Settlers of the Void


Breakfast for Two

“Would you like any breakfast?”

I clutched for the multi-tool and sprang to my feet, holding it like a caveman with a spear.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Harris,” the voice said. “Would you like some breakfast? It’s your Nutri-Stew, after all, so it seems only fair to ask if you’d like to share it with me.”

“Why are you here?”

“To steal some food,” he said. “And maybe to have a conversation.”

I set aside the multi-tool, unzipped the tent, and stepped outside. Harris was sitting on a rock staring out away from the campsite towards the pond. He was covered in green. He had fastened long tendrils of moss to the tattered remains of his flight suit, making him look more like a tree than a man.

He handed me a bowl of Nutri-Stew.

“Thanks,” I said, forgetting for a moment that it was food he had stolen from me.

“You picked a good campsite,” he said. “It’s peaceful here. The sunrises are beautiful when they reflect off of the water.”

“Why did you take the radio?” I asked.

“I needed it,” he said. “I had to spread my message.”

“What message?”

Harris smiled. “Tell me,” he said. “Why are we here?”

Why we were here?

“To escape,” I said. “To start a new life. We’re refugees from a war we had no chance of winning.”

“We can’t escape this way,” he said. “We can’t just hide out and hope that the future won’t find us. Time isn’t a line. It’s a circle. A circle within a circle. An infinite recursion that jumps back on itself forever...”

“I’d like my radio back,” I said. “I hate it when people answer questions with more questions and I don't care about your half-baked theories about time.”

He just laughed.

“You’re alright, Owen,” he said. “A little stupid, maybe, but you’re not bad. Whatever happens next to us out here, I hope you’re able to survive for as long as possible.”

“We’ve got a plan,” I said. “And we’re all going to be doing our best. It’s a rough deal, I admit, but I think we’ll make it.”

He got up off the ground. “I’m sorry I took your radio,” he said. “But like I said, I need it. Don’t worry. Your friends will be by to bring you another one by tomorrow. A few days of silence isn’t the end of the world.” Harris took one last bite of Nutri-Strew, set his bowl (my bowl) on the ground, and then started walking west.

“Wait,” I said. “Why not stay? You could go back to the Hierophant. People will be a little confused about why you disappeared, but they’d accept you back. You could help us out, like the way we planned it. All of us need to work together if we’re going to survive.”

He didn’t turn around.

“I can’t go back,” he said. “Not anymore. Not after what I’ve seen out here.”

“You haven’t done anything except steal some food and go a bit nuts from too much sun,” I said. “That’s nothing worth exiling yourself over.”

He kept walking. I stayed behind at camp, watching the strands of moss jangle on his suit he walked away.

#

I’ve been thinking about it for the past few hours and I still can’t figure out what the hell he was talking about. Circles within circles? Infinite recursion? It’s just word salad, scrambled output, like what Oversight printed out before it died from all the damage it sustained in the crash.

I’m not out here for anybody’s politics or philosophy. I don’t care about history. I’m growing food because I need to eat. Because we need to eat.

#

I spent the rest of the day planting seeds and watering the cabbage. Harris is crazy, but hopefully he was right about them coming by to check in on me soon. I don’t like being alone. It’s too quiet out here.