Space Bones

by Marie Howalt

electric lamp over black background
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Day 001

I was asked to keep a diary and send it down. A personal one in addition to the log we keep aboard the station. I think they told all five of us to do it. It has something to do with the injections.

We all signed up for experimental treatment, and it is the first time anyone tests the effect in low gravity for a longer period of time. But you know that. Or, I imagine that you do. I imagine you’re a doctor or research assistant back on Earth receiving these updates.

Yesterday’s launch went smoothly. The trip to the station went like any other, and docking went fine as well. It was Moreno’s first time leaving Earth and doctor Ortega’s too, I think, but the rest of us have been in orbit before. For me, it’s the fourth time, but I’ve never been away for more than a month. The first time, in other words, that I’m going to be in danger of the osteoporosis that comes with prolonged weightlessness.

Rogers brags about having to piss out kidney stones the size of table tennis balls (I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure that’s not even possible) multiple times due to insane amounts of calcium in the blood. Boyd doesn’t brag or complain, but the first time I saw him, I couldn’t believe they would send him back up. I guess the whole point of it is to see if the damages to his lower body can be reversed or at least stopped with the treatments.

 

Day 007

We had our first post-launch injections today. According to Rogers, it was an osteo-blast! (I bet you science geeks appreciate that one.) Doctor Ortega took a lot of tests too that will probably be in her report, but from what I understood, everything is looking good. I don’t feel any side effects apart from being more thirsty than usually. The doctor says this is normal, and that we should all make absolutely sure to stay hydrated. It will help our bodies when the bone structure changes so we can better withstand the problems of being in zero G.

 

Day 012

Like I said yesterday, it was Derek’s birthday. We drank to him and Rogers insisted we should sing. Derek Moreno, the jolly good fellow in question, was blushing furiously. He’s the youngest of us, and I think he may have a thing for Rogers. Honestly, I can’t hold that against him.

She’s got a potty mouth, but she has a beautiful smile and a great body. Should I delete that last bit?

No, you know what? This is supposed to be a personal account, so that’s what you’re going to get.

Besides, Rogers’ body is relevant since we are looking for changes. So far, I can report that we still look and feel normal. Rogers tried to convince us that since the injections contain DNA from animals with hydrostatic skeletons, we will probably grow fins. I’m pretty sure fish don’t have hydrostatic skeletons. It did occur to me, though, that maybe being injected with animal DNA isn’t something I should have agreed to as a vegan. I don’t know. It’s not the same as eating them or drinking their milk, but still.

 

Day 015

Boyd had to put an EVA suit and go outside today to do some repairs on the station after the impacts we registered yesterday. Even tiny rocks hurtling through the vacuum of space can do damage, and no one wants to wait until it’s too late.

Now, there are really two Boyds. Boyd on Earth, and Boyd in zero G. I noticed this immediately after we arrived. He has elegance to him out here. He looks like he belongs, if that makes any sense. Anyway, that’s why we all thought doing the repairs would be a piece of cake for him. You have the official reports, so you know how the rope snagged and he broke his leg. What you probably don’t know is how he shrugged it off, saying, “Who needs legs out here anyway?”

He’s a tough old man.

 

Day 018

Remember Boyd’s broken leg? Well, it’s not broken anymore. Ortega examined it this morning after he said it didn’t hurt at all. We were all surprised, but the doctor said bone regeneration is a side effect of the injections. I don’t think she had expected the fracture to heal that fast, though. Rogers suggested breaking a few bones on each of us to see what happens, but Ortega told her there will be none of that. There are no other visible changes to Boyd’s physique.

We are all feeling fine, though Rogers keeps talking about steaks and red meat. Usually that kind of thing grosses me out, but for once, I am not repulsed by the idea. I’m even starting to miss meat myself. I guess I’m just growing immune to her bullshit.

 

Day 020

Tomorrow is injection day. I am very thirsty. I think the others are too. I see Derek sucking at a water pack at least as often as I do. But we all go about our respective work on the station, follow our assigned sleep cycles, and so on. It’s a harmless side effect, so it’s fine.

 

Day 024

I have no idea how it happened. There are safety procedures for everything Derek does in that lab of his. I know he is working with high energy sources, but something like that should not be able to happen!

The remaining stump had been cauterized by the beam, thankfully, or he would have bled out before Boyd and I even found him. As it was, there were only small orbs of blood drifting through the room. Derek was in shock, poor kid. At first, he just kept repeating something about teeth that made no sense. After the drugs kicked in, he said he had no memory of the accident.

Strangely, the footage of his lab was corrupt. And … Shit, I don’t know how to say this. I saw the others look at it too, like they were trying to solve an equation. I swear it looked like there was less.

Less of the severed arm than there should be. Like it would be too short if put back on. It sounds crazy. I know.

 

Day 025

It’s growing back.

One thing is a fractured bone mending really fast, but an arm growing back? I think they could have at least mentioned the possibility to us when we agreed to take part in this experiment! I mean, it’s not a bad thing. It’s great. Derek will be back to how he was in a few days at this rate, but… It’s just freaky. There, I said it. It’s freaky.

I asked Ortega which animals exactly the DNA in the injections came from to make sense of all this. She told me it’s a subspecies of Hirudinea. I had to look that up. Not exactly what I had expected. I guess it’s too late to be reading the fine print and having second thoughts. And they did test the treatments before starting us on them.

 

Day 027

You don’t want to spill things in zero G. Not drinks, and not blood. I did not lose an arm or anything remotely as serious as that, and I wouldn’t normally even mention such a small cut, but I’m doing it for two reasons. First of all, it healed after a few hours. I don’t mean it stopped bleeding then. I mean healed as in you can’t tell it was ever there.

The other reason is the others’ reactions to it. Rogers was next to me, and the moment it happened, she grabbed my wrist and pulled my hand to her. She closed her lips around my bleeding finger before I could protest. Like I said, rogue liquids in an environment like this are not a good idea, so I would have put my finger in my own mouth until I could get to a bandage. She probably just wanted to help. But she was … She was sucking. Hard. I don’t know if it was supposed to be flirting or what, but I could feel her teeth, and she made this little moan. I had to push her away and tell her I got it, and she gave me this odd stare before licking my blood off her lips. When I turned around, Boyd and Derek were floating behind us, staring. Smiling.

 

Day 028

Today was supposed to be injection day. I talked to Ortega about it while she was doing her routine checkup of me. She asked me if I had noticed any changes, and I told her about my concerns. Not just the thirst or the fact that I’m starting to think I need more than regular rations and huge amounts of water. I told her I feel there are side effects to the treatment that none of us were prepared for. Not only healing, but the other things too.

Ortega said she has been in contact with Earth and they can’t see any reason to stop now when the injections are clearly having an effect. I asked her what would happen if some of us want to quit.

“Do you want to stop?” she asked me.

I nodded. I don’t want to be a quitter. I don’t want to be a coward, but there is such a thing as common sense.

The doctor looked me in the eyes and told me she wouldn’t force anyone to keep taking the injections. She lowered her voice as if someone might overhear us, and as if that would be bad, and said, “I stopped a week ago.”

 

Day 036

I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to stop the injections. That it might even be interesting for you guys to compare us after the experiment ends. I was trying to convince myself that all the concerns I have written about over the past few days are just psychological. That I’m feeling like a traitor for quitting the treatments and not telling anyone besides the doctor about it.

But the way the others look at me… The way they move and act… It’s like they know. It’s like they are planning something. I know it sounds paranoid. But it isn’t. I’ll go talk to doctor Ortega about it. I haven’t seen her since yesterday.

 

Day 036, Addition

Ortega is dead. I am in her cabin now. There isn’t any blood. At all, I mean. She has small wounds on her wrists and neck, but they are not bleeding. Not because of coagulation. I don’t know how to say it, but she looks wrong. Too flat, somehow. I think she has been drained. Of blood, I mean. Of liquid. The wounds look like something bit her. Or someone. I have been sitting here for two hours now, waiting to see if she will come back. Regenerate like Boyd and Derek, but I don’t think she will. Maybe it’s because she stopped the injections. Maybe it’s because nobody comes back from the dead. Shit. I don’t know what to do. I need to get through to Earth. This diary is only being sent at intervals along with the reports. I need to talk to someone now.

 

Day 036, Addition

Communications are out. Boyd says he might have missed some damage when he was outside the station, but I don’t believe him. I don’t believe any of them. I don’t know who killed Ortega, but I’m staying out of their way as much as I can, and I’m watching my back.

A shuttle is scheduled to arrive in three months, but they have to send someone before that, right? If they don’t hear anything from the station, Earth has to send someone to see what is going on. Right?

 

Day 042

I don’t know why I keep writing when I can’t send these entries anyway. Maybe it’s stupid, but I feel better doing it. And when someone comes to pick us up, my diary will help me remember exactly what happened and when.

It’s injection day again. Since we don’t have a doctor anymore, Rogers said we should do it ourselves. She was showing her teeth in a smile that looked like a sneer when she handed me a syringe. I pretended I was going to use it. I fear what will happen if I tell her I’m not taking them anymore.

 

Day 045

I hate the way they move. I hate the way they stare at me. I hate how they squeeze the water packs and suck at them like they want to tear them open.

Rogers sniffed me today. I hadn’t heard her slither up behind me until she was breathing on my neck. Her voice was too dry and husky as she asked me if I am taking my injections. I said that of course I am. Then she frowned and told me I smell differently. She licked her lips and told me I smell delicious. Normally, I would have written it off as flirting, but there is nothing normal about all this.

 

Day 046

They were fighting today. We have been using more water than the station is able to recycle, and I think Derek was hoarding water packs for himself. I heard them shouting, if that’s even the word for the sounds they made. When I peeked around the corner, I saw them scrabbling for the packs, swatting at each other. Rogers managed to snatch one and ripped it open with her teeth as I watched. Boyd and Derek both tried to take it. Seeing them push off from the wall to hurl themselves at her, seeing her claw at Boyd’s face, seeing Derek try to catch the escaping droplets of blood and water alike and licking at his hands… It’s not right.

I think I will have to do something. I don’t know what. I just know I don’t want to end up
like Ortega.

 

Day 047

They know I’m not taking the injections. Boyd told me I’m not one of them. That’s the most sensible thing anyone has said on this station for a long time. But not being one of them means more than just being an outsider. It means I am prey. I have to take action. I have to take action now.

I’m not going to wait for them to move first. If you don’t hear from me again, they have killed me.

 

Day 047, Addition

I’m alive.

I’m alive.

Shit. I can hear them through the door. One of them just pounded on it or was thrown against it. All three of them are screaming.

I still don’t know how I did it. You can’t run through a space station like a building on Earth.

I took the three water packs that were left and started towards Ortega’s empty cabin. Rogers saw me and called out to the others. I have never moved so fast in zero G before.

I threw the packs into the cabin, saw them float through the door in slow motion, and tried to flatten myself against the wall. Boyd and Derek went in like dogs after a hunk of meat. But Rogers stopped and stared at me. Her eyes… Her eyes did not look right. She reached out for me. I pushed off from the wall, holding the railing to get momentum and planted both feet in her abdomen. She howled as she sailed towards the others. I hit the button that closes off all sections in the case of emergency. Alarms started blaring. The door slammed shut.

The cabin door is still closed. Every door on the station is. I am trapped in this small section of corridor. I have moved to the far end of it, but I can still hear them. Even over the alarms.

Another body slammed against the door right now. I think they are fighting. I… I have to hope they are. And they are still screaming. I can’t make out any words. It’s been days since I heard any of them talk. I wonder if they even can at this point.

All I can do now is wait. Wait for the screams to stop.

They say the human body is 60 percent water. Even our bones consist of roughly 30 percent water.

I wonder if that is still true.

I wonder if they are still human.

I hope they are not.

 

Physically located in Copenhagen, Denmark, Marie Howalt travels to other dimensions by writing about the far future, fantasy worlds or alternate realities and the people in them and would love to take you along for the ride.

You might think skeletons would be easy to avoid if you had a mild phobia of them. That appears not to be the case, however, because Marie keeps being confronted by craniums, femurs, and scapulas at home thanks to a flatmate who enthusiastically collects bones, although said flatmate reassures everybody that most of these are in the closet.

Marie’s traditionally published debut novel, We Lost the Sky, was released in 2019 by Spaceboy Books. Its sequel is on the way, but if you get impatient, you can read a couple of serial novels on Marie’s Patreon and Inkitt profiles (you can find links on http://www.mhowalt.dk) or say hi on Twitter or Instagram @mhowalt.

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