(Short)

(Short)

A Story by Ookpik

His coffee had that artificial quality to it, the too close to the real thing kind of grain. He had long gotten used to it - if he allowed himself the placebo he might have even been sucked into the prospect of believing it was the real thing, that it was brewed from real grounds, real beans, taken from an actual plant and that somewhere deep within the dense, plastic mug was the memory of soil, mulch and moisture.

He took a deep, patient sip.

Instead he was met with a familiar bitter tang, a replica of what should be the long and arduous journey from field to burlap to coffee pot. It smelled like it was supposed to, it tasted like it was supposed to, hell it even packed a caffeine pick me up… 

but it was not coffee.

He set the mug on the dashboard in front of him with a muffled sigh, a longing kind of sigh, the kind of gesture that indicates a homesickness and a mutual frustration with the temporary measure that the coffee represented. 
He had been leaning back in a stationary chair and had his feet set cross legged upon the same dashboard. It was big, in fact to the untrained eye it would seem a mathematical algorithm translated into hieroglyphs. There were thousands of buttons, dials, levers, gauges and every assortment of curious switch you could think of. They must have spanned a square four meters and they were bordering a thick, transparent windshield. Much like the coffee the windshield looked deceptively like glass, it functioned like glass, it smudged like glass… but it was much more than glass.

He took an analytical glance at the dials, even stopping a moment to type into the analogue computer and cross reference the results. 

“Everything normal?” The voice came from behind him.

“Ah Eve”, she had surprised him, “about as normal as you’d expect”. 
He rotated his chair back towards the windshield after confirming the source of the voice.

Very few other than Eve ever bothered him when he was alone in here - it was his own private sanctuary, his place of solitude and pseudo-masculine reflection where he could smoke, make mock diagnostics and contemplate the existential value of pretend coffee. 

The sudden company elicited the same insidious temptation and he reached into the pocket of his worn, leather, flight jacket for a pack. Of all the items, luxuries and necessities on this ship, his jacket was still the real thing. 

Before he could it open it, Eve reached and pulled the dull, plastic box from beneath his chin. 


“You got a light?” She asked as she tucked the cigarette between her lips.


He pulled a cylinder with a heated element from its port and handed it to her, watching as she closed the circuit between spark, lungs and a nicotine drag. She exhaled and the blue smoke filled the cockpit. She was looking at the cigarette between her outstretched fingers and he couldn’t help but notice the same disappointed shadow beneath her eyes.


“Not quite the same is it?”

“No Adam, it’s not.”


He lit his own and added a second incense cloud to the thickening climate. He wanted to extend an olive branch, he knew what she was feeling intimately and was well accustomed to the thought process that justified it. 


“You know, when they said they could print anything up here I wasn’t sure I believed them.”

“The wonders of modern technology.” She didn’t even try to hide the sarcasm and the words dripped from her mouth with an apathetic, molten, mockery."

“The first few weeks I must have smoked so many Cubans this place started to feel like a Ferris wheel.” He gestured at the wraparound dash now partially obscured by smoke and ashed his cigarette into his coffee cup.  

“It was Cognac for me”, Eve was French, or French Canadian, or Cajun, Adam had forgotten which.

He laughed, “all the brandy in the world eh?”

She followed suit, “and of all the gin joints.”


The smiles they cracked were absent euphoria, they weren’t contented smiles or smiles for the sake of compassion, they were sad, desperate, forget-me-not smiles and they broke them both before dragging simultaneously. 

They looked out the windshield together and soaked in the view. 

Clouds.

A thick, dark, impenetrable miasma around the globe that they once knew. 


“You don’t find that hard to look at?” Eve asked, referring to the maelstrom of soot that twisted, curled and lapped beneath the distant stratosphere. She rested her weight on his chair and let the toe of her boot tap the fabricated floor. 

“No, not anymore,” Adam answered, “I still picture home under all of that.”

“Yeah?” She asked sardonically, ashing her smoke into his same cup, “you think it’s still standing?”

“Probably not… but its bones are still down there.”


They paused together and took it in - the clouds moved faster than you’d expect and the patterns might have been mistaken for beautiful. 


“Makes you think doesn’t it?” Eve asked, serious this time.

“What do you mean?”

“Are we still human beings if we don’t call earth home?”

“That’s still home.”


She looked at him square in the face. 


“No it’s not. We may be neighbours but that place isn’t our home anymore.”


She retracted her weight a little and adjusted her boot.


“It’ll be a hundred lifetimes before any one of us sets foot on that ground again.”


Adam was uncomfortable but he didn’t show it.


“And if mankind can’t call planet earth home, it makes you wonder if we’re still mankind at all… like we’re something else maybe, a new kind of human with a new window to rest our elbows upon.”

“The eternal spectators,” Adam voiced, not thinking much about it, “window watchers.”

“The last of us,” Eve echoed.


They took a second to digest what they had each already come to terms with.


“You ever feel guilty?” Adam asked, abruptly.

“For what?”

“For that.” He gestured with his cigarette and the smoke coiled a spiral as he pointed.

“I didn’t open Pandora's box,” she answered, “that wasn’t my fuse, wasn’t my bomb and it sure as s**t wasn’t my fault.”


Adam returned the full faced glare.


“You don’t think so?”

“Hell naw, that right there is a literal, global f**k up and I’m not going to feel responsible because I’m still alive to look at it.”

“You don’t think mankind’s to blame?”

“I’m not mankind Adam, that s**t wasn’t our fault.”


She took her elbow off his chair and dropped the remainder of her cigarette into his cup before leaving with a rushed anxiety.


“Sure it is,” Adam answered as her foot steps trailed behind the closing door.



“We let it happen.”

© 2019 Ookpik


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Reviews

Ah man, you sure know how to write a short story Ookpik. I was invested from start to finish and loved it. Thanks for sharing your art. :)

Posted 3 Months Ago


Ookpik

3 Months Ago

I appreciate that a lot actually, thanks again for taking the time and it always gladdens me to see .. read more

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Added on June 14, 2019
Last Updated on June 16, 2019

Author

Ookpik
Ookpik

Vancouver Island, British Columbia , Canada



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