By Morgan Hannah, Life & Style Editor
“Can you hear me? Captain? Captain, please respond!”
A warm, glaring light shines across my retinas; I know I need to acknowledge the medical officer, but I feel too weak to respond. I want to keep sleeping. To curl up into me and wait out whatever is happening to me—metamorphosis, death, or resuscitation.
My body feels poked and prodded at; there are injections of some kind, small pockets of searing pain; all the while, I wait it out, unresponsive. It’s very unusual to be so much inside my head.
I’ve always been an action-oriented person; a self-starter dedicated to results. My sister and I have always had that in common, but only she was always the more impulsive of the two of us. I wonder if I can still say that anymore after this mission… a mission I utterly failed. It wasn’t even worth the time. I should have just accepted that my sister was lost, grieved for her the way anyone who has lost a loved one should, and moved on. But I was determined. I didn’t stop to heed the warnings of everyone I knew, I didn’t stop to analyze all the possibilities.
It feels like forever passes by when I can open my eyes, sit up, and fully register where I am. Medical bay back on the ship. The chief medical officer is nearby at his desk. Everything is clean, organized, and bright. Maybe too bright.
“Chief?” I call out; my voice feels like I haven’t used it in months. I hear him get up from his desk and wander over to me, but my attention focused on the near-total body covering bandages. They’re everywhere! And a lime green fluid is seeping into the white cotton. Huh, that’s odd.
“Captain. You’re awake. It’s good to see you.” Chief smiles, the corners of his cheeks crinkling.
“What happened to me?” I ask. Chief turns around and grabs a tablet with the answers. He scrolls through them briefly before turning back to me.
Eyes still focused on the tablet, he clears his voice, “To put it simply, you were transforming into another species. Apparently, the atmosphere on Planet Xexon has a—how to put it—terraforming-like quality. Your body’s DNA was rapidly changing you from human into, well, we don’t quite know what. Had we not been able to find and rescue you in time, you would’ve lost your ability to speak, and your physical structure would’ve changed immensely. Without a figure to represent what you were transitioning into, it’s hard to tell what the result would’ve been.” Chief finishes and puts down the tablet, checking my pulse.
“I know what I would’ve turned into…” I say, images of the alien with eyes like my sister flash through my mind. The medical machinery surrounding me starts beeping faster as my heartbeat picks up, “Tell me, Chief, is it possible to reverse the transformation at any point?”
“No. Unfortunately, after the transformation is complete, the possibility of reversing it is unimaginably small. We just don’t have the technology to do so.”
“I—I think I saw my sister. Only, she wasn’t quite my sister anymore. Chief, we have to go back!”
“Old habits don’t die it seems, Captain,” Chief replies. “I’m afraid to say that you’ve been in a slumberous state for quite some time. The ship has already set in a course for home.” The news hits me like a punch in the chest. My throat tightens, and behind my eyes sting as if submerged in chlorinated water. Somehow, I knew all along that I wouldn’t be able to save my sister—I just didn’t realize how close I’d get. I didn’t want failure to be an option.
“Do you think she’ll be okay?” I ask, feeling much like an old house that resignation is slowly unpacking and moving into.
Chief hesitates for a moment, then, with kind and revealing eyes, he nods, “Yes, I do think she’ll be just fine.” I swallow hard and force a small smile, appreciating the compassionate lie.