Nobody thinks about how it’s done anymore. I’m out on the line for twelve hours. I’m tired, I’m beat. I’m in The Suit, and it’s charged up and buzzing in my ears. I can feel the energy crawling on every inch of my skin. Like a bunch angry ants pouring out of a nest that some kid kicked over for fun. I’m about kick over my own nest by firing an Xray laser into the cookie. The cookie. That’s what we call the atomic cocktail that the orbital factory spits out about once a month. Let me tell you, it
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The boat is all we’ve ever known. It’s home. It keeps us alive. It feeds us, keeps us warm, and gives us a place to sleep. We live and love and die on the boat. The boat is everything.
One day I woke up on the boat. I stretched and yawned and went out to look at the sky. The sky was big, and I scanned the horizon. There was nothing but a vast ocean, going on forever and ever. I remember my grandfather saying that there is only one boat. There are no others. That had always made me sad. I want there to be other boats to explore and experience. I still come out here to the deck every morning to look for signs of one.
After coming down from the deck, I walked the corridors inside the boat, down to the galley to get something to eat. All of our food is grown on the boat and processed to get the most out of all the nutrients because there are many people to feed now. But the food doesn’t taste very good. It’s bland and stops me up. I once knew a friend who worked in the hydroponics section, and he gave me an orange from a tree. When I ate it, it exploded in my mouth with heavenly flavor. But the boat decides what we eat, and eating is just an act of survival.
Living on the boat is boring and repetitious. The boat understands this and keeps us busy working. There are some hours to relax and socialize, but mostly we are working to keep the boat running. Only the very young or the extremely elderly are exempt from work. They don’t stay young or old very long, so the boat understands that it is not losing very much work from them. I walked to my job like I do every day, and I stand at the workbench and repair the machines that keep the boat running. The machines come in, I fix them, and the machines go out. Most times I feel that I am really just another machine that fixes the machines for the boat.
The boat really never goes anywhere, because there is nowhere to go. They taught us in school that the world is one vast empty ocean, and there is not one space of land anywhere to live on. There is only the singularity of the boat, and so we must all work together to keep the boat and each other alive. There are so many of us now, and the boat seems smaller than when I was young. When I was a child, it was a place of wonder and excitement. A place full of discoveries to be made and with many empty rooms. Now it is crowded and old. I’ve seen every square inch of it, walked every corridor, deck, and room. There is nothing left to see, no new thing, except for more and more people everywhere. I don’t know what the boat will do about it. I think that it should look for a bigger boat, another boat out there somewhere in that vast ocean.
The people push and shove and yell. Their voices are angry and they believe different things, and they let those things divide them on the boat. I’ve heard talk of “taking over the boat”. I don’t even know what that would mean. We need to work together to keep the boat alive, but they want to own the boat. What would they do differently, except maybe have power over everyone. I worry that the violent-ones will kill again to do this thing. It has happened. And what if they destroy the boat in their anger? We would all die, all drown in the ocean of the world.
So I worry a lot about the boat, and the people in it. Especially when I see someone being careless. Like throwing refuse into the ocean, instead of using the recyclers. Our resources would dwindle to nothing if everyone did that. I sometimes think that it is already happening. It does seem that there has been less and less to go around. Some of that could be accounted for by the increase in population, but not all of it. More and more people leave trash around, and great sections of the corridors are dirty and unkempt. The boat is not well taken care of anymore, even though most of us are all kept working. I wonder if we are working on the right things. I wish I could tell the boat this, but I fear that it doesn’t listen or see any of us. It’s just a machine.
I finish my work for the day and head back out on the deck to watch again for other boats. Today I’m more anxious than ever about all of us on this island of steel. I’m more worried than I’ve ever been that we are all heading for destruction, and that we’ll be the blame of it—the cause of it. It would be one thing for a calamity to come upon us, and that would be sad, but there would be no shame in that. Nothing that we could have done about it. But to know that we had done it to ourselves, that we could have prevented it, that is the saddest thing of all. And it sticks like barbs in my heart that we are headed to that horrible destination.
I ponder all of these things and look out over the waves. I try to console myself with thoughts of my loving friends and family, and the lives and loves that we’ve shared. I think about the violent-ones and their agenda of hate, and their quest for purposeless power. I wish that we could all work together to make the boat a better place. I can feel what that would be like, I can see what it would take to get there, and I want it so bad. I look out into the growing fog creeping over the horizon…and I think I see a tiny glinting light in the vast distance.