far side of the eclipse [2nd draft]

He was acutely aware of the shadows flittering beneath his eyelids. They spilled into the tendrils that danced on the surface of his eyes, just beneath the membrane. Foreign shadows, alive with the shades and subtleties that he had not yet understood. A year after the surgery and it still proved too much. He shut his eyes, pushing the image of their dances away, retreat into the darkness he was familiar with. It was no use. Even there, he could see the backs of his eyelids. They were tinted with passing lights. He made his way to the storeroom, not bothering to open his eyes, guiding himself by touch. His hands knew the place better than his eyes ever could. An empty hum breached the room as he reached for the water capsules. The capsule jerked out of his grasp and his eyes jerked open. A hand reached out and easily caught the capsule as it fluttered through the air. Only when it caught the capsule did he realize it was his.

The rhythms were off. Before the surgery the metronome of this place had been committed to his memory. The beats between cause and effect. Now it was too fast, too slow. Watching the world happen around him felt sluggish. His body moved too fast, and the atmosphere itself felt as if it had become too thick. Of course, there was no atmosphere here, only the oxygen cocktails delivered to them every month, and whatever the on-site greenhouse managed to recycle.

He took a sip of water, wondering if it would still taste the same if he could see it moving through his body. It cleared the fog in his head. The shadows were also receding, clearing out as his eyes adjusted to the dark. Her body caught his glance as he returned to the bedroom. The pale curves of her back dissipating the shadows of the room. His eyes traced her curves to her neck, then up to the fuzz of the shaved area circling her ear. It felt pleasant to run his fingers over, but it stood against her gentle curves and skin. It was necessary of course; the doctors would sporadically run tests on her. It made it difficult to maintain any kind of haircut.

She was a moon child. Low gravity had cause her skeleton to form abnormally. She was taller than her Earth sisters. Her elongated neck delicately supported her elongated face, and her long fingers wrapped themselves around the surface of his skin. Her body was a deceleration of her frailty. She’d never set foot on the Earth: the gravity would collapse her bones into a pile of twigs. He had been taken in by the sound of her voice. Her chords whispered syllables wrapped in long breaths. Her bedroom touch seemed to wrap him in an ocean of hot caresses, and his kisses would travel from her forehead along the length of her neck down to her collar, finally tracing the curves of her breasts.

His eyes betrayed him. In this new darkness she had become alien. The delicate forms of her body, the pleasure of her long caress, they all belonged to someone else now. A person whose body seemed to reach forever, unnaturally. The features that had once kissed the nerves of his skin with pleasure now drew his eyes away in disdain. The very spaces between her and him seemed to stretch along those limbs; the distance between them exasperated those spaces. Sitting on the bedside, he hunched away from her, his palms shielding his eyes. The memory of her tender warmth had long unraveled along the mended seams of his vision. Her limbs seemed more like hot tentacles in this ocean of dead, thick air.

Close your eyes. Sleep. He kept repeating it to himself, but it was unnatural. For others, the dark was a place where you retreated from your thoughts and from the world. For him, it was his world. As he lay in his bed he tried to drift away in this new darkness, tried to drift pass the oceans of dull light dancing in his eyelids, deeper into the true dark.

—–

Memories of light filled his dark place. Fragments. Shards of the event. Their pioneer spirit had given way to the dangers of space travel. Solar radiation breached the hull as they reached the airlock. The polarized solar windows escaped through the depressurized room and the ultraviolet rays skittered along the hall and consumed his eyes with reflections. Hot. His eyes were so hot. The heat seemed to burn the last of the oxygen in his lungs as the airlock clenched shut.

 

He woke up a week later in the lunar infirmary. His eye could remember nothing but the sun. For a month he lived with nothing but the memory of the sunbeams on his eyes. Light consumed his vision even as his eyelids attempted to shield him from it. He slept only when his body had collapsed from the pain, and his temper had become as hot as the embers that danced in his eyes.

Soon, he noticed a change. The sun was dying. The embers slowly gasped, choked, and flickered away. By end of the week his nerves burned out. He welcomed the chill black ocean that flooded his sockets. It would be his companion on the desolate surface of this breathless rock.

—–

A biting chill pricked the nerves along his arm as his eyes began to flood with light. The simulated day cycle had begun. His body reflexively pulled him upright. He glanced over his shoulder towards her. The day and night cycle meant nothing to her: the tidal lock of the moon with the earth ensure that true day and night were only separated by the length of the station here. Regardless, the light and activity of the station was sure to wake her up. He escaped into the washroom to begin his morning ritual. He didn’t want her to wake up to the sight of his empty stare.

He studied his face in the mirror as he cleaned himself up. Thick scruff speckled his chin and his cheeks were dotted with cuts. He’d managed to relearn how to shave when he first lost his vision, but now he’d get distracted by the previously invisible imperfections the split the symmetry of his face, and end up nicking himself as he did. Were those imperfections always there? Or had they manifested with the return of his vision? He’d become hung up on them. Where each of the crew members had previously been defined for him by their personalities and inner flaws, he’d now learned to associate them with their physical imperfections. Even the pristine machine build rooms of the station had become slowly invaded by the imperfections of their owners. Each stain, scratch, and spot had crawled its way through his eye sockets and nestled itself into the recesses of his mind. Scratch. Scratch.

A fracture was beginning to form. The flaws had nested and bred, and filled the place he had once knew with flaws and inconsistencies. An opening was forming in his memories and the images of this world of fractures was consuming the shades and subtleties with the contrasts and colors that assaulted him. The fractures were tracing a line in the foundations of his world, splitting the once vivid feelings with hazy vagueness. The floor itself was collapsing beneath him. He closed his eyes. He wouldn’t let in any more of the fractures.

As his eyes closed he could swear he saw one of them splitting the room in half along his bedside. It was coming to split him, consume him in haze. His legs engaged in evasion, peeling him away from the room that had once been his refuge, and dragging him down the hallways of his memory. He was running. Each step was an echo in a hall of voices. Each voice becoming more frantic as the echos approached. His fingertips were electric. They sparked along the trails carved in the walls memories that had always guided him before. They traced a path towards the viewing port in the reflection room. Away from the hum of his room, the fractures would not be able to reach him.

 

The echos ceased. His breath deflated and he crumpled along his belly towards the viewing port. This was the furthermost space of the reflection room, where it opened into a transparent bubble which flanked you with a view of what lay beyond the steel interiors of station. As his lungs began to fill the haze in his head dissipated and the lids of his eyes lifted. His focus returned with his next breath and the view greeted him. Disbelief hovered for a moment within him before shattering into fine powder and filling the fractures in his mind.

He laughed. He laughed until every breath he had taken that morning had been ejected into the false atmosphere of the station. The face of the moon filled his vision with its stare. This was the true face of his world. A face scarred not only by fractures and scratches, but entire craters. The ridges and bumps that had once brought him comfort as he sailed upon them stared at him with their stark features, devoid of color, and without any light bar the reflections of the sun that had now begun to creep along the horizon. Polarized shields began to shutter around the port in response. As the slivers of sunlight were dissipated by the shutters he recalled the motions of the moon’s surface, the rocking of the buggy on the ocean of craters.

—–

She woke alone in the artificial day of the station. There was a flicker of dark still in the air. Had she woken up late? She was used to the strong light of the station jolting her awake each morning. The dimness of the room made it feel as if half the cycle had passed, though this wasn’t the case.

She waited at the faucet as the pipes adjusted the water flow to her room. Gathering her ration of morning water in a bowl, she scrubbed the sleep out of her face. As she watched herself in the mirror, her gazed diverted over her shoulder to the empty space on their bed. It was cold this morning, she realized. He’d been away for hours. She stared through her reflection, questioning where he could be. He was different after the surgery. She didn’t know if it was a positive yet, just that it was different. His eyes didn’t wave with the cold passion they once had. Instead they were in constant, nervous movement, no longer the caress of a sunlight through the solar shields, but the careless particles thrown off a solar wind.

She tried to put it out of her mind. There were chores abound on the station, and someone was sure to need her expertise. She strolled down the main hall, bounding from one guide rail to another in stride. A group of recent transfers gracelessly tossed themselves past her. They had not yet shed the ceaseless pace that Earth had raised them with. It reminded her of his impatience, the way he would throw himself around the station when he first arrived. She managed to temper him with her patience, and slowly, her learned the rhythms of this place. She wondered if he had gone for a drive. Today he would finally be able to drive solo. She recalled what he told her as she drove him along the surface. He said it was as if he was sailing on the oceans of Earth.

She’d only seen the oceans in videos. Even now there were deep places beyond the reach of humanity, or so the videos went. In these oceans were entire unexplored ecosystems of life, far reaching connections of organisms. Her mind drifted for a moment. There was no life here aside from the people she had known all her life. He was of course the one she knew best. He had a poetic way of seeing the world, wrapped in figures of the mind, abstract yet tangible. It was intoxicating. He’d seem to have sobering from this mindset recently. Maybe his eyes had robbed him of the definitions his imagination had imparted on the unseen. Occasionally he would flicker with attention at the grandness of his situation. She could tell his mind was working its way through the disconnect of what he was seeing and what he always known to be reality. Perhaps a drive on the surface might have that effect on him, bring back the wonder and poetry from before. She made her way to the garage, if he wasn’t there yet she’d set up the ride for him. It would be different with a fresh pair of eyes.

As she reached the garage she realized that something was off. The equipment locker had been carelessly thrown open. An extra pair of oxygen tanks had been taken, along with a surface suit. Whoever had done it was in a desperate state, but it was still obvious through the mess than he had known what he was doing. Her mind darted to the empty bed in their room, his fluctuating emotions, and his new eyes, somehow emptier despite their new life. The polarized shields were down, shuttering away the solar radiation that was soon approaching. The rhythms around her were changing, and her heart sped up to keep step. The folds of the suit slipped in the sweat of her palms, and the helmet became heavy as the adrenaline drained the strength from her arms. The bodies of heaven were aligning.

—–

He never heard her coming off in the distance. The empty atmosphere of the moon was a poor carrier of sound. Her desperate cries didn’t make it out of the containment of her helmet, and his radio was dead. She was only a few hundred meters away as he began the process of hacking his suit, cracking the safeguards that controlled the polarized shields of his visor. He started off towards the dulled sun, working the controls on the arms of his suit without watching. A less experienced man wouldn’t have even known the overrides, but his daily work since he’d regained sight imprinted it in his fingers, even through the insensate suit. The fractured face of the moon lit up at the horizon, and a familiar but distant vision consumed the infinite sky of space. The true light began to slip through the visor, returning to him as it had during the memories in his dreams. His eyes lit up again, welcoming the light. She was only meters away when the sun again grew cold, and true shadow returned to him. She caught him as he collapsed into the dust, eyes wide open, flooded with hot tears. Through his open visor she watched as the his eyes grew dead again. As she wept she couldn’t help but notice that as the sun reflected off his eyes it seemed brighter than before. He conjured a choked up smile for her. The moon had begun to eclipse the sun, and as she embraced him as it burned their shadows away.

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