr. White, and in a more reluctant tone. “Ah shit okay, I’m up I’m up”.

The early light of the facility’s fluorescent bulbs began to burn through the curtains of his bunk. “Why the hell does it have to be today?” he groaned, feet probing the ground, careful not to step on any of the debris from the previous night’s drinking.

Dr. White, ex-head of the Asimov Research Institute, had been called in to give testimony to what had been before ‘blasphemous’ accusations that the world was about to end.  Nothing that anybody should ever take lightly of course, but yes, unexpectedly met with his immediate expulsion from the planet’s top science academy.  Not that it had meant much to him in recent times, but still a blow to his already reeling self-esteem.  Now it was his head that was reeling.

“Jesus fucking Christ”, stale saliva clogged the corners of his cracked lips, “why didn’t I just keep my big mouth shut!”.  That was a reoccurring statement the doctor had come to adopt as his own.

It was too loud to hear the computer anyways. Crashing all around me were the last remnants of a lost world. I performed a system check on a capsule laid empty next to the one that contained my deceased wife. She had been dead for 3 years, but until now, had been contained in another cryogenic capsule unfit for what I had in store.

Like the tomb that had come to be her final resting place.  The picture in his breast pocket kept her beauty immortal.  As the doctor struggled out of the cot and found un-littered ground, he felt the pocket to make sure that he still had one of his only links to a time when things had seemingly made sense.

The intercom clicked on and a voice spoke “Good morning Dr. White, please report immediately to General Strike’s ready room.”  The intercom, not even a personal invitation was extended.  The people had not yet decided if this disheveled man had been an ally or an enemy.  The radical concepts he put forward certainly gave the world a shock that it may have felt guilty about it rather than betrayed.   The END of the WORLD, how could anyone have put it more bluntly.

Chaos ensued due to the public claim the doctor made.  Against all orders to keep his findings under strict discretion, Dr. White leaked the information to the press.  Not sure if this was a sort of vindication towards the tragic circumstances of his wife’s demise, the doctor also felt that if the world were indeed ending, he would want to know just like anybody else.

“Good morning Dr. White”, as the general liked to convey his venomous sarcasm, “I trust you slept well.”  This was the day.  This was the one last chance on which anyone had any hope of surviving the most fatal catastrophe, complete annihilation.  This was the day Dr. White was allowed to finally answer the leaders’ plea to find a way to circumvent the fated doom of the planet.

It was a plan he had proposed while incarcerated, as his wife struggled to breathe her last remaining moments away.  Stricken by a rare form of cancer, the doctor had found that his wife’s ailment was due to an increase of alpha radiation in the atmosphere, in turn due to an excess of pollutants.  This would have normally gone unnoticed if it hadn’t been for his ardent nature and his keen interest in stellar helium nuclei reactions.  He believed he might have saved her had it not been for his incarceration, and had it not been for his trusted assistants locking her away in cryogenic containment, he might have lost his last shred of humanity.

“So what now General?” the doctor replied behind a headache the size of the moon.

The ground shook violently sending bookshelves, and lights, crashing to the floor. The capsules were anchored firmly, but my own two feet fell from beneath me, and sent me colliding with the hull of my own capsule. Cursing under my breath and fighting against losing consciousness, I struggled into my frozen coffin taking one last look at the other. As the glass door began to close I could hear the sounds of destruction fading, then replaced by the sound of the rocket igniting. Within minutes I fell under the anesthetic mist that put me into an enhanced state of hibernation.

A last resort, a contingency mixed with obsession.  The doctor, since he was a boy, had always dreamed of seeking separation from the rest of the world.  Raised among people bent on personal gain and self-satisfaction, he never thought he would have met someone like her.  A kindred spirit, she shared the belief that people had once cared for each other as they did themselves, but that was long ago.  Centuries of exploiting natural resources and ignoring the cautious misgivings of the leading scientists, the people had suffered from their own form of obsession, the economy.  Driven by greed and blinded by profit, the world leaders had exhausted all their natural resources and were solely dependent on manufacturing everything to survive.  Pollution was abundant and could not be counter-measured by what had once been a thriving eco-system.

“General I believe I can do something”, this was a lie of course, but the doctor felt no remorse, “give me access to my lab and the probes I developed to counteract the radiation affecting our planet.”  Although these intentions had been true at one point, the doctor had only one thought in mind, “Fuck ‘em”.
The plan was in full effect.  It was time to execute, or be executed.  As he worked on through the night on what many believed to be the salvation of his race, the doctor programmed in the final launch codes of the cryogenic tubes.  Dr. White couldn’t imagine what destruction lay for the world from which he was about to depart.  Neither could he feel responsible.

2 – in the meantime…

Centuries pass, centuries of irrelevance in the vast depths of space. The history of a species is condemned to silence. A civilization doomed by its own brief history, its inaction against learning from mistakes. Only a few thousand years of ignorance was needed to decimate eons of natural progression. Not to mention wars, plagues, a global nuclear holocaust. The end took everything away. Only to be survived by a mere pair of biologically suspended beings.

A can of beer, and a joint, of all the things that breakthrough research had to offer, nothing gave the good doctor more pleasure after work than to relax and not have to solve any major problems or decide how to appropriate his time.  But it was not so, and even for that it was too late.  The world was going to end one way or another, but the doctor knew he wouldn’t be around to take part.

As far as he was concerned, the real cancer was the world, and he was the one being cured of it.

On through time and space the capsules drift, electromagnetically bonded. The bond invisible, but strong like the love the occupants had once shared for each other. Centuries of passing through empty space. No wonders of the universe wasted on our inanimate corpses.

The autopilot and navigational system remain functional. Always avoiding large areas of gravitational flux and dodging all forms of debris, the autopilot and navigational system never fail.

^ anomaly detected
/ no data available
/ no action prescribed
^ course maintained
^ entering unknown anomaly
^ electromagnetic disturbances detected
: warning : electromagnetic systems compromised
/ shutting down secondary electromagnetic systems
^ anomaly cleared
: warning : capsules disengaged
/ homing beacons activated

The centuries pass…

“No history, no history, no history!…”, a song from his youth echoes through the depths of timeless dreams.

3 – he wakes

The sensation alone knocks me back into subconscious. My mind reels back against memories flooding in from all directions at once. An entire lifetime jumbled up and fed to me by the thoughtful. There is one image that keeps appearing, a face that keeps fading away under the fog. I try to focus and I feel so cold.

“Cryogenic transfer complete”, he read for the first time on a small slit of paper hidden within his daily meal.  He knew what it meant and it was the only solace afforded to him in the small cell he now called home.  The few memories he had of a previous life now wearing thin from the inside out.  The concrete walls around him now being his only constant, the doctor knew if he could buy her time, then maybe, just maybe someday they could be reunited.

He often wondered if she would even recognize him…

With recognition comes enlightenment. My mind is dragged kicking and screaming through space and time. I am left in gaping amazement at not only my surroundings, but also the ramifications of my accomplishments. Not to mention the mere fact that I am still alive. But there was more than just the escape. Something else, something close that was lost so long ago. With the flight of inspiration I exit the capsule, not only to find myself on an alien planet, but also alone.

I am through mourning though. She was taken from me long ago. There was nothing I could do for her again. My curiosity, and my passion for science and exploration, pulled my thoughts from the past. To the returning memories of not only a woman lost, but also a world. A hazy orange and blue landscape stretches itself before me. I struggle against the difference in light, and open a compartment to reveal light-sensitive contact lenses to protect my unaccustomed eyes.

4 – a flashing red light

I camp for what I believe is the night on the planet. Tasting my rations carefully, and savouring my senses once again, I spend the time wondering what could have happened to her capsule. What was the flaw? I recall some of my most trusted engineer’s words, ‘…the auto-pilot and navigational system never fail…’. I remember the homing beacon. The flashing red light tells me I am still transmitting. But is there anything left to receive? My breath stops. Movements cease. To my astonishment I am not only transmitting, but also receiving. The companion signal! I rejoice at the thought of her capsule not only intact enough to transmit a signal, but on the same planet.

I have to remind myself to breathe, but I can’t pull myself together. Huddled against the computer controls of my capsule, I pass out into a deep slumber, subdued by the final effects of anesthetic in my system. My dreams are troubled, but I sleep on. I almost believe that I will be on yet another world when I wake.

I am wakened by a flashing red light pressed up against my face. Thoughts of her flood my mind. Thoughts of being with her again are replaced with deep sorrow to know I still cannot do anything for her. The condition that claimed my wife’s health so long ago still lingers in her body. But now I have a second chance to be near her again. Now I can finish my life in comfort and peace, not on a doomed apocalyptic planet.

5- the search

Trekking across the alien terrain proves to be a relatively easy task. The landscape being composed of large open spaces, with scattered patches of small shrub-like vegetation, offered no obstruction to my progress. No other traces of life were to be found other than a small growth of purple moss growing in various rock patches. It was like the planet had been stripped clean, almost barren.

I check my guidance monitor. The homing beacon is currently my only concern. A strange feeling enters me as if I know the path already. The guidance monitor reads that I have not far to go, but I did not need it to tell me that. Curiously enough, as I proceed, the land becomes more ravaged. It seems to have been trampled on as well as stripped of all vegetation. Troubled, I come to a stop.

My heartbeat speeds up as I find the monitor registering the beacon to be located just over a hill north of my position. Awkwardly, I clamor up the hill, my legs trembling. With each step I think more and more of what I will have to do with her capsule. I think of burying her, she deserves that since I am quite certain that I cannot do anything for her anymore. As my mind winds on I realize the top of the hill is near. Just as my feet fumble with the last few steps my mind is slow to register the view on the other side.

6 – to his horror!

Before my very eyes, an enormous crowd of beings form, flocking in a circle around a large rock formation. I cannot comprehend what I am witnessing. The aliens with their backs turned to me do not seem to notice me. Despite all other impulses to flee, I approach the mass with strangely little caution. Glancing down, I notice the monitor indicating the location of the homing beacon within the rock formation.

From what I can see behind the crowd, the aliens are built with a humanoid form. Two legs, two arms, although slimmer, and a shortened torso section. Their necks, stretched to at least twice the length of mine, hold up oval shaped heads covered at the very top with short brown hair. I recall how my wife had beautiful long brown hair. Unlike anything I had previously seen on this planet, even the soil was pale in comparison.

I find myself just metres away from the outside of the crowd. I feel oddly calm about being so close to things never encountered before by man. As if broken by a spell, the aliens turn to face me. Their necks crane around, yet their bodies remain still. A cold wave of fear surges through my body. My jaw dropped, I try to form words to make the entire scene seem real. The thousands of alien faces turned to me are not alien at all. It is my wife’s face I am looking at. On and on, in the mass of humanoids, the face of my dead wife stares blankly back at me. However, as quickly as the cold wave of fear came, it dissipates, leaving me in a trance. The air feels thick and electric as if a storm were to break out. Everything goes dark.

7 – reunited

Yet again haunting memories flood my mind, too many for one day. The consciousness that I have regained is not that of a physical being, but a sentient form of energy created by the aliens. I have been rendered. My DNA cloned into the anatomy of the hybrid aliens.  I was brought here by them. Long have they waited for my capsule to break orbit. Centuries before had the capsule of my wife reached the surface, sent crashing down due to the disruption of the anomaly. Centuries before had the beings rendered her genetic makeup, yet needed the complete genome to reproduce. The companion signal. Now we must leave this planet that has too been dying, not a fate as dramatic as that of my previous home, but one that leads the essence of me, and my beloved, once more to the stars.

And so, after thus transcending from the physical realm to one of pure energy, the love of the man and woman go on through eternity…ever changing…ever moving towards perfection…always escaping towards the hope of peace they so long to find together.


About Kid-Scissor Hybrid

Online zine of technology + humanity with stories both real and fictional. Celebrating and fearing the inevitable!

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