Speculation, Inquiry, and a Quest for Purpose

Adrift In Depression


There is no atmosphere, no fluid medium out here in outer space to carry away your screaming, it simply reverberates inside your helmet. Your space pen is running out of ink, so you can’t even commit your experience to the page, but you scratch away anyway. You’ll run out of oxygen before you run out of things to say, and future scientists may thank you for your effort if they ever recover your body.

Your tether snapped on a routine excursion, so now you’re just floating away from the hatch at a contemplative one and a half meters per second. There’s plenty of time to consider everything you did wrong. You’ve got hours for your life to flash before your eyes in slow motion.

The radio crackles. They’re going to do everything they can to save you. Just sit tight and stay calm. They’ll tell you the plan once they have one. No ETA on that yet. Over and out.

The capsule is getting smaller, quickly overwhelmed by the dark side of the earth. Its tiny blinking lights are becoming harder to distinguish from the twinkling cities on the surface. They mean well, those tiny faraway people of Mission Control, but they can’t do anything to help you all the way out here.

You’re adrift, too far gone for anyone to help you, and you have so much time to examine the rest of your life. At best, you will keep breathing until the end, but that could be days from now with your redundant oxygen tanks. Days of slowly drifting deeper into the blackness of empty space, weightless in the void that surrounds you.

There were a lot of ways that it all could end, but they all came down to this, eventually. Just you, slowly running out of air, thinking about your short, meaningless life and how very far away from you everything and everybody on earth really is. There are two kinds of people in the known universe: there’s everyone else, and then there’s you. As the planet shrinks before you, you realize that all of humanity is encapsulated in that one pale blue dot,—everyone except you.

You are alone.

You will never again read a book on a crowded bus, never share a brief moment of awkward eye contact with a stranger in the bathroom, never feel that first flutter of attraction with someone you’re just getting to know, never wave somebody in on the highway at rush hour because you were having a pretty good day. All you will ever see is blackness, all you will ever hear is silence, all you will ever feel is cold, all you will ever write is nothing.

You’ve nearly bled your second pen dry trying in vain to describe the experience, and for whom? Finding you out here would be like finding a needle in a haystack if the needle were three hydrogen atoms and the haystack were the whole African continent. You are an ever-diminishing speck in an infinite darkness, lost in thought and lost in space.

Even silence has a sound, once you strip away all of the others. It starts as a light ringing, like pink noise from a television in the other room, but tinnitus turns to tintinnabulations with nothing else to contextualize its sonic scale, or maybe it’s just the perpetually decaying overtones of your last desperate cry for help, all those hours ago. The roar of nothingness is deafening when there’s nothing left to temper it, and you want to scream again if only to disturb the monotony of having nothing else to dwell on but your fate and the slow, sad end of your short, pitiful life.

Now your home planet is nothing more than the black absence of stars, a perfect circle of negative space the size of a quarter if you held it at arm’s length. Soon, you’ll lose track of it altogether, and your one tangible point of reference will be lost and gone forever. You will never touch anything but the inside of your spacesuit, never smell anything but the fear in your own recirculated sweat, never taste anything but the dull brown musk of the roof of your mouth.

You’re almost out of ink entirely when the radio squawks you out of your stupor. It’s Mission Control and they have a plan to bring you home. They just need you to sit tight and remain calm for about six more hours while they test the equipment and run preflight checks.

Only six more hours of this, and maybe it’ll all be over.

About the author

Ian Hayes

Former technical support and customer service professional, now freelance writer and entrepreneur writing Horror, Narrative Nonfiction, and Literary/Speculative Fiction.

Also backpacker, rock climber, casual biker, woodworker and armchair philosopher.

Currently living in Portland, Oregon, but also from New York, Alabama, New Mexico, Virginia, Georgia, Connecticut and Tennessee.

By Ian Hayes
Speculation, Inquiry, and a Quest for Purpose