I think someone must have put a large plate of creamy meringues on the bolted-down cockpit table – making the pilot salivate. The relentless cruise towards the outer galaxy was ever thus peppered with unaccountable treats but the pilot still did not know who could have arranged them so thoughtfully. There was only one other person on board and he was equally mystified. It might, of course, have been the work of one of the shipboard robots – but, unlike our normal visualisation of a robot as a machine in human shape, here, they were fundamentally embedded machines, embedded into other machine fixtures that were in turn embedded into even more deep-structured machine fixtures. A fixture, naturally, could not arrange for a plate of anything suddenly to appear, let alone a plate of creamy meringues, the ingredients for which had not been stored among the more specialist victuals needed during such an odyssey or journey of exploration in empty space. Food, indeed, was a fixture, too. Comestibles joined organically to the wood-knotted shelves and backs of ‘cupboards’ and simply radiating a form of sustenance into the room through the door-grilles like a gas.
The whole project of exploration entailed the crew’s bodies themselves being fixed to the seats with metal rods and stanchions fused to the bones inside the limbs and spinal tract, as oiled by gas-rich marrow, then riveted to the more inarticulated metal of the cockpit’s integrity as a cockpit. So how the meringues? A delicious sight, if a tantalising one, with the pilot unable to reach them, while watching eternity turn into infinity and infinity into eternity through the rattling cockpit-window. It suddenly dawned on him that it was way past his time to be relieved of an unending concentration, relieved by the other crew-member. Perhaps what he was looking at was not a plate of meringues but, in truth, growths efflorescing from the brain pannier of his companion’s skull. Nobody had yet lasted long enough to test humanity’s general longevity throughout a full-blooded, full-fledged space run. He tried to lift his arm from its fixing, sensing his own forgotten meringues swelling upon a brain-stem elsewhere. At least, he might, just might be able to reach the meringues merely to scoop out a tasty smidgeon of soft filling – given will-power and superhuman powers of dismantlement. Whatever.
He shrugged. Even shrugging was impossible. Unlike salivating, I robotically write in the Yule log.
(Based on the speed-writing exercise last night at the Clacton Writer’s Group)