Does a scream make a noise if no one is around to hear it?
Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say.
In my experience, there’s both truth and dishonesty in the statement.
A scream in space does not present itself as a loud or piercing cry but rather as something much worse and, by far, much more sinister; something that goes beyond a sound or something that you can hear at all. Instead, it is an all-encompassing feeling that you drown in. It strangles you and the more that you try to escape it, the stronger its grip grows. A scream in space is the feeling of delirium, the feeling of trying to express a feeling but never managing to. It’s a convoluted sensation that can’t be described by the physical sensation of sound.
So maybe you can’t hear a scream in space, but you can feel it.
It’s early evening and the sun is setting. Something about the way the light flickers as it diminishes reminds me of the past. The memories are foggy but they’re still there; I’m reminded of them whenever I hear the tin sound of a microphone or I feel the burning heat of a fire. Some sensations are etched so deep into your being that you’ll never forget them.
It took a long while after returning to find my pace again in this world. For too long I’d lacked a rhythm and if there’s one thing that this planet thrives on, it’s routine. The thing is, I can no longer bring myself to live by the natural course of our planets, the rise and fall of the sun and the moon, now that I know the truth.
The sun sets more quickly every day now, as Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere draws closer, but I find a certain solace in the darkness. Nowadays, the secret hours of the night whisper dark enigmas that don’t need any translation. It all seems so clear. The meaning that we search for most of our lives is so often distracted by the concept of mortality. When you remove that fear, that inevitability, the meaning becomes much more vivid. Unfortunately, it’s a meaning that I wish I had never deciphered.
I trace the edge of my hand with my fingertips. The lesions are a more unwelcome reminder of the past. I pick at the peeling skin — even my body fails to cover up the ugly.
“Harry?” His voice shatters the darkness. A watchful brother shouldn’t be ten years your junior. “It’s getting late, have you eaten?”
I look up at his figure, silhouetted by the moonlight that trickles in through the now ajar door, and softly shake my head.
Jonah was a child when I left but he now stands six feet tall and is built broader than I ever was. “I’ll find you something,” his voice is sturdy but I can hear the disappointment in his every word. Maybe that’s the hardest part. “Any requests?”
I shake my head again and lie back on the cold floor, listening as the door creaks shut and Jonah’s footsteps echo in the distance.
It might be the disappointment, or it might be the claustrophobia. I was never comfortable with the idea of being trapped, which made my career choice all the more questionable, but being trapped in something much bigger than anything you’ve ever fathomed before is a thought that isn’t worth entertaining.
This gift was supposed to have been the best gift we could have received — a reward for all of our sacrifice — but this dread, this understanding that we can never escape, is only a burden the four of us will have to carry forever. Be careful what you wish for, my thoughts repeat.
The grey light of the morning floods in through a gap in the curtain. I stretch out across the wooden floor, my hand brushing last night’s half-eaten plate of food. I haven’t been able to sleep in a bed since my return. There’s something about all of the material that feels much more suffocating than it used to.
The memory of the pilot’s voice pierced through my subconscious, “Just three more sleeps and we’ll be back in our own beds.” It’s amazing how such a euphoric concept could be tarnished so quickly.
Every day feels like Groundhog Day now that I’m home. There’s no true variety in life on Earth, only the rat races and bored housewives. Somehow, I fall somewhere in between the two.
I can hear Jonah’s deep voice ricocheting through the walls. A morning meeting before he leaves for work. He falls very much within the category of the rat race.
I push open the bedroom door and make my way into the bathroom. The sight of my dishevelled reflection does nothing but amuse me now. I know that people would find it difficult to believe that Harry O’Donovan had grown a beard.
The water is cold as it trickles off of my chin. It reminds me of something that feels light and hopeful, but the exact memory can’t break through.
A soft breeze floats through the open window and jolts me into realising that I’ve been staring at my reflection for far too long now. Looking down at the lesions on my hands, I wonder if I’ll ever rid myself of this broken shell; if I’ll ever return to the person I was and the person that I’m sure, deep now, I must still be.
I hear a knock at the door. Not the type of knock from a bored postman or a curious neighbour, but a loud, shuddering knock that vibrates through the house.
“Harry!” Jonah punctuates his meeting with my name, “Harry — can you get that?”
The knocking continues. Thump after thump. Relentless.
I pull open the door. The light is what hits me first. A familiar, intense light that penetrates my vision. Only a moment passes before the figure in front of me sharpens and there she stands, her face red and her breath heavy, as though she never went away.