By Michael Akerib
I am weightless in space. Deep space is dark. Dark without a single ray of light. If light created life, it is well hidden. My legs are bent, I am in a foetal position. Movement. Something is moving. A bird flies. Impossible. A bird, ay life, cannot exist in deep space. No life, no image, no sound. If there is no life, am I dead? Is that why I am weightless? Or is it because my body has disintegrated and I have still not become conscious of the change? If this is the case, then I am really free. I have crossed some invisible border which I am as yet incapable of defining.
Air fills my lungs in a continuous whistling stream.
Another deep breath; another, deeper, whistling sound. My eyes are able to guess shapes again. I see images of flowers and trees – it is a forest, I decide. The bird is back and flaps its wings in front of me. Another deep breath and my eyesight will improve.
Darkness returns. Darkness and light alternate. Whatever happened to my cat? I don’t hear it purr. Has it decided it was time for an adventure?
The darkness is deeper now.
It engulfs me, leads me into a world without objects, without shapes. I strive with my own self to remain alive.
That morning I had decided to take my plane for a short flight. The valley below was a large green patch. Then the winds started blowing. Strong, dangerous, fearsome.
White clouds surrounded my plane making it difficult to see the horizon. Fear grew in me and I started making navigational mistakes. Then I lost consciousness.
When I came to my senses, I was floating in space. Earth was a speck in the distance.
I could no longer feel my body, not a single one of my limbs. I had become ethereal. My mind tried in vain to understand what was going on and how to change the situation. My eyes saw the various parts of my body, but I did not feel their presence. Was this reality or a dream? Was I alive or dead? Was this a fleeting moment or eternity?
If I were alive, then I should feel pain, but that was not the case. If I were dead then I should not be able to think and doubt, but I did.
The wind was blowing. A soft wind that was stroking me into peaceful oblivion. It washed the terrifying images of previous days. My left leg had a cramp. I had to have light to see what was wrong with that part of me. Perhaps my cat had spent too much time lying on me and I had not had the courage to chase it away.
If I was not dead, would someone come to help me? Would the hungry cat make sufficient noise for neighbors to notice him and come to my rescue?
I looked under me and saw the green valley and guessed the vineyards. When would the grapes be picked? Would they see me from down there? Perhaps I should try and waive at them. Or even attempt to shout.
Now there are peaceful images that cross my closed eyelids. I think I am smiling. It is always difficult for it to appear. It builds gradually on my lips.
I should try to get up. I cannot stay in this lethargic state for ever. I remember the pain at the lower end of my back and that holds me back. Was that why I had fallen?
I bent one leg until the knee touched my bosom. I tried with the other leg. What if I turned, I wondered. Would I fall off into the valley?
I am standing now. Not very straight or sure of myself, but standing nevertheless. Not falling at any rate.
Where should I go now? Should I simply stay here, on this very spot? Perhaps I am too weak to go anywhere. I scream. Once, twice. No answer, no help. I realize how thirsty I am.
I also realize how far away I am from any other human being, their institutions, the constraints they impose on others. First aid – I should have called them. But how?
I believe I know what is happening to me now. My cat is next to me, and I am not floating in space. There is a screwdriver inserted into my head. They are disconnecting the cats from my command software.
An ambulance drives by, its siren shrieking, but it is not for me. I have been safely tucked away in the workshop. Tomorrow the engineers will reprogram me. I should not have had the thoughts I did. I should not have thought I could have felt pain. I should not have known death existed. There is no way for me to know the difference between life and death. Only between being switched on and off.