The sensation of falling rushes through me. How in the hell could he not know where the waffles are from? It’s strange how calm he looks. Completely unfazed by what he has just said. He didn’t even blink.
“What I mean is that nobody on this crew has ever seen a kitchen or any of the food delivered. It’s just always there when we open the door. My attempts to catch someone delivering it were a complete failure. You can leave the room, come back in, and there may be food there. All of it extremely delicious,” he said with a satisfied look on his face. “For some reason, it’s always waffles in the brain scanner. Trying to figure that one out has kept me up more than a few nights.”
“Hold on. Those waffles came from nowhere?”
“Technically, yes, from our current observations up to this point. But the waffles have to come from somewhere. If the waffles didn’t come from somewhere, then there are no waffles. The problem I have with that line of thinking is that the waffles have to be real because everyone on this ship appears to be extremely healthy,” he said while scraping up the remaining waffle bites. He got up out of his chair, wiped the whipped cream off his face and headed for the door. “Come on, I’ve got something to show you.”
The door whooshed open and daylight poured in. How long have we been in here? Before I could ask him about it he was out through the door. Better follow him. God only knows what’s going to happen now, unless he’s too busy making waffles to pay attention, I hope he remembers the pecans.
Ensign Cole is outside waiting for me. He is standing next to two radical looking machines. They almost look like smaller versions of polished jet fuselages with handlebars. Wonder what it is that he wants to show me and why would we need those.
“The staff affectionately call these rocket bikes. There are no rocket motors but it will feel like it when you open them up. Pull back to climb, push forward to dive, and they are really easy to steer. Push the right pedal to go faster and the left pedal to brake. You can also hover at any altitude. We need to get up to the dome so I can show you something,” he said calmly while throwing a leg over one of the machines.
Cole pulled back the handlebar and shot into the sky above me. So much for orientation. Not really a big deal I guess. I was either almost dead or I am dead currently. All bonus days now. The rocket bike surges awake beneath me and I find myself hurtling through the air at a disturbing speed. He appears to be heading towards the bottom edge of the dome. The scale of it is mind-boggling. The Biolab is massive. How would you build such a thing?
The wind races around me as impossible landscapes pass beneath in a smeared tapestry of color. Where have you been all my life rocket bike? It won’t take long to reach him and this thing is getting easier to fly. There is a river and what looks like lakes. Does it rain in here? Every time you look at it things in here it just gets weirder.
I pull the rocket bike up next to Ensign Cole and hit the brakes. The bike stops almost instantly and there the two of us are floating in the sky. The immensity of space stretched out before us in astonishing detail. I feel my stomach turn as the scale of it all hits me like a sledgehammer. Something is wrong but I can’t put my finger on it.
“Do you see a spaceship out there anywhere?” he said through pursed lips while studying me carefully.
Strange gods are swinging that sledgehammer now. Everything starts to spin as it hits me. The waffle reminds me that I should have waited 30 minutes before jumping in the pool. No sign of the spaceship we are docked with. Complete lack of visible window frame. The total absence of a fuselage outside the window. A total lack of anything. Just space, the window, and us. My mind starts racing trying to find something to hold onto. Some explanation to make it all make sense.
“You can fly all the way around this place, look in every direction, and not see the ship we are docked with,” Cole said with a stern voice looking disturbed. “You will not find any signs of the ship we are supposed to be a part of either.”
“I took the elevator here.”
“Now you are starting grasp the nature of this problem,” he said this time with a smile.
“It’s the waffles all over again. Who built this ship, if you can even call it that?”
“We don’t know. We were all just like you. Broken lives, about to give up, and then the ship found us, or we found it. You are the only one of us that appeared out of thin air from another time though. Every person on this ship has a weird story about how they wound up here. I’ve heard all manner of things. Impossible synchronicities, strange comm transmissions, magic doors, almond-eyed invaders. You name it. The only thing weirder than this ship is the stories of how we all got here,” he said pulling a flask out of his lab coat and taking a long draw from it before passing it to me.
“Cheers. I hope the kitchen that doesn’t exist has pie.”
#13 A Gift from the Dark Unknown