Friday 16 March 2012


Coloured clouds swirl on the external display like a kaleidoscopic sandstorm. Warm oranges and dull reds, deep browns and mustard yellows. It is a soundless symphony to chaos in the colours of fire.

The silence is eerie. Then the creaking starts and I wish for the silence again. This metal womb weeps with the strains it suffers: a pained, helpless sobbing.

The interior of my craft is a two metre cube, contained in a five metre sphere packed with instruments and reinforcing architecture. A monitor shows the views from the external cameras and beside it there is a dashboard of buttons and readings. To the right of the dashboard are two rows of three lights. They are meant to be on green. They are both on amber.

I lost communications thirty seconds ago.

I have no way of knowing what went wrong, just that it did. The gravity anchor failed, the field that cradled my descent and tied me to the research ship in orbit simply ceased, like a snapped cable, and my plummet began. I watched the decreasing numbers accelerate, nearer and nearer the centre.

Was it error? Was some calibration miscalculated, some digit misplaced? Will Mary, my wife, my partner in every endeavour, be racked with guilt for the rest of her life over some simple slip of the mind?

Was our ship attacked? Such things are not unheard of out here, pirates, or a rival corporation. I hope it is not that. Please, let Mary live.

Was it jealousy or revenge? For the things I did when it felt as if it was mine and Mary’s connection that had snapped irreparably. When I was drawn deeper and deeper into corporate politics and pushed Mary away defensively, taking refuge in something meaningless and harmful, in an engineer named Alison.

Back then I lost sight of what mattered, until Mary reached out and saved me. I will carry the guilt of my betrayal to my grave; I am, now.

One of the amber lights goes out. The small red light blinks on with a subtle plink. I have fallen beyond the reach of the ship; I have passed the point where Jupiter’s gravity is too strong to be countered. No one can reach out and save me now.

Something cracks. I can hear the whistle of wind inside the outer hull. And the winds here are faster and more turbulent than anything on Earth. My cube starts to rumble and shake as the clever devices and physics fields which keep it smooth and stable begin to fail.

The second amber light dies, and the second red plinks on. I am now deeper than our calculations predicted this craft could survive. Every second that passes is a gift. I remember the panic I felt, briefly, with the jolt of the gravity field disengaging, panic that rapidly passed to this strange calm.

There is another jolt. The gravity field? My heart beats faster, the depth gauge isn’t moving. I am holding steady, not rising, not falling.

With a sharp crack the howling wind within the shell grows louder. The interior cocoon has still not been breached though. I engage my helmet, if I am to be rescued it would be stupid to die breathing toxic air.

I still do not rise.

There is something strange on the external monitors. Something unchanging. A surface. A smooth, solid surface. I am two thousand kilometres down, there should be nothing solid here. The view shifts, I switch cameras, I am rolling. Whatever I am on is too smooth, too uniform in colour to be anything but artificial. It should not be possible for anything to maintain position here, and yet, somehow. The camera software isolates shapes on the surface, like large letters, or script, but like nothing from Earth.

Oh, Mary, you were right.

My craft rolls off the edge and as the depth gauge begins to flicker down again the interior walls bulge inwards.

Recommended reading:
Neither Face Nor Feelings by Jon Bastion
I entered a 72 hour writing competition with the prompt Future Food. I didn't win, but the story that did, Neither Face Nor Feelings, is a remarkably good science fiction flash. Take a look. =)


  1. An excellent example of wonder in the face of tragedy. It's too bad he wasn't rescued — I'd like to know what it was that stopped him for those few moments.

    1. Thank you, Larry. =)

      A solid surface deep within Jupiter's atmosphere... an inhuman script... that's all I can say. They may be listening... ;D

  2. It's kind of funny to be stranded and despairing in such a pretty and neat place. But then it's no fun when your walls bulge.

    1. This is true. Bulging walls are rarely a sign of good times. Thanks, John. ;)

  3. This was sad and yet I kept hoping he would be rescued. I too wonder what it was that held him up long enough to be amazed by something - what what? I want to know. Bugger those walls!

    This read so smoothly it carried the reader along effortlessly. ^_^

    1. Some mysteries are not meant to be solved... ;)

      Thank you, Helen. =)

  4. I liked his thought processes as he sank towards his death, the analysing, and the reflecting.

    The solid surface and the inscriptions far, far beneath the gases is a wonderful touch, thought-provoking.

    For all we know....

    1. Exactly... we can't even reach the deepest depths of our own oceans, we may never know...

      Thanks. =)

  5. I enjoyed following his thought processes, as he fell. I did wonder if he might be pulled back and saved at the last moment but that sadly wasn't to be, yet it seemed as if this might have been the first time he saw himself and his surroundings clearly for what they were. But was it an accident or did someone (Mary? or the spurned and dangerous engineer Alison?) send him tumbling to his end? Great piece of writing!

    1. Thank you, Kath! ^_^ Really pleased you got so into it. =)

  6. Hi John. Some cool concepts in here, mixed in with some nice character moments.

    Also, I liked the, has he been saved? Then the thought it might be ok, then the final line.

    One of your best I think.