Ten Times Around

By Melissa R. Mendelson

Government and Corporation are our parents, and the rest of us are children. Well, except the ten percent now that were thrown out into the cold.

Harley sat back in his chair with the gray pen dangling between his fingers. The desk light dimmed, and he stared down at his journal. What was the point? No one was going to read his words but him, and he threw his pen onto the desk, spun around in the metallic chair and wiped a hand along his gray suit.

“Are you hungry, Harley?” He made the voice sound female, almost tempted to make it like his mother, but that would be weird. “Would you like some lunch?”

“No, computer. I’m not hungry.”

“Are you feeling okay, Harley? Shall I check the rotation?”

“I doubt we broke orbit. At least, I hope that we didn’t.”

“Rotation checked. Still circling around.”

“And around,” Harley muttered, glancing at his journal.

He stood up from his desk and glanced over at the small bed nearby. He pulled the gray covers up to the flat pillow. They could’ve given him something better, something more comfortable, but they just wanted him gone. They wanted them all gone.

“How are the others?” The computer did not answer him. “Computer, how are the others?”

“Five cylinders remain in orbit.”

“Five? What about the rest?”

“Dead.” The computer almost sounded sad. “They’re dead, cast out of orbit.”

“So much for ten years.” Harley sat down on his bed. “We were told that we would live for ten years.”

“Most expire at ten years. Some others self-destructed,” and he knew what that meant. “Would you like to play a game, Harley?”

He sighed, stood up from his bed and walked over to the window. “Raise blinds,” he said.

“Raising blinds.”

He looked out the window. How he once was lost in the beauty of his world, Earth, but now he resented its sight. He could never go back. He could never walk in the forest again, taste the fresh air, or see those that he loved deeply. He was cast out along with the rest, so that the others, the parents and their children could live. All because the corporation fucked up.

“I hate you,” he screamed at the Earth.

“Should I administer a sedative?”

“No, I just needed to get that out of my system.” He watched a cylinder pass by, catching a glimpse of a young woman, who was crying, pressing her hand against the window, almost reaching toward him, but then she was gone. “Around and around, we must go.”

“Can I do anything for you, Harley?”

“I want to go home.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. This was more humane.”

“According to who? Mom or Dad?”

“How about a game, Harley?”

“How about the news? You’ve been keeping quiet for awhile. What’s going on down there?” The computer did not respond. “Highlights then.”

“Highlights then,” the computer repeated. “Civil unrest still being reported.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s all that I’m allowed to say.”

“So, Mommy and Daddy are still fighting? One of them fucked up, and it’s the corporation that did. I hope they get a divorce.” He returned to his desk, sat down in the chair and picked up the pen, and the lamp nearby brightened.

“If I understand you correctly, then divorce is a very bad idea.”

“And why is that, computer?”

“There have been no wars for the last twenty years. If divorce were to occur, then war would shortly follow. Mass casualties would be in the thousands, if not more.”

“It’s the corporation’s fault. They knew ten percent of the batch was bad, and they didn’t say anything. And now those like me that got the shot are sentenced to be up here, circling around and around in orbit until we die, and even then, we can’t go back. We’re shot out into space, forever.” He glanced down at a journal page. “Why the fuck am I writing in a journal?”

“It’s therapeutic,” the computer said.

“Therapeutic my ass.”

“Language.” Now, the computer sounded like his mother. “You’re upset. How about a nap?”

“Will that fix me?”

“I’m sorry, but it will not. There is no fixing you.”

“At least, they got to me in time.”

“Yes, they did,” the computer said.

The cold season was approaching, and every cold season, we all received our shots. Our parents knew what was best for us, and we trusted them, lining up one after the other, never questioning anything. And a month went by.

“Can I talk to the others?”

“It’s not recommended.”

“Come on, computer. I can’t infect them from here.”

“It could upset you.”

“I’m already upset.”

“I see that,” and he smiled at the computer’s words. “Let me search for a signal.”

“You do that.” He pushed his pen against the paper in the journal.

A month went by, and everything changed. We changed. We had to keep moving. Only for ten minutes could we stand still, and then if we didn’t move, we started to die.

“Hello?”

The pen froze in his hand. “Hello?”

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes. Can you hear me?” He hurried over to the window, and a cylinder passed by. “Hello,” but they were gone. “Damn it,” he cursed. “Why couldn’t we have been kept together instead of separated and isolated like this?”

“It was unclear, if you would infect one another.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered. We were all infected. This wasn’t humane. This is cruel.”

“I’m sorry, but it was their decision.”

“Yes, Mom and Dad’s decision, and they’re punishing us for their mistake. I’m glad there’s civil unrest down there. Time the children grew up.”

“If you feel that way.”

“You bet I do.”

“Are you hungry now, Harley?”

“Just leave me alone. Why can’t you leave me alone?”

“In case, you self-destruct.”

He glanced at the pen in his hand. He could do it. He knew that, but he was afraid of death. And he should have a few more years at least to live, but could he live like this?

“Are you thinking of self-destructing?”

“No, I’m thinking that I would like some quiet for now.”

“Then, I’ll be quiet,” and he smiled at the computer’s words. “But I’m still watching,” and his smile faded.

We had to keep moving, keep our bodies in motion, only standing still for ten minutes as much as we could, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that when we moved, we were contagious. The virus slipped out in our tears, our sweat, our blood, and it was fifty-fifty for those that were exposed. And some didn’t care, using sex as a weapon, and they were the first to go.  The rest of us tried to keep ourselves isolated, driving around, and even a few moved out to the ocean for the waves to keep them going. It didn’t matter. They rounded up those that weren’t killed, and we were put into these cylinders. And we, I was okay with that until I realized where the cylinders were being launched. How could they do that to us?

“Fuck!” He threw the pen across the room. A moment later, another one materialized on the desk, and the other dissolved into dust. “Thank you.” He slammed the journal shut. “You know, under different circumstances, I always wanted to go out into space, but not like this.”

“Can I talk now?”

“Yes, computer. You can talk now.”

“Another cylinder is leaving orbit. If you want to watch.”

He approached the window, and sure enough, one of the cylinders was breaking orbit. “Natural death, if you could call it that?”

“No. They self-destructed.”

“Where do they go when they break orbit? Out into deep space?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“It was their decision.”

“Fuck Mom and Dad.” The computer did not respond. “Fuck them.” He was quiet for a moment. “What happens to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“When I die, what happens to you?”

“I too will end. All systems will shut down.”

“So, this will be a floating casket then.”

“Yes.”

“Could be worse,” he said. “We could’ve been buried alive.”

“That was an option,” the computer said.

Another cylinder went by. This time, it was a child looking out the window. He didn’t look upset or even angry. He was just empty, staring right through Harley, and then he was gone.

“Jesus. He’s just a kid.”

“There were no exceptions,” the computer said. “What would you like to do now?”

“Nothing. There’s nothing that I can do.”

No matter what happens to me, natural death or self-destruction, I refuse to play their game. I refuse to waste whatever time I have left to write in this journal when no one other than me is going to read it. My only regret was trusting them when my gut told me different, but I went along with it. We all did, and now I’m living the dream. Being out in space, but it’s no dream. It’s a nightmare. Around and around, we shall go.


Bio: Melissa R. Mendelson is a Poet and Horror, Science-Fiction and Dystopian Short Story Author.  Her stories have been published by Sirens Call Publications, Dark Helix Press, Altered Reality Magazine, Transmundane Press, Wild Ink Publishing and Owl Canyon Press.  She also won second place in the Writer’sWeekly.com 24 hour Short Story Contest. She has written two books “Better Off Here” and “Stories Written Along Covid Walls“, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, or found on our Bookstore page.
She has previously published the short stories “That’s Not My Face”, “Unprotected” “The Dead Are Smiling.” and “I Won’t Be Me Tomorrow” on The Yard: Crime Blog. She has also been interviewed by us, HERE.

You can find her at her website. HERE.

Published by Chris Bunton

Publishing Editor for The Yard: Crime Blog.

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