In 90 seconds you'll be dead, unless you have a way to fix your O2 tank...
by Mike Meadors (playwright)
"Hold on! Just thirty more seconds," I scream, knowing full well I'm not heard. I stop trying after a moment. No sense in adding to the overall terror of the situation.
A white froth appears on his lips. It's worse than the last one, and occurred in half the time. The attacks are happening much more frequently. First week, happened once or twice a day. He's now up to once or twice an hour.
I watch my husband convulse and gasp for air. Within a few seconds, he begins to relax. His muscles unclench as he gives way to the mattress beneath him. Dan lies completely still for a few minutes. I wipe the sweat from his brow and, to show his gratitude, he takes my hand.
His once beautifully chiseled face now looks weathered and thin. The hollow remains of the man I pledged my heart to.
"That was-that one hurt a little," he chuckles at himself. HE's always been this way; good humor to match any situation. Never up, never down. That's my Dan.
"Can I get you anything?"
"Why don't you open the window?" he pleads.
"Dan, you know I can't do that." It hurts me just as much to give him that answer as it is for him to hear it.
The virus has spread to his central nervous system. According to his doctor, any burst of sunlight, great or small, may send him into shock. This is one of the hardest pills to swallow. Here is a man who spends every waking moment of his life watching the sun rise and gaping at the beautiful warmth the rays of light provide.
"I know you can't, I just like to ask."
"Think you'll want to try and have something to eat tonight?"
He doesn't respond. He blinks, vigorously. As if he's trying to communicate is some kind of optic Morse Code.
I stroke his forearm with my free hand. We don't need to talk, we never have. Even in his fragile state, his presences is as calm and steady as it has always been.
"I can't believe I'm still alive."
"I can. You have a strong mind and a strong will." It's easy to be reassuring, I have nothing but confidence if anyone can survive this, despite any known cure on the foreseeable horizon, it would be Dan Kessler.
"I'm curious though. I can't do anything, physically. All I do is lay here and wonder what is next in store for me," he says. "I try to wonder what it was like before I was born, because that would seem to be what it would be like...death, I mean."
I have nothing to say, and I don't think it would help anyway, even if I had a real pearl of wisdom.
"How am I still alive?"
"How am I still alive?" I mutter. "How long has it been now?"
"Thirty minutes," Valdez gasps, nervously, as if I'm some sort of rabid dog who has him by the arm about to tear into his flesh.
All of my O2 is gone, and has been for almost twenty-eight minutes. My visor, cracked, exposing me to the harsh Venuses atmosphere.
“Want to try sitting up?” Valdez inquires. I want to, but I’m afraid. What if a movement cracks my visor further? I can’t help but think, maybe I’m already dead.
My mind goes to a place of contentment. Dan. The kids. I remember him saying something to the sound of his voice. It reminds me of what he thought death might possibly be like; the darkness prior to one’s birth.
Well, if that’s death, then I’m not there. I’m unfortunately still alive in the solar system’s most hostile environment. No time like the present, if it’s not my time to die, then it will happen soon.
But not yet.
I sit up and feel the warm winds gently brush my suit. The droned out yells become audible.
“What are we doing, huh? You know this is absolute lunacy!” Odusky scream at Mirav. They stand off in the distance. It looks as though this argument has been waging almost since I went down.
“It’s the only option we have,” Mirav insists. Odusky paces, tears stream down his face.
“We should just give up! It’s pointless! It-“ he sees me and falls silent. Mirav is staring too. They had no idea I was still alive. At least, that’s what their expressions are telling me.
I slowly start to stand. I feel amazing. Something isn’t right. No logical explanation for how I can feel this good without having any oxygen.
“How are you-that’s not possible!”
“Could be some sort of airborne carcinogen or pathogen that’s entered her bloodstream,” Valdez calculates. Not a bad guess. After all, there has got to be a perfectly scientific explanation. Miracles defy physics and don’t exist.
“This-this isn’t happening. This is a nightmare! I want to wake up!” barks Odusky as he takes off down into a valley.
No one follows, best probably to let him vent for a minute. He should have never come on trip.
His ranting is heard for about another thirty seconds until it stops. Complete silence until-
“-Hey! You guys-you guys gotta see this!”
We all take off after him. I move a little slower and am the last person down into the ravine. He’s right though, this was something we had to see.
At the bottom is a massive pool. A silver shine blankets the surface. It looks untouched. Despite the winds overhead, not a ripple breaks the aqualine surface.
“What kind of liquid is it?” Evan asks.
“I don’t have any idea,” Mirav states.
Evan smiles and then begins to laugh. It is becoming clear he knows something about this we don’t.