The Ancient 1.1

The first thought to enter Edward’s mind is; holy fuck! My head hurts!

He groans, his groggy mind struggling to make sense of the world as he wakes. He leans forward and rests his head against the cold metal wall in front of him. He tries to comfort his brain, to bring his hand up and gently rest his head in his palms, massage his eyes, rub his temples, do anything to alleviate the throb in his skull, but he discovers he can’t. He can’t raise his arm. He can’t lower his head. He can barely move at all in the cramped compartment he finds himself in.

The second thought to enter Edward’s mind is; where the hell am I?

His memory seems a spotty mess of the sort he would expect after a night of severe drinking, but Edward doesn’t recall having a night of severe drinking. In fact, Edward distinctly remembers having given up drinking a long time ago when he had the accident; when he put that girl in a coma for two weeks and lost his left arm.

Edward’s senses slowly begin to return to him as the numbness wears off. His nose stings from the cold air, his skin forms goose-bumps as it brushes against the cold metal. He’s blind to the world and panics for a moment as he considers the possibility that he has lost his sight, but he’s fairly certain there is no light, and so he calms himself. He takes several deep breaths of the frigid air as he considers his situation. He is trapped inside a very small, very cold metal container.

Then his memory returns to him like somebody flipped a switch.

“The Cryos Program,” he says quietly. Suddenly, he recalls the mandatory ‘save humanity’ program he was selected for when the disease began to spread. The world’s governments had freaked out when a mysterious virus began eradicating life on Earth. The United States hadn’t been picky about who was chosen, so long as they weren’t infected. Only three-hundred-eighty-nine individuals were chosen off the west coast of North America, including a number of inmates like himself who had non-violent offenses. 

It seemed like a simple job at the time; for him, anyway. All he had to do was step into a chamber and sleep until they reached a new world. Then his only job was to help rebuild society and procreate. It seemed a much better option than spending two more years in prison. The scientists and the engineers all had their parts as well; they had to run diagnostics, keep everyone alive and well, and head the construction of society. A lot of very big words were used in the orientation, but all Edward really understood was that an Earth-like planet was found to be habitable and they were going to be the first people to settle on it.

“-three; dead.” A faint voice says. It sounds distant, but it could be the walls dampening the sound. The voice could be right outside his door. Edward turns his head as best he can in his limited space and presses his ear to the wall in front of him.

“Number four,” the voice says, sounding more clear, and a bit closer. There’s a sound like metal grinding on metal, a rust squeak, then a heavy metallic thud.

Must be the welcoming crew, Edward thinks. Pulling us all out to get to work.

Edward sighs with relief, knowing he won’t spend much more time in his cramped box.

“Dead,” the voice says outside his container.

Dead? Edward thinks. Did they say dead? That’s twice he’s heard the world. The first time hadn’t registered with him until he heard it again. At least two dead? Why would there be dead?

Edward’s mind floods with questions as he begins to consider possibilities on how people died, how many died, and why the voice didn’t seem surprised. Maybe there was a crash? Maybe a major malfunction?

Edward’s thoughts are disrupted as his confined space is assaulted by the loud squeal of rusty hinges, and a sudden onslaught of intense, bright light is introduced to his sleepy, dilated eyes. He curses loudly as he winces and jerks his head back, smacking it against the wall. Instinctively, his hand struggle against the confined space in an attempt to shield his eyes, but it’s a futile attempt as the walls refuse to give.

“Number five, alive!” The silhouetted head declares, delightedly, through the small glass window in front of Edward’s face. Edward winces again as the hatch is dropped, produce a loud, resonating clang that echoes through his chamber for several seconds. He is swallowed by darkness again when the hatch closes, and the voice moves on. “Number six. Oh, ho! VERY dead, dayum!”

Edward blinks rapidly, trying to rid himself of the white spots that have invaded his vision. He listens as the voice moves further away and the panic begins to return.

Are they just going to leave me?

Author: CJ Stark

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