Fiction scrap: Anders 2:20 pm

I’ve been writing fiction again and will post little scraps here from time to time. It is all drafted material, warts and all. This is part of the project I’m working on right now, tentatively titled So it Rises (mentioned in my response to Reggie Lutz a few days ago). Each chapter follows a character or characters who are connected to the same place set in the near future.

Anders – 2:20 PM

Anders could only see a cerulean blur surrounded by gray. The light was intense, it hurt his eyes, and blinking was almost as bad. Deep sleep’s chitin caked his eyelids. When he tried to move his right hand to wipe it away, he felt the restraint, the full sleeve on his arm held down to the bed he was in.

Panicked, he tried to rip his arms out but found it immediately impossible. He was fully restrained – legs, arms, and even torso and head. Thrashing for a few moments, he found he could wriggle only a few inches inside of some heavy suit anchored at all along his back, his elbows, and the backs of his legs and heels. The sound of his breathing and his first grunts, barely more than gravelly sputters in the back of his throat, died in the stale air around his head.

He was in a helmet. His hot rebounding breath, thick with moisture and the rank scent of sleep surrounded his face and further blurred the colors above him. Heart pounding, he paused.

Deep breaths. He inhaled and exhaled, eyes closed. Oxygen tubes dug into his nose. They were a little raw. The back of his throat felt clammy and a little inflamed at the same time. As best as he could, he ignored them. Deep breaths.

Welcome, the memory of loosing big exhales during climbs up Echo Pinnacle and the canyons in Utah came back to him. For a second, he felt the desert sun and the dry gritty firmament of a crack up a sheer face. The better he breathed, the better his fingers. Every deep exhale aided his limber back and arms to work with his legs like a pronghorn sheep.

Okay, he thought. First things.

There was no sense in trying to do anything fast. He couldn’t see well. Though the blur was coming into focus. In a moment he would be able to see just fine. Above him, the blue was sky and the gray differentiated into the capsule’s ceiling. And as the panic moved on, other things called for his attention. Each joint and muscle was a little out of practice. But the minute of adrenalized struggle seemed to have been enough to remind his body that the week of induced sleep was coming to an end. The long-term muscular stim must have done more or less as promised. He wasn’t feeling the electric pulses moving through his body, the slight amount used during astronautical hibernation to prevent gross muscle atrophy. It must have shut off as programmed.

How long have I been here?

He listened. No sound came from within Leif I’s chamber. No system was running. No one was talking to him through the comm. yet. Nothing showing on his helmet’s heads up display. Nothing but the sound and feeling of the rolling ocean, a faint sound barely making it through the window in the capsule’s hatch, more a feeling in his gut than a sound. But he was home. On earth. He had made it. The chopper would be here soon, the cameras trained on the first man to do induced hypersleep in orbit for two weeks, and the first capsule to have made it through a hurricane.

He wondered what was up with the HUD. “Gaia. Wake up,” he rasped. His voice was like gravel scraping on steel.

Nothing.

“Gaia. Wake up,” he repeated. The computer didn’t respond. He felt a flutter in his gut, fear. He flexed his hands, recalling the chimney rock in his hands and the dry wind on his face, and did a few deep breaths. He would have to use the manual computer input.

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