MiniVideo: The Ghosts of Soyuz, Part I

Minivideos are a way to share my music through channels that are designed exclusively for video–like Youtube and Facebook–without creating the kind of work-intensive full video that I’ve made for Dada DanceA City Is A Sound, and Theme From Another Place.

I’ve just posted a minivideo for the first track from my album Alone in a Big Place, “The Ghosts of Soyuz.” There’s a feeling you get when you’re alone in a big place–under the stars in the wilderness, or on the ocean by yourself with no land in sight. It’s unsettling and awe inspiring at the same time. This album deals with that feeling, and every track on the album comes with a piece of short fiction–here’s the video, and below it is the story that goes with it.

You can get the album here: Get “Alone in a Big Place”

Kaz drums his fingers on a hollow metal panel, and the small impacts resonate. He gazes through the port at Piotr, who’s outside, and unconsciously begins to tap out a rhythm: *bupata bupata BUM, bupata bupata BUM*. He hums a bit of melody that goes with it—what’s that from? He can’t place it. Maybe he made it up.

The panel chills his fingertips, and he imagines how cold it must be out there.  In here it’s reasonably warm, due in part to the heating system and in part to his body heat.  Warmth and moisture surround any living thing in a miasma.  On Earth you rarely notice it, but here, against the blank canvas of space, it can’t help but attract your attention. Almost from the moment they arrived on the cramped station, the air was warmed by his metabolism and Piotr’s, and filled with the moisture of their damp breath and their sweat. The whole place immediately began to smell richly—and not a little rancidly—of life.  It was a fragrance in flux. Over here it resembled soup. Over there, feet. Over that way, armpit sweat.  No matter how pristine a human artifact may be when it’s first made, it will quickly acquire the fecund stink of life, and the station is no exception.  It had been nearly sterile when it was launched.  Now the seals on the windows have accumulated dark spots—some kind of fungus that hitched a ride into space on their bodies.  And when he touches some surfaces it seems—although he can’t be sure if it’s real or a trick of his imagination—like they’re a little slick, as if colonies of bacteria have produced a barely perceptible layer of slime.

Kaz is a level-headed guy, normally anyway, but the silence is starting to get to him. Hence the drumming of his fingers and his repetitive humming of the scrap of melody that now won’t get out of his head. During training, every cosmonaut goes through a seemingly endless series of simulations of unexpected situations—emergencies and accidents and FUBAR nightmares. The exercises include time in a sensory deprivation tank, and some of the guys, cut off from all sensation, had started seeing things that weren’t there. Flashes of colored light, even images. And their data-starved brains had conjured up imaginary sounds: clicks and thumps and whispers and, sometimes, melodies, like the one he’s humming now. None of that had ever happened to him, but those simulations had lasted hours, not days. And he’d always known that right on the other side of the sealed hatch there’d been people: trainers, other aspiring cosmonauts, visiting dignitaries from Moscow. The isolation had been artificial, and the accident hadn’t been real.

He touches the cool metal frame of the port, then lets his fingers trail across the transparent surface of the window. On the other side of *that* there’s nothing—really and truly nothing. A vacuum. Space. And Piotr.

They ’d been hit a glancing blow by a piece of debris from some decommissioned satellite—space junk.  Piotr had gone out to try to effect some DIY repairs on the comm system. Without it they had no contact with the ground, which was going to make returning to Earth a very dangerous proposition.  So Piotr had gone while Kaz had remained inside, testing internal systems to see what else might have been damaged.  Normally he’d have monitored Piotr during the whole EVA—at least visually, since they had no radio for the moment—but they’d needed quick answers on whether any other vital systems had been affected, so he’d worked his way through several emergency checklists, glancing out the port from time to time to make sure Piotr was all right. And he had been, every time—until he wasn’t.

Kaz had looked out and seen Piotr, still in position, completely still. He’d assumed, without consciously thinking about it, that the other cosmonaut had just paused for a moment, but Kaz had been trained for more than a decade to check and double-check *everything* while on a mission. It was automatic, something he did even when there was no reason to think that anything was wrong. So he’d waited for Piotr to resume working, figuring it would take a few seconds. But it hadn’t happened. He’d waited, and waited, and waited, but Piotr had simply hung there, motionless.  He was turned away from the port, so Kaz couldn’t even see his face behind the visor.  Had another piece of debris hit him? Maybe. Or maybe he’d had some kind of catastrophic health failure—a heart attack or an aneurism, something like that. There was no way to tell.


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