“I should be putting in lines between these thoughts, creating breaks and boundaries, managing the stream, stop those collisions. I should but I cant. It seems like I just know that it's in those mysterious and random collisions that all the interesting chemicals change and processing occurs. These things are wild and unlimited, their conclusions unpredictable, at times unthinkable. You know how you have those pictures inside your head of who you are. Then you look in a mirror and get a shock, you don't look like the person you feel. That's disturbing but it's also the truth. It's also a collision and a spur. Which person do you want to be? The true reflection or the imagined and what's the difference between the way those two look, think, behave and react?”
The professor closed the door on the capsule. “She'll be fine in there but it is going to be a difficult and a different journey.” The team retreated behind the screens and into the control room. In the capsule Susan was still, serene almost. The mind training allowed her to disembody, dislocate, get away. The trip would be physical but on this voyage her mind and conscious self would travelling separately.
“Look upon your body as a piece of luggage, personal effects, things you'll need when you arrive. I think that's the best way to look upon it. You are a pioneer, your journey will blaze a trail for billion others, in all directions...and I'm sure your luggage will catch up.” He allowed himself a giggle and a smile as he switched off the microphone.
It was sundown when the countdown ticked to zero. A happy coincidence and a extra effect. At zero there was a flash, bright white and then the following on of loose colours from all across the spectrum. The light was so bright that you might have imagined it warranted some accompanying noise, the sound of thrust or schism or energy releasing. There was none however, just light and a vapour that ballooned out and then hung in some kind of good imitation of an incandescent rain cloud. In a few seconds the process was over and the capsule had gone. The team checked the sensors and instruments to ensure it was safe for them to emerge. For some reason it felt right to stand on the spot where the capsule had been even though they had no sense of which direction to look in order to catch a glimpse of it. It had not been a conventional launch or departure.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” began the Professor, “it may be sometime before we hear from our colleague, as you understand our ability to communicate across these spaces is unexplored and untested...but we will continue to listen and to...hope.” They returned to the control room and cracked open the champagne as each shared their thoughts and feelings on the scientific triumph.
And so it was that they listened and waited and listened and waited. Two months passed without a word. The media, having been excited at the outset drifted back and looked elsewhere. There were other better stories out there. Some team members left, they had other projects to work upon and so the personnel shrank to a two person shift, perpetually now in listening mode only. They listened, dozed, read and researched. They reminded themselves of the mission, occasionally they forgot the mission. Time passed for them but not for Susan.
It was almost six months from the launch that she returned. It was in the grey of some unexpected morning, the listeners were diverted by their own fatigue. That was about to change. As had happened when she launched there was light and vapour but no sound, the CCTV caught it all. The light dimmed and the capsule appeared, hot and glowing. They took out Susan's body, they estimated she had been dead for about six months. By the time the professor arrived she was laid up in the laboratory, the medical services hovering and scribbling. One by one the shift members arrived and gathered in the control room. The professor was silent and grim. The triumph of the capsule's return eclipsed by the discovery or the dead passenger. They sat there for a few hours musing over the possible causes and the consequences. It was an emotional rather than scientific time.
Just after midnight a burst of white noise and static shocked everyone in the room as spluttered from the loudspeaker. Then silence, then noise, then silence. Then a voice. “Hi, Susan here, I'm OK, I've arrived, I can't seem to see the screen...I think it's back light has failed...and I seem to have lost my luggage.”