The Dark, and the Cold, and the Quiet
DescriptionA short and dark diversion.
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The MorningI like my quiet. The quiet improves concentration and focus. The still and the calm forces one to look inward and to learn of oneself. It forces an individual to examine his or her feelings and thoughts, and get closer to the soul and essence of the character and personality. I didn't always like the quiet. It happened after my second deep-space voyage. Spending two to four years in Zero-G, with nothing but the humming of the ion engines and life support, affects a person in different and unusual ways. One needs something to occupy the mind. I took first to reading, and then to writing. Writing forces you to probe the deepest, darkest corners of your soul, uncovering things about yourself that you never knew. Once you begin to live the life of a deep space crewman or crewwoman, you carry it over to your life on a planet. After a long voyage, one has to become acclimated to a planet. There is a readjustment to gravity. There is also the adjustment to cultural and language changes. While a crewman in space has only been, from his or her perspective, in flight for two years, close to two hundred have passed on the destination planet. So one takes some very intensive coursework in language and cultural change. One also gets to see and experience life on different planets, which is always very educational. I am a native of Earth, but my first voyage was to Tau Ceti IV. I fell in love with the place immediately. I decided to make my home there, and purchased some land in a remote area. It's very easy to save money when one is a "Spacer," as they call us. You spend two years in space but two hundred pass on the planet. You draw pay for two hundred years. However, there is no place to spend it in deep space. So, the company invests it for you. You return and find out you are a wealthy man or woman. I moved my funds to Tau Ceti IV when I decided to live there and had the company make the planet my home base. Landing on a planet after spending all of that time in space is fascinating. You spend your time in quarantine, learning about culture and language. You also learn to adjust to gravity. That requires learning to walk and move about all over. In some respects, it is like being like a baby. Once you get through quarantine you go on shore leave until your next voyage. Shore leave is a wonderful time. You get your choice of luxuries, all for free. You see, planetary natives view Spacers as gods. We get the best hotels, the finest foods, and the recreation of our choice. And we usually get it for free. Of course, I am a generous tipper, but it's easy to tip when one isn't paying anything upfront. And then there is the sex. Most Spacers, male or female, regardless of looks, get their pick of partners. As I said, we are considered gods. After my first voyage, I had sex nine times on shore leave, with nine different women, and every one was absolutely gorgeous. But after the third voyage, the partying grew old very quickly. You fool around and party a bit, but then you settle down, fixing up your home and looking for something to occupy your mind before your next voyage. Usually, since you have ninety planetary days of shore leave, you take up a hobby. And your hobby becomes something that you can take with you into space. For me, it became reading and writing. I had built my home so that it reflected the quiet and dimness of space. Most Spacers do that. And, that type of a setting is ideal for research. Research is reading and writing. It was very easy for me to carry this hobby with me onto my voyages, as thousands of volumes of material can be carried on a single hard drive. And two years of the calm and silence of deep space really aids concentration. I became quite accomplished at this hobby, and decided to continue on with the hobby after my retirement. I had written two novels on my fourth voyage, and both had become bestsellers on Tau Ceti. They enhanced my income nicely. I also took up another hobby, underwater diving. The ancient name, SCUBA, was still used. I loved going beneath the surface of the oceans at Tau Ceti IV and looking at the pristine reefs. I also really appreciated the quiet of the oceans. The calm, however, was another matter. There are times when the oceans are anything but calm. I made a total of six deep space voyages for BNSF Corporation, the company that employed me as a Spacer. In that time period, I had written three best-selling novels and a history of the company that was considered definitive. I was a bit of a celebrity in literary circles. After six voyages, I retired. I made my home extremely soundproof and quiet, and settled down to a life of research and learning. Now, I awakened at seven A.M., as was my practice since my retirement. I showered, shaved, dressed, and cooked my own breakfast. Two eggs, over easy, two links of sausage, and one-half of a grapefruit or pineapple, washed down with two large mugs of coffee. I cleaned up my breakfast dishes, entered my dark and quiet living room for fifteen minutes of meditation, and then headed for my library. My small library was really a combination workroom and library. My computer terminal was there, for my writing, and also my timekeeper for notifications. The room was hermetically sealed, but not soundproofed. Soundproofing was not necessary. My entire home was soundproofed upon my retirement. Indeed, I insisted the work be completed before I moved in and took occupancy. I demanded comfort and silence in my library, as I had real books, printed on real paper, in that room. Most people used the central repository. With readers on their desktops, they could dial up any book, magazine, technical journal, or newspaper that they wished. The readers would place it in a nice format. I often did that to get the news. But for books, I demanded the real feel of paper and binding in my hands. It was expensive, but I could afford it. My library was not extensive, but was excellent. I had collections by both the ancient and modern masters. Shakespeare, Dickens, Faulkner, Hemingway, Twain, Chakrabooty, Liu Kuen, Sarane, Sardo, and Prolnik were all present. Most were reproductions, but I had a few original and signed books by Liu Kuen and Chakrabooty. They were valued at millions. It was a joy to open them, feel the fine leather and paper, and simply read. When I read, I would have my terminal active. I would select some music and play it softly. Lately, the unusual harmonies coming from the layered synthesizers of the modern composer Elvenhjam intrigued me. I played them at low volume. They had a soothing effect that allowed me to read and concentrate with ease. So, I proceeded to the bookcase and removed Volume II of Chakrabooty's "God's Place in a Technological Society." His three volumes on this topic fascinated me and triggered very profound philosophical thought processes. I sat down at my table, surrounded by rich wooden paneling, turned on my reading light, and began to read. At eleven sharp, my computer terminal began to beep. I closed the book but left it on the table. I would have some lunch and then prepare for my interview. Naomi Szott, a representative of BNSF Corporation, was coming at one o'clock to speak with me. A psychiatrist, Dr. Marcus Samuels, would accompany her. I silenced the terminal and proceeded to my kitchen to prepare my lunch. Lunch would be completed by noon, and then I would meditate and prepare my brain for the coming visit. I wanted to be very, very sharp. I was extremely curious as to why BNSF, my former company, would send two people to speak with a chief pilot. I finished my lunch and cleaned the kitchen. Then I meditated in the living room. I exited meditation in time to see the small car pull into my driveway and a man and a woman exit. I was prepared.