Ulysses in Space

By L.A. Hilton

The idea of space was firmly outside. He pressed the release switch andLuke1 the latch on the metal door eased open. There were two buttons, both red, and he pressed the one linked to the monocognition machine. He heard it whirring into action underneath his feet, in the hull of the craft. The idea of space lay firmly outside. There were no windows from which to take a view. The designers had opted to leave windows out of the final craft due to what clinical researchers at the Institute of Astro-Psychology had termed ‘Space Insanity: Vacuoso 1’. The premise being that on long voyages, blank glaring from windows could induce a type of crazy that would leave the astronaut unable to comprehend life with shapes and surface. They had said that in many cases viewing absolutely nothing save the monochromatic interior of the craft could induce the same unnerving condition. Brian was, so far, unphased by this. He turned off the monocognition machine and lay in the reclining chair.

The craft was a good size for a one man mission. There was a main room, containing mission-control mechanics and other dashboard functionality, a kitchenette complete with food sachets set to last up to one hundred years, a selection of entertainment items including a reader and a Veriphone Double X. The main room also contained a large reclining chair which is where Brian spent up to fourteen hours of his day. There were separate sleeping quarters. Designers had included two bunks on the one-man-mission-craft for reasons that were never properly explained. Brian had left Earth one year ago yesterday and had recently been suspecting that this extra bunk may have been for any visitors that he happened upon. The thought worried him, but not enough that clinical researchers at the Institute of Astro-Psychology might have said he was developing any variant of the Space Insanity condition. None of the men and women who were sent on these missions had been informed of the Space Insanity condition, for fear that merely possessing the knowledge of its existence could drive one into maniacal reverie. It had been decided that it was a very volatile condition. Brian had been reading Ulysses by James Joyce at the rate of one page per day. He decided that it was as far removed from the exterior of his craft as possible. He would read his page and ruminate on its contents for the remainder of the day, only pausing to carry out routine work or make food. He was unaware of the directional course of the craft, as it was predetermined by the polycartograph machine under the dashboard. He had become very fond of Leopold Bloom. He was not sure why there was no contact with mission control, and hadn’t been for many weeks. Continue reading