I am a poet and I am bored.
Not quite perfectly bored, but becoming more so each moment. Here I sit, pen in mind, trying to finish this poem before I'm bored quite to death, as you will quickly understand.
Stir and fill
Web wove from
The dust of
Worlds long past.
Push me outward
Toward what's been
I want to tell you that there are places out here in deep dark space where man should just not go, places where things won't work out well for us.
Forgive me. I'm in an exotic mode of thought, where now is memory and memory is hellishly disjunct. This is a stubborn dream that remains a dream still, despite all my efforts to waken. Is this it? Is this my life flashing before my mind's eye, before my death, as is so often fabled by those who have never themselves died?
At first they were most unwelcome; our meeting was not that sweet. No. It started with an innocent tickle on the soles of my feet. Then tickle begat itch. But then, ... oh, but then! It was like I'd lept onto a bed of nails and long sharp nails were piercing both flesh and bone. That pain! That pain so searing! The pain that so occupied my entire soul that I could not even hear my own primal screaming.
It's a generous mercy that the memory is not the thing itself.
Ice-fishing for tercets in toilets,
I caught one and wanted to boil it,
I cut off it's head,
And wrapped it in bread,
But baked it too long and thus spoilt it.
Yes, I am no poet, but a poet I would be. The Planet Colonies interviewer asked why I placed 'Poet' at the top of my resume, a resume otherwise so good as to be a free pass to any job in space. I just smiled a shy smile. Then she asked, "Dr. Pym, would you go to Ganymede for us?"
And then there were Angels, heard but not seen, floating up through the pain, muffled and indistinct, like voices in a howling rain. They made no sense, of course, but the sense of drugs and dreams. "Level 1 Quarantine for all of Ganymede. Level 2 Quarantine for ICE-G. Level 3 DISIN for all team personnel. Repeat: Level 3 DISIN for all team personnel prior to extraction. Level 4 DISIN for all ICE-G facilities."
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Poe, Dream within a Dream
Colony Expedition-Ganymede. So adventurous. So glamorous. Such a grand contribution to the human endeavor. You will be the new pioneers of a new frontier.
Uh-huh. We trained in Greenland and then spent a year on Earth's moon, encapsulated in our subterranean facility that was outfitted exactly like ICE-G. There our bodies acclimated to low gravity and we practiced our functions to prepare for our great adventure, ... and our eventual lionization as the courageous pioneering ground-breakers of Ganymede. Those Who Went First. We were expected to hit the ground running after insertion on the Jupiter moon. The wash-out rate in the training program was 25% before the moon phase and 75% after. Most of them could actually have done the mission, but after living and working like that for a year, they just did not want to.
The pain was so utter and pure and pervading that I began to think of it as hell mistaken for heaven. Then it lessened and lessened some more until I realized that I was still screaming. I began to feel the rest of my body again. It was frozen rigid by agony, all muscles cramped and all ligaments stretched. But it had now begun to soften and relax. There was a slow suffusion of relieving warmth and a kind of hypersensitivity that began just below the knees and flowed upwards. Below that was now no feeling at all.
The ICE-G facility was indeed exactly like the moon facility. There were no windows and no trips to the surface. Such trips had no purpose and so were not allowed. We had gone from the Earth moon facility through a windowless airlock into a windowless spacecraft. Then, a good time later, we exited the spacecraft through an identical airlock into the ICE-G facility on Ganymede. The habitat structure had been sent ahead and had constructed itself into working order before we left. We had no luxurious looks through wide crystal viewing ports at astonishing space beauty on our glamourless journey. All that we saw was on the monitor screens, and it didn't look real or at all interesting. They could have knocked us out on the moon and let us wake up here, and we wouldn't have noticed any difference at all aside from suddenly feeling maybe a just bit lighter.
Just as I got used to being back in this world absent that pain so absolute that it was all that existed, the new sensation of things moving inside the flesh above my knees gripped my attention.
The sensation became a sudden realization, one that spawned a flash of deep terror. When I put my hands down to feel my legs through the leisure suit, I felt things moving inside me. I also felt them with a proprioception that I'd never experienced before. They, the things, were progressing busily through my upper legs crawling and eating upward toward my waist, toward my crotch. Then again another wave of warm, suffusing comfort flowed up to my neck. It dissolved my terror and removed the extreme anxiety. I now considered these things that were boring their way up through me with a strangely detached curiosity, a positive interest like a bored person might take in watching a colony of ants going about their frenzied business. How many they were, I couldn't guess. Several? dozens? Hundreds? Perhaps they were multiplying.
... the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.
Poe, The Conqueror Worm
Then they reached my spine. I felt a small sort of pop just above my tailbone and then in a few seconds everything had become much different. Suddenly I was extremely pleased (yes, pleased!) by my boring friends on their valiant, determined journey through my organs and tissues and bones. I wanted to give them names, they delighted me so. I felt urge to encourage them and aid them. I surrendered completely to their onslaught and felt what I thought must be the inimitable pleasure of a woman being filled by a man.
They crawled and ate through my neck and I giggled. I laughed! They took command of my brain stem and rewarded my welcome by splashing my brain with neurotransmitter ecstasy. They repurposed my limbic system to the creation of pure and constant pleasure and sense of ultimate well-being. I was in a heaven higher than any heaven ever imagined by even the most desperate of men. And so in absolute bliss I stayed.
Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! though that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
'Twere better than the cold reality
From chapter 13, "The Boring Worms of Ganymede," in the Colonist's Guide to Known Space Maladies:
The first case of BWoG infestation was discovered in Dr. E.A. Pym at the Initial Colonization Expedition on Ganymede. Dr. Pym was found sitting, if indeed it could be called sitting, in his study by Cmdr. Thrush of the Rescue and Recovery Team commissioned by Planet Colonies, Inc. after his team had entered and secured the room. He saw Dr. Pym from behind. In the Commander's words, "Pym's head was bobbing a bit and he seemed to be laughing a queer, private laugh, like someone listening to comedy over a PLD."
The Commander called out, but Pym did not respond, so he signaled one of his men to approach the amused doctor in his chair. Thrush was startled when the battle-hardened rescue specialist stumbled backward and almost fell because of what he saw. The man's involuntary reaction was enough to swing the chair around into the full view of the rest of the team. Pym was but torso and head. The arms and legs of his suit were flattened and crusted with dried blood and gore. There was movement all around his belly and chest, partly hidden by the bloodied clothing. The face and exposed neck had no skin left, just bone and muscle and tendons, all covered with a translucent layer of shiney, writhing jelly.
Thrush immediately called in the quarantine orders. Fortunately, Thrush and his four-man crew survived. Fortunately for us, but not for them. They were removed to a level D isolation unit, where researchers were able to record and document the entire course of BWoG infestation in the five men over a period of 14 months until they had all died laughing and all the larvae had pupated.
We don't go to Ganymede anymore.