Red Or Black

Warning: This story contains mature themes that will be disturbing for some readers. 

 

They picked me up on my way to the slums. Luckily they hadn’t arrived a minute earlier. If they had, they would have seen me visiting the tall, translucent figure of the artificially intelligent Docbot. I touched the small scar on the back of my neck, pretending to scratch an itch. The Docbot had inserted a cable into my neck, one end connecting to my frontal lobe and the other trailing down to the top of my spinal cord. The scar reassured me. I knew they were watching. I knew I had a way out of here.

They put a blindfold over my eyes and tagged me, puncturing my ear and hanging a tag from the lobe. I had seen the tags before. Small pieces of plastic inscribed with betting odds. I wonder if I was a 2-1 or a 100-1.

They threw me in the back of the van and closed the door. I could see a faint glow around the edge of my mask. As part of my cosmetic improvements, I’d had each strand of my hair embedded with bright, atom-sized LED’s, as was the fashion of the elite.

It began just four nights ago. I went to the gambling hall, like every night. It was our only source of income since the Bots took our jobs. The artificial authority or ‘Authorobots’ ensured that every penny spent on fun and cosmetics went back into gambling each night. But, lady luck wasn’t on my side tonight.

I sat at a table across from a man with a tiger tattoo on his wrist, the stripes blazing red and black. Others gathered at the table, but I remember meeting his eyes, he was a perfect target. Brutes stood over the man’s shoulder guarding him. He was rich, and I needed money.

Anyone who is anyone in this world had a Brute looking after them. The Brutes are all masked with anonymous black plates cosmetically fused to their face. They had no identity other than their height and build, they just watched over the rich without emotion. The stitched perforations across the material allowed for breathing and sight. Their lips a contrasting pink against the matte black, their teeth sharp and white.

The man with the tiger tattoo played a hard game.
“Call me Burke” he whispered as he challenged me to a game of roulette.
I called black instead of red. I lost.
Every single penny I’d owned was passed to him.
Burke told me he would give me my money back if I’d sleep with him.
So, I did.

At least I knew I wouldn’t have to live this life forever, unlike some of the girls.
I couldn’t pay my debts so the gang reported me to the Bailiffs. As soon as I’d lost my money, even if I changed my face and hid away, I knew what was coming.
Anticipating the worst gave me a short advantage. Before the traders grabbed me, I’d made a deal with the authorities; I would carry on working in the trade for as long as it took to identify the boss. Afterwards, they would free me and pay off my debts, effectively making me and elite… If I survive until then.

The journey was short. In a world where most jobs were done by AI, the roads were never busy. All we could do was gamble and do the work they couldn’t. Solving moral dilemmas and making judgements. The elite spent their days in leisure; skydiving and having fun with the pleasure-bots. For the unlucky, nothing is left but crime and illegal activity.

We arrived at our destination in under an hour and I was unloaded into a crowded room. Two Brutes took away my possessions before roughly tearing off my clothes. I was dressed in rags by invasive hands and chained to a wall by my ankles.
The room was full of girls, all unlucky and penniless like me.
None of us fought back, we knew what happened then. The girls who fight can only be sold to lowlifes who do all manner of horrors to them. At least the high-profile clients treat their girls better.

I was in the room for days, or hours, I couldn’t tell.
It was dark and damp, and the food was bland. The other girls were broken and scared, some had been here for years. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like for them, to never know when they would be free again. At least I had the promise of a future after this.

The room was silent. I could feel my willpower drain away as the hours passed, the slightest whisper from anyone led to a cane across their shoulders. Isolation was making us passive, teaching us to take abuse. I could feel it creeping into me as I sat there, tied with heavy chains. I could feel the strength, the hope, and the happiness leaving me. All the while, the device in my brain remained quiet. They could communicate with me, but they chose not to.

The thought of revenge got me through the time spent chained to the wall. The tattooed man had left me in the morning without giving me back a penny. I couldn’t wait to become an elite again and teach him a lesson.
He had left me feeling disgusted. Used. Violated.
He’d made a mistake, though. He had left me in his room.
I’d managed to swipe an expensive watch off the bedside cupboard before making my escape. I sold it to the highest bidder to make some money. Not enough to pay my debts, but enough to buy a new face.
The traders still got to me anyway. They knew an unlucky girl by sight, even if she had a new face. I didn’t even make it to the slums.

The hours spent on the hard floor made me feel grateful for the new limbs I’d brought in the cosmetic’s house. They stopped me feeling pain. Whatever happened to me here, at least I wouldn’t be able to feel it. Unfortunately, it made me more valuable too. They could do what they wanted with me without hurting me.

I must have fallen asleep for a moment as the door to the room was wrenched open and the light startled me awake. One by one, the girls were led out. As the Brute reached me, I felt a soft flutter in my spine as the Authorobots tuned back in, I could feel them watching.
A brute caned me across my back to urge me to my feet. I collapsed back against the wall, but a searing pain took over my mind and I was compelled to stand. I didn’t know the Authorobots could do that. I didn’t know…

The Brute unlocked the chains around my ankles and his calloused hands pulled my arms behind my back. He nearly pulled my shoulder out of its socket as he clamped chains around my wrists. With another slap of his cane, he jerked me into an adjoining room.

I was roughly washed down with a hose before a seductive red dress was yanked over my head, covering less of me than the rags had. His masked face never allowed him to give any emotions away. But I suspected he was enjoying it. As soon as the Brute had brushed my hair with painful scrapes, he unlocked my wrists and threw me through another door.

I stumbled into a large auditorium. The Authorobots took control of my feet to stop me falling flat on my face, then left me again. Around one edge of the room was a two-way mirror. I stood there, my shoulders blazing with pain, I couldn’t think. The lights were dazzling. I took a few steps to the centre of the room and paused, trying to think through my shame.

However, before I had the chance to make a decision, an impulse forced me to dance. I watched, hopeless and terrified, seeing from the outside as my feet twirled in a seductive dance that would entice anyone to buy. I couldn’t control anything as a fake smile forced its way onto my face. A smile they had put there.

Panic rose inside my gut. I tried to distract myself with rage, imagining the men on the other side of the glass. I tried to believe that letting the Authorobots control me was the right thing to do. I knew from the stories that one pane of glass covered the buyers; the men I would be forced to submit to. I could imagine them bidding with leering smiles. The other pane of glass hid the betters. Disgusting men who were not rich enough to buy a girl, so bid on which elite would win her instead. It was sick.

My distraction didn’t work, I couldn’t control the panic, I felt myself black out for a moment, but the Authorobots forced me awake again. I was trapped in my own body, no amount of rage and justification of the Authorobot’s actions could change that. They violated me in a way no man ever had or could. I felt sick.

But then it was over, the Authorobots let me go. I felt their presence recede as I was thrown into a suite. I rushed to a plant pot in the corner, straining my empty stomach.

The room was luxurious, the bed decorated with thick downy cushions and silk sheets. I knew I had a role to perform, but after what the Authorobots did to me, I was struggling to decide which fate was worse; the trade or the robots. I realised that either way, my body would never be my own.

I just wanted this thing out of my head. The Authorobots were no better than the traders. I realised that now.

I wasn’t alone for long, a brute joined me in the room and pulled a blindfold over my eyes. The client joined me a minute later. The whole time he was there I was hoping I would just black out from the pain. I was battered and bruised by the time he took the blindfold off. Whip marks streaked across every inch of my skin. My body sliding on the silk sheets soaked with my own blood.

My stomach churned at the sight but I had no energy to do anything about it. I was broken, conquered, and invaded.

However, the moment the light stopped searing my eyes and I saw who he was. The red and black tiger tattoo danced upon his wrist, its tail soaked in my blood.
It was him. Burke.
My rage tried to overcome me, I wanted to pay him back for everything he had done to me. But I controlled myself, the monsters were still in my head watching.
I couldn’t let them have him. I hated them as much as I hated him.
I would have my revenge but it had to be my own.
I waited for him to leave the room to shower off my blood, then I crawled out of the saturated sheets and over to a glass jar near the window. I took the roses out of the jar and laid them on the bed in a twisted mockery of my situation.
Mustering all the strength I could gather I smashed the pot onto the floor. It shattered in a shower of glass.
I could feel the Authorobots’ confusion. They never did understand humanity. What it really means to be human.
I took the sharpest shard of glass and, without giving the Authorobots a chance to react, I cut into the back of my neck. For once I was glad the room was sound proof as I let out a yell. The fresh blood became indistinguishable from the other open wounds. With one hand I grabbed the tangle of bloody wires, and with the other, I sliced. I felt the Authorobots’ presence immediately leave me.
I’d severed their connection for good.
Using the candle next to the bed, I dropped hot wax over the wound, sealing it. I screamed, but at least the abuse was my own this time.
My mind was finally my own again. In some sick way, I felt free.
I knew the Authorobots would come for me. But if this was a game of roulette. I would take red over black any day. Being abused by flesh and blood rather than being abused by machinery and technology. I’d come to terms with the fact that my body would never be my own, but I couldn’t accept the loss of my mind as well. I would rather risk staying in the trade than lose the part of me which makes me human.
The Authorobots are the ones that put me here in the first place. They are the ones who took our jobs.
I am going to get revenge on Burke, I am going to take the trade down and when the time is right, I am going to drag the authorities down with me.

The Flames of Hope

Georgina Webb passed the carts filling the market square. They were empty now, the ripe tomatoes all sold, the fresh cabbages boiling away in various stew pots. Everyone had returned back to their camps for the night and she was left alone, stomach rumbling and cold.

Georgie was barely twelve but her face was drawn and haggard, hardened by her years on the streets. As she walked through the market she stumbled more than once. She had managed to sell a couple of her matches for a slice of bread this morning, but she hadn’t sold any since. Her feet were beginning to feel numb as she walked.

She missed her Grandma. On days like today when the frost lingered in the air and the fog closed around them, she would have pulled Georgie close and tucked her under her arm. They would have hurried home, vegetables in hand and made soup together, that when sipped, warmed Georgie from her head to her toes.

It didn’t take long to reach the war-torn street she usually sheltered in, scarred from the explosion of a distant bomb. She was glad for that, her legs were beginning to feel weak and she wasn’t sure how much further they could have carried her. From a stash in the side of one of the buildings, she retrieved a canteen of water that she had collected from a nearby river, drinking it all in one gulp in hope that it would stop her stomach from cramping with emptiness.

She pulled her blanket from a makeshift sack she carried over one shoulder and huddled down into the doorway of a crumbling house to rest. Sleep didn’t welcome her, it was too cold and she was too scared, being alone at night still felt strange. Instead, she watched out for any stragglers that might want to buy some of her matches to stave off the frigid night air.

 

Out of the deep winter fog, a figure emerged on a white horse, not stopping to look at the young girl, but swiftly disappearing around the corner. Georgie could have sworn that she saw a bow on the rider’s back that reminded her of the weapons used in the later stages of the war. She shrugged it off. Her eyes had been playing tricks on her for days. She was getting used to it now.

She huddled down further into the doorway of the abandoned house. Her hair was matted and her clothes were rags. Beside her, she placed her box of matches, still three-quarters full.

Winter had hit hard this year. It had been about six years since every electrical item in the world stopped, due to the electromagnetic pulse weapons used in the Great War. It was like the epic floods in the stories Grandma used to tell her, seas cleansing the Earth of everything bad. In these stories, the good people were allowed to live and bad people had to die. But then Grandma died and Georgie didn’t really believe that anymore.

Ever since the Great War, the winters had been getting colder. Global Warming had started to recede in the absence of modern technology and industrialisation and temperatures were dropping dramatically. The remaining population were not acclimatised to it yet.

As the months had gone by, Georgie had grown accustomed to finding frozen bodies littering the street. When she had found Grandma all those months ago, sitting in her favourite armchair, stare blank and lifeless. She had been sad and scared. She grew angry at the world. But, since she had lived on the streets, there had been so much sadness, so much death and so much anger that she had grown accustomed to it and she didn’t feel as scared anymore. She found at least one dead body a day, most of them her own age. She called the nearest adult to help clean it up then moved on with her day.

 

Tonight she understood how those dead children must have felt in their last hours. However hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to get warm. Georgie had lost the feeling in her toes many hours ago and the blanket from her bag wasn’t making much of a difference. Although summer always came around eventually, it felt like this time it wouldn’t.

 

She tried to stand up, to walk over to the nearby tree and gather some branches to make a fire. But her legs failed her, she crumpled into a heap in the doorway.

The harsh winds brushed against her cheeks as she nursed her bruised elbow. Her heart ached, the branches were so close, yet she couldn’t reach them. Her toes had started to go black with frostbite as she tucked her blanket around herself again to try and keep out the chill.

 

Only a few travellers were passing through the streets, all of them hurrying home to their families, carrying various supplies they had gathered in trade. Each one walked past, and each one ignored her. Her stomach was in agony, her skin growing colder. She would have traded a match for the tiniest scrap of food or the tiniest moment of warmth at this point, but not one person even glanced in her direction.

 

The numb feeling was spreading and the pain was getting worse, in desperation Georgie grabbed one of her matches and lit it, holding it close to her frozen fingers.

 

Early this morning, Georgie had come across a traveller. He was on his way to deliver matches to a nearby family but spared a box in exchange for Georgie’s shoes. His daughter’s feet were cold and he was afraid of her getting frostbite. Georgie had given up her shoes readily, even if it meant taking the girls pain onto herself. The traveller completed the trade, put the shoes on his daughter, and rode away on his red stallion. Not even offering to take the desperate girl with him.

If Georgie could have sold the matches, she could have pulled herself out of starvation, if only temporarily. However, no one had seemed to need matches today, they were all buying animal fat from a stall in the market instead. Fuelling their gas lamps instead of lighting their fires.

Most of the travellers who walked past only had limited resources, and they wanted to hold onto these supplies for their own families. They wouldn’t waste their last slice of bread on a lost cause like Georgie. Food was more important to them than trading for a match to light their fire, they already had roofs over their heads.

 

Georgie found herself staring into the match’s flame as the warmth spread across her stiff fingers. Anger boiled inside her, Grandma had always told her she was a good person, but if she was so ‘good’ what did she do to deserve a life like this?

Grandma had been stolen from her, and all the travellers were passing by without a backwards glance. She was starving, she was cold, and she could no longer feel her blackened toes. She watched the flame sink further down the match.

Oh Telepinu, let your wrath melt into nothing, just as bitter snows disappear in warm sunshine[1]

Her Grandma’s voice resonated in her head. A remembered line from a forgotten story. The message was clear, there was no point being angry at her situation, there wasn’t much she could do to change it. Grandma had always hated her temper anyway. Instead, she chose to remember her Grandma and hope blossomed in her once again.

 

“Matches! Come and trade for matches!” Georgie called, but her voice was a faint croak. The woman in the rich fur coat rode past in her carriage drawn by tall black horses, not hearing the girl’s call.

The match’s flame finally burnt out. The cold began to seep in again instantly. She reached aside and scratched another match against her tinder box. The flame licking at her fingers. She held the match close to her face, trying to soak up the warmth.

As she stared into the flickering warmth of the match, three figures emerged from the depths of the flame. All three haggard and old, they were fearsome creatures, but Georgie wasn’t afraid. One of the figures was spinning out a line of gossamer thread that moved with the flickers of the flame. The old hag standing next to her was measuring the gossamer thread as it tried to escape from the clutches of her hands. The final woman stood watching on the side, her expression the most sinister of all. She stood with scissors in her hand, but before she could cut the beautiful thread in two, the image merged into a kindly face, the face of Grandma.

 

“Oh, Grandma” Georgie found herself whispering. “What have I done to deserve a life like this? Why did you leave me?”

The kindly old woman smiled, her hair as neatly pinned back as Georgie remembered, her green eyes just as twinkling.

“Oh, darling, you are not being punished. Just remember ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.[2]

Grandma’s eyes lit up with love.

“To be good, is to have a spirit full of love, and you have that my beautiful girl. To suffer doesn’t mean to be bad, it shows your strength and faith. You remind me of your mother at this age. I am proud of you, my beautiful Georgie.”

Georgie was about to reply when the match burnt out with a final sizzle.

“Grandma, come back!”

“Grandma!” Georgie wept.

“Don’t leave me again!”

“GRANDMA!”

Fumbling with her frozen fingers she snatched another match from her box and struck it against the tinder. Grandma’s soft features returned to the pale light.

 

“Tell me a story Grandma” Georgie whispered. “I love your stories” the young girl found her head growing heavier so she rested back against the old wooden door.

“Of course my dear, what story do you want to hear?”

“Tell me about Pandora! You used to read it to me by the fire before bed. It was always so warm there.” Georgie croaked, holding the match closer.

“As you wish” Grandma chuckled.

 

The flame flickered in a sudden gust of wind and died out with a fizzle. Georgie hurriedly lit a new one from the slowly decreasing supply, not wanting to miss a second with Grandma.

[3]“Once upon a time there was a god called Epimetheus. His brother Prometheus warned him to never to trust a gift from Zeus, the old god was still trying to get revenge. But Epimetheus never listened. Just like your Uncle”

Grandma chuckled, talking of Georgie’s late Uncle Ned. He’d had a bit of a reputation in the family before he had died with her parents in the bombings.

Georgie pulled her blankets closer under her chin, grabbing another match in her stiff fingers ready to light it as soon as this one died. She didn’t notice the pain so much anymore, but she felt very tired. She couldn’t sleep yet, she wanted to know what happened.

Upon mount Olympus, Zeus was pondering a plan. He called on the god Hephaestus to fashion a new human out of clay, one quite different from the last.

“The first woman, Pandora!” Georgie croaked, having heard this story countless times. Her head rung as she spoke and she winced.

“That’s right my dear. Pandora was the loveliest of all maidens and sent to Earth with a large jar.”

“Or a box in some stories” Georgie was barely even sure that her voice came out that time. Her lips were so numb. But Grandma seemed to hear.

“Yes, that’s right sweetheart. Epimetheus fell in love with Pandora and decided that he must wed her at o…”

Grandma’s voice faded away, but Georgie managed to find an ounce of strength to slash another match and hold it close to her face.

“He must wed her at once”

Grandma continued.

“The men were jealous of Epimetheus and the women of Pandora, and all the while the jar was forgotten in a field where Epimetheus had left it, distracted by Pandora’s beauty. Then one day, Earth’s women discovered the jar. They believed that the jar could make them as beautiful as Pandora. But when they opened the lid, all kinds of evil crawled out”

“Oh no!” Georgie whispered. She felt her eyes close for a moment, but she needed to hear her favourite part, so she forced them open again.

A pale horse crashed passed, pulling a carriage. Georgie didn’t have the energy to speak up, not that the carriage even paused.

“You always did hate that part, didn’t you? But I bet you understand it more now. You have grown up so much since I left you…”

Grandma’s eyes brimmed with tears.

Georgie didn’t hear her, the match was dying and in a panic to hear the end of the story, Georgie had grabbed every match that was left and lit them all at once.

Grandma’s image burned brighter than ever before. The warmth washed over Georgie’s face, but it was too late. The cold had taken over inside.

“The jar was full of every bad thing you see around you today and it spread out across the world.”

“But there was something left” Georgie tried to say, in anticipation for her favourite part. But her voice was only heard by Grandma.

“At the bottom of the jar was the feeling of Hope. One morning a sad girl discovered it, still stuck in the jar. She brought it home with her, bringing hope back into everyone’s lives.”

Georgie smiled, this is the point where Grandma would pull her against her chest and kiss her forehead.

“Never forget my dear, that regardless of whatever happens, hope always remains and I will always Love you. Now come and join me, my sweet girl. You can let go now.”

The flames slowly faded to the sound of a trumpet playing somewhere far away, and so did the little girl. Her arms falling to her side, her hand clutching at the burnt ashes in her palm. On her face rested a small smile as her eyes closed for the last time.

[1] Parker, V. Myths & Legends (Essex: Miles Kelly Publishing Ltd, 2013)

[2] Carroll, R & Prickett, S. The Bible: Authorised King James Version. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) Galatians 5:22

[3] It has been re-worded but the tale was heavily inspired by; Sacred-Texts Pandora  http://www.sacred-texts.com/etc/omw/omw32.htm

Daily Mail Lies About Hypermobility

I know this isn’t my usual type of post but I am putting it up here as well as it deserves to be known. As a Hypermobility sufferer; this is the most disgusting thing I have ever read.

Daily Mail has posted this article online and it is sick!

Diagnosis Explains Stiff Joints

No wonder Hypermobility Sufferers are never taken seriously, rejected, ignored and misdiagnosed. According to this article (in which every damn word is a lie), Children shouldn’t be told that they are unwell with hypermobility. It is an illness what do they expect? you can be very unwell with HMS!!! They also claim HMS is caused by laziness WTH WTH WTH It is a proven genetic medical disability. HOW IS THIS LAZINESS. They claim the cure is exercise, but playing sport makes the condition worse! To make things worse. Quote “‘People sometimes say it hurts so badly they think they’ve got a dislocation, but what they’ve done is hyperextend the joint so everything feels out of place.” NO! A DISLOCATION IS A DISLOCATION AND I BET THEY WOULD CHANGE THEIR MIND IF THEY EXPERIENCED ONE THEMSELVES! It even states that children shouldn’t be labelled or given a diagnosis as hypermobility is just a lack of exercise. people who believe this are the reason it is so hard to actually get diagnosed with HMS in the first place. Idiots. But it’s okay to diagnose yourself, everyone is doing it… right? NOPE. The article makes it out like you are diagnosing a common cold, but HMS is a disability, IT DESERVES RESPECT. Apparently, anyone can have hypermobility like it is just another word for being too flexible or something. Like it is nothing. It means nothing. But tell that to all of us who are fighting each day of their lives to just do normal, everyday tasks. Articles like this push the fight for HMS awareness back 50 years. they ruin everything the charities have achieved over time. Finally, there is an article about HMS in a public place, just a shame it is written by people uneducated about the condition and just writing an article of lies. If people read this without knowing the truth, as most people believe what they read online, then it ruins everything we have been trying to achieve. EVERY OUNCE OF RESPECT WE HAVE EARNED, DESTROYED IN SECONDS. I posting this on here so you can read the truth, read the struggle us HMS sufferers have to go through for awareness and equality. And know exactly why I have chosen to write about this for my manifesto assignment. Articles like this destroy every once of progress in for a condition that hasn’t got much in the way of awareness anyway, It infuriates me more than I can express. Okay, Rant Over. I wish I could say this would be the last time an article like this is written, but it most likely isn’t… they even used the image of the tin man of all people to head the article. How Insulting!

Please share this and create awareness for the truth!

5 Second Review: Logan

Sorry it has to be a quick review today. Due to assignments I haven’t got time to write a full review. But, this film was so amazing I couldn’t resist typing a brief spoiler-free review anyway. I originally posted this as a Facebook status so I apologise in advance. 

~*~

Logan was so good! No spoilers but it is such a fitting end for a beloved character. goodbye Wolverine :'(. This film is so much more than a ‘superhero movie’. It is full of character, love, family, drama and action. Definitely one of my favourite X-Men movies so far, and definitely my favourite Wolverine film. It was just so beautiful, realistic and well put together. A job well done Hugh Jackman! It does feel like an end of an era though. Especially since the X-Men movies were the films that founded my love for Marvel in the first place. I don’t think they will be the same without Wolverine as he was always a favourite of mine (unless they re-cast him but that would be so horrible!). *sigh*

International Woman’s Day

Sorry it’s a day late but I run out of time yesterday. Happy International Woman’s day!

We Can Do What We Want!

We can join the army, if we want.

We can learn physics, if we want.

We can build houses, if we want.

We can do what we want, if we want.

Our hands are as skilled as a man,

Our imagination is just as grand.

You try to pull us back,

But we won’t let you.

You try to hold us back,

But you won’t be able.

Men and women are the same,

And that is something you can’t change!

The Living Planet

This is my first assignment for my science fiction class. It has been graded and handed back so I am able to share it all with you now. I must give a content warning for some slightly disturbing scenes. You have been warned.

After five years of gradually decreasing speed, the spaceship, Aurora, finally paused just outside the solar system surrounding Kapteyn’s star.
When the pioneers launched into deep space at the speed of light, with the crew in stasis to conserve resources, the journey should have taken twelve years.
However, NASA had forgotten to take into account that the star had been steadily moving further from Earth. The information describing the nature of this subdwarf had been lost over two hundred years ago, in a crisis that shut down data systems for a good decade. No one had considered checking to see if the distance had changed since the disaster occurred, they never even contemplated that their data could be incorrect. Because of this, the explorers had been in space for over thirty years, the artificial navigation system recalibrating its course without a perception of the consequences.

Deep in the centre of the ship, The Commander’s nerve endings had started to wake up. Liquid oxygen drained from the Cryochamber and tentatively her heart began to pump again. Her organs doing the job intended for the first time since she left Earth. Heaters blasted around her body, warming it from its previous state of -180oC. Injections pulled out of the back of her skull where they had administered her a shot of miconazole and clobetasol to wake her from her ancient sleep. The medicine began to push the growth of stem cells in her brain, repairing the damage inflicted by her time in ice.
The rest of the crew began to wake up. The pneumatic lids lifting off their pods, allowing their consciousness to be returned to them. The Commander, Captain Essie Green, was chosen to lead the mission due to her stubborn and determined personality. However, as soon as she stood up to leave her pod, she couldn’t manage it.
Something was wrong.
Her left foot had remained numb, hanging limply at the end of her leg. The skin, a slight shade of blue, turning blacker by the minute. Frostbite. Before she had a chance to react, her foot began to crumble. The skin and bones dissolving as if the foot had once belonged to Tutankhamun.
All over the chamber, the crew were attempting to rise.
The Pilot, Cyrus Laughton, had collapsed in exhaustion onto his back after retching unsuccessfully for over five minutes.
Second in Command, Luis Hoffman, was screaming, the fingers on both hands cramping at an unnatural angle.
The technician Alex, had stood up only to discover the still body in the pod next to hers. The grey form of a woman that was once their resident doctor.
Something had gone very wrong.
Commander Green, gulped down her pain, trying to stem her panic. Somehow she managed to scramble out of her pod and into one of the med chairs in the middle of the room.
Pulling a computer down from above her head she typed in a command. A robot arm stretched out towards her blackened stump, 3D printing a prosthetic foot to replace the missing limb. While she waited, she received a shot of pain relief and antibiotics, contemplating what could have gone wrong, and how to help her hysterical crew.
As soon as the robot had finished, she tried to help where she could. She dealt out jumpsuits and blankets, placing those who needed help in a med chair and calming the panic that consumed the others.
Last she visited the bed of the doctor, Gemma McGinley. Carefully, she closed her friend’s eyelids. Trying to stop herself from dwelling on the memory of Gemma’s lifeless blue eyes. Eyes that had been so full of life, what felt like moments ago, but now resembling coloured glass.
Trying to battle her own emotions, the commander took the panel from the side of the pod and did a diagnostic. Gemma’s brain had failed to wake up with the others.
The Commander pushed down the lid, once again flooding Gemma’s pod with liquid Oxygen, encasing her friend’s body in ice. She deserved a proper burial back on Earth.
The rest of the crew were coming to terms with what had happened, their astronaut training taking over. Once the panic died down, they stopped at the kitchen to have a quick meal, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as they had hoped. Their first meal in decades, but it was a sombre affair of lukewarm ration packs, in an atmosphere shadowed with a death.
After the meal, they piled into the command centre. Essie flicked the switch on her coms.
“Cyrus check our coordinates on the map. Luis, establish the connection with NASA. Alex, make sure that the water reclaimer and oxygen levels are stable.” She gave the brief commands while loading the ship’s flight diagnostics on her own computer.
They set to work, but it wasn’t long until the commander got the news she was dreading. Cyrus placed his headphones around his neck and switched off his coms, his expression dark. This was for the captain’s ears only.
“Commander, our journey has taken twenty-eight years longer than expected… We have been in stasis for thirty-eight days…”
He trailed off, but the commander knew what he was trying to say. They couldn’t go home.
The body can survive in stasis for fifty years, at most, before the brain just fails to wake up. The crew couldn’t afford to be refrozen, especially since there had already been one fatality. To make matters worse, they only had enough resources for a three-year trip, nowhere near enough to sustain the whole crew for a return journey outside the ice.
They had been cut off from the Earth forever.
To make matters worse, Luis soon reported that he couldn’t get a reply from NASA. They had flown too far out of reach of the satellite communication systems back at home.
The commander didn’t take the time to process the news herself, before breaking the news to her team. They all took it rough, they couldn’t not, they all felt the loss of their home planet in the depths of their soul, and their days were now numbered.
Luckily, they were astronauts, and astronauts didn’t give up that easily.

They took some time to come to terms with their fate, but it wasn’t long before they set to work, rationing supplies and coming up with ways to increase their lifespan on the ship. Through careful planning, they managed to salvage an extra two years for the ship. It was not enough to get home, but enough to give them time to find a more permanent solution.
The crew gathered at the observation desk and looked out at the star. The pulsing red sun was easy enough to identify, beautiful, but smaller than our own sun and a lot cooler. There were two planets in orbit around the sun, Kapteyn B and Kapteyn C.
Kapteyn C orbited too far from the habitable zone to be of any interest, but Kapteyn B was another matter entirely. It was the reason for their trip in the first place, a promising exoplanet of earth size, orbiting in the habitable zone of its star.
The only way to reach the star and conserve resources at the same time was to land the space ship onto the planet’s surface. An irreversible feat.
Once landed, they will be unable lift themselves into orbit again, but after a day of deliberating, the crew agreed to attempt it. It was their only chance.
The crew had one last meal together on the ship. They cooked up the sachets in the kitchen which were meant to be reserved for thanksgiving and reminisced about the life that they were all having to leave behind.
Luis decided to turn on the television and put on a Planet Earth box set, as a way to give thanks to the planet that had sustained them until now. But, after half an hour of David Attenborough’s stunning scenery and descriptions of dolphins, sharks and the humble pilot fish, they all began to miss home too much. The reality of their destiny becoming opaque. The captain sent them all to bed before anyone gave up on themselves completely, the task ahead wasn’t going to be easy.

The next morning, they fired up their blasters and lowered Aurora onto the surface of the new planet. They gave Kapteyn B a new name, ‘Pandora’, and started a calendar for their new colony, beginning at day one.
As soon as they arrived, they set up camp. The technician stripped the solar panels from the surface lander which, in normal circumstances would have taken them on their EVAs, and rigged them outside to boost their energy supply.
But by their tenth day, mysterious things began to happen.
The crew carried on with their tasks as well as they could, expanding the time they could survive on the planet little by little.
The first thing to change was the gravity. Pandora’s gravity was once 1.7 times stronger than Earth’s. But slowly, it reduced to 8.807 m/s2. Slightly less than the Earth’s pull. It made the crew even more comfortable than they had been at home. Their body mass less of a strain on their energy.
By the twenty-fifth day, the temperature began to rise. It was only one degree a day, but enough that they didn’t need heaters by day seventy-five. The astronauts couldn’t explain the changes, but it made their work easier.
After Pandora warmed, CO2 levels rose suddenly. The planet’s icy lakes began to melt. It was so gradual that it wasn’t noticeable at first, but the sound of cracking ice was soon unmistakable. By the one-hundredth day, they had fresh, running water.
The team grew hope, it was as if something, or someone, was looking out for them.
The captain, a botanist by trade, added the water to the Pandoran soil, but nothing grew due to the lack of nutrients in the mud. However, as if someone had heard their prayers, by day one hundred and thirty, various minerals appeared on the soil tests. She didn’t recognise any of them, they were all alien, but healthy saplings began to grow anyway. Filling the barren wasteland with the green of Earth.
The crew were wary about eating the plants in case the minerals had adverse effects, but for the first time since they landed on Pandora, they could enjoy a proper meal.
The plants had another positive effect, they began converting the abundant CO2 into Oxygen. When the crew first noticed the habitable levels of O2 they couldn’t believe their luck.
It wasn’t until their brave, and potentially stupid, second in command removed his helmet and took a breath, that they dared to believe it.

Ever since the first day the planet began to change, strange markings appeared around their ship. They set up cameras to try and catch the culprit, but each day they had nothing to show. The symbols, appearing on their own as if by magic.
By day two-hundred, the four astronauts were convinced that Pandora had been harbouring an intelligent lifeform all along, and they were determined to find out who. They set to work making a satellite, which they launched into space with the last of their rocket fuel.
No one could have predicted what the satellite discovered up there, in the emptiness of space. Even to a team of explorers who were now accustomed to strange phenomena.
On the surface below, the crew watched the satellite swing around the side of Pandora, when the surface rippled. Like a wave, crashing across an ocean, an eyelid, larger than the United States, peeled back to reveal an intelligent orb.
The humans could not comprehend what they saw, the ‘eye’ coloured with hues not visible to them. Slowly, but surely, Pandora blinked. The pupil swivelling to look into the lens of the satellite’s camera.
Kapteyn B was, in fact, an extremophile, feeding off the sun’s radiation. It was so large that it had been easily mistaken for an exoplanet.
Pandora had been existing in a deep sleep, waiting for a symbiotic partner to awaken it, so it can continue on its journeys through space.
As soon as the humans had landed, Pandora had given them a reason to stay.
With a lurch, it unfolded a large cosmic tail and sailed into the depths of deep space.
The earthen colony thrived in their protector’s embrace, and in return, the humans rid Pandora of any parasites that happened to land on the extremophile’s skin.
A perfect co-existence, like that of the shark and the pilot fish in the oceans of Earth.

Plan With Me! (Student Bullet Journaling)

Hi! Today we are going to be doing something very different from my usual posts. For three months now I have been a bullet journalist and I have seen people doing posts like this before so I thought I would give it a go. Today, I thought I would share with you how I plan my Monthly and Weekly in my Bullet Journal, as it is nearly March soon.

Using Youtube and Pinterest I combined various ideas to find a way of planning which fitted my role as a student but also fitted my life outside of university.

The biggest influence on my planning style has to be Caitlin’s Corner on Youtube, so some of the credit goes to her.

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When I begin planning my Monthly and Weekly I make sure to spare:

1 Page as a Title Page.

2 Pages for my Monthly and Tracker.

2 Pages for the Weekly

And finally one page for memories.

You will need a set of black pens, felt tips, washi tape and a ruler. Links to the specifics that I used are in the text below.

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I start by taking the first blank page and making it into a Title Page.

I start by choosing a picture on the internet that represents that month and then I print it out. I always print the picture through my phone as it comes out the perfect size, but If you can’t do that you can always print it in A5 and trim the edges.

I then tape the image onto the blank page with a decorative Washi Tape before taking my Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pen in Bold and writing the month on the printed background. (Using Washi Tape to line the edges of the image you stuck down also helps to cover any wonky cutting, which is an added bonus!)

I then choose another themed Washi Tape and use it to line the edge of the page, folding it over the edges to make a border that can be seen when the journal is closed. This makes the month easier to find later on. Personally, I like this Flower Printed Washi Tape to line the edges and this Coloured Washi Tape to stick the image down. However, there are lots of other options that you can find in craft stores or on Amazon.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

 

I then move onto creating my Monthly.

I take two pages for my Monthly, the first is the page with the Washi Tape folded over the edge, from the title page earlier. I turn this page on its side and use it as the calendar, with the Washi Taped edge at the top of the paper.

I take a look at the calendar format for the month and copy it down into the journal.I place this calendar at the top left of my page and I make sure to leave enough space for each day so I can write one or two main events.

Underneath I write the month in a coloured STABILO Felt-Tip.

To the right of the Calender I draw a virticle line down the page and title this space Tasks. This is where I write all of the important tasks I have to remember to do in the month such as an Essay that needs completing or a book that I really want to finish reading.

On the second page reserved for my Monthly I create my Tracker. 

For this, I take my Pitt-Artist pen and create a graph with the title of the thing I want to track in the first box (leaving extra space here for longer words). I then use one square per day and list all of the numbers at the top.

You then fill each box with a coloured pen if you complete the thing you are tracking on that day.

Personally, as an example, I like to track how often I drive, How often I read a book or watch a movie and how often I have a take-out meal etc. But you can track whatever you want here.

I actually find the tracking the best part about Bullet journaling as I have always been a lover of lists and charts. It has become a ritual for me to spend twenty minutes or so each night before I got to sleep planning for the next day and filling out all of my lists and trackers. You can find some of my other lists and tracker pages on my Instagram account: @Olympus95 but I will be making a post about trackers and lists here soon.

Below I have posted a computerised version of my monthly and tracker that you can print out and stick in your own journal, or use as an example of how to creating your own.

monthly

tracker

 

The next two pages in your journal are going to be your Weekly. I lay mine out with plenty of space to track my tasks each day and my week’s readings for my course. But, you can adapt it to suit your needs of course.

On the left page, I start by leaving a small gap at the top for the Week and Month Title (For example; WK 1-7 MAR) then I divide the rest of the page into a graph. The first box of the graph can be slightly smaller than the rest as this is just for your labels. However I then divide the rest of the page into seven vertical boxes, all of equal size as I do as much work at the weekend as the rest of the week, but if you don’t you could always create Saturday and Sunday smaller to give you more room to plan the working days.

The first box of the graph can be slightly smaller than the rest as this is just for your labels (DATE, TASKS, SLEEP, EVENTS). However, I then divide the rest of the page into seven vertical boxes, all of equal size. I personally do as much at the weekend as the rest of the week, but you could always create Saturday and Sunday smaller to give you more room to plan the working days.

I then split the page horizontally with four lines. The first row of boxes will be small as they only need a number (the date) and a letter (the day) in them. I split the rest of the page in half. The left will be your tasks, and the right will be events. (

I split the rest of the page in half. The left will be your tasks, and the right will be events. (If you want to know more about how to start a bullet journal and the basic rules of planning I will be making a post about that soon too). I always take on

I always make a column one square wide in the middle of Tasks and Events to create a sleep tracker (see image below) which I colour depending on how much sleep I have had.

Finally, on this side of the page I will draw 6 cirlces in the left corner of the event box (see image below). This I use to track my daily water intake (you can add more or less circles depending on your needs). I colour them in each time I have a drink. Personally, I need more space for tasks than events, that is why I have the H2O tracker where it is, but you could always move it.

weekly

I know my layout for my weekly is pretty bland and basic, but I do this to keep things more simple when I have less time in the academic months. I tend to brighten it all up with pens as I go along, using bright colours to tick off the days and fill in the sleep and water trackers.

The next side of the page I will use to plan the rest of the things I include in my Weekly that do not fit in the calendar side of the planner.

I start by squaring off about a quarter of the page with a horizontal line. I will use this space to keep track of my readings for my course (which I definatly have a lot of). I then divide the rest of the page in half.

I then divide the rest of the page in half.

On the left of the page I divide the page into seven squares with two columns, leaving a small gap at the bottom. I use this to track gratitude. I have always had a problem trying to think positivly when I am too stressed with my workload so by writing something I am grateful for each day gives me a chance to try and look at the positives in my life. My only advice is to keep your space limited, the gratitude tracker has to be something that you can jot down quickly, you don’t want to spend all day filling out your bullet journal. I personally leave four dots for each day and that seems to be the perfect size for me. I can include detail, but I can’t overwrite.

The space I told you to leave at the bottom is just for jotting down a note about any Essays or Exams you may have to hand in or start preparing for that week.

The right hand side of the page I divide into three same sized boxes. The top box I use to write down any TV shows that are returning that week, Movies that I plan to watch, record or buy on DVD and any cinema releases that I don’t want to miss. I am a little bit of a screen addict so this box is great to keep me organised each week, but if you are not a great TV Watcher, feel free to replace it with whatever hobby you are interested in keeping up with. The middle box I use for notes, anything that I need to remeber or can’t fit anywhere else. Finally the last box at the bottom I use to note anything I need to remember to do next week. I then transfer everything in this box to the next weekly each Sunday.

The top box I use to write down any TV shows that are returning that week, Movies that I plan to watch, record or buy on DVD and any cinema releases that I don’t want to miss. I am a little bit of a screen addict so this box is great to keep me organised each week, but if you are not a great screen watcher, feel free to replace it with whatever hobby you are interested in keeping up with. The middle box I use for notes, anything that I need to

The middle box I use for notes, anything that I need to remember or can’t fit anywhere else.

Finally the last box at the bottom I use to note anything I need to remember to do next week. I then transfer everything in this box into the next Weekly. I take time out to do this every Sunday.

weekly-2

When I do my Weekly I like to make sure I start on a Monday if I can. So, if we use March as an example; I will only do 5 days in my first Weekly (Wednesday 1st – Sunday 5th) so the next four weeks can all begin on a Monday. This makes things simpler for when it comes to keeping track of my university work and deadlines.

Finally, I take the last page after all the Weeklys are planned for the month and title this as Memories. I tend to do a small doodle and write a short scentence for everything I do not want to forget that has occured in the month. I usualy date each entry so I remember which days they occured on too. This page is fun to look back on over time, to reminisce about those unforgettable days.

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I hope you have all found this post interesting. It is my first time blogging about Bullet Journaling. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.

In the future I am planning to make three more blog posts about Bulleting:

  • I am going to make a ‘Bullet for Beginners’ post with instructions on how to start a journal and get in a habit of using it to plan your life.
  • I am going to make a post describing all of the trackers and list pages I have in my bullet journal so hopefully, you will be able to use them to inspire your own.
  • And Finally I will be doing an out-of-school plan with me. I will be finishing University in May for the summer so I will need a new layout for my Journal. One that isn’t designed primarily for keeping track of readings, essays and assignments. Once I have worked out what this layout will look like, I will post another ‘plan with me’ like this one, because all students get a summer holiday at some point.

Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to learn and I will see what I can do about creating a post for that too.

Here is a link to the original bullet journalist Ryder Carroll, who I owe all of this to; http://bulletjournal.com/