I walk the nightmares of men
In the dark, where you cannot see
- there you will find me
Matthew Evans started awake, gulping air, his chest heaving.
It was dark. Sounds of the others sleeping drifted to him from bunks to the right and left. He lay there as his breathing slowed and he shivered, cold sweat drying on his skin.
This was the fourth night in a row!
"There's nothing wrong that I can find," Song, the ship's medical officer said, later that morning. He swatted the display in front of him. "Nothing these fancy machines can find anyway."
"Oh?" said Evens, resealing his uniform jacket. "So if they can't find anything, you're telling me there's nothing wrong, that it?"
Avarind Song shook his head. "Of course there's something wrong. We're over two and a half billion miles from Earth. We fouled up our home and have just left our solar system for what we hope will be a new start . You tell me, what could be wrong?"
Evans shrugged, his mouth twisting in a rueful smile. "If you put it that way Doc, what can I say?"
He turned serious again. "Still, I'm not given to nightmares. Don't tell me it's because I'm afraid of 'out there'."
Dr. Song shook his head. "Sorry Evans. It's not you. In fact, it's not just you. About a third of the on-shift crew has been through here with variations on the same theme." He shook his head again. "It's like all our cultural fears of the dark have woken up."
Evans jerked his head forward. "The Bridge knows about this?"
Song nodded. "Of course, but keeping it quiet. What else can they do? There's nothing to go back to."
"Couldn't turn this boat around anyway, even if there were," Evans said. "Not after these years under constant acceleration. We're going now, whether we like it or not."
He looked at the other man. "You say our cultural fears of the dark?"
Song nodded again. "Yes. You and everyone else, 'dark' and 'darkness'. A recurring theme. I feel like some shaman off in the bush somewhere."
"A grandmother, or great-grandmother, of mine was a researcher into the myths and fears of cultures. Seems she believed there were realities behind them that most of us didn't want to face."
"I take it," Song said, "you don't share her beliefs."
"No," said Evans. "That's why I work in science and she did...whatever it was she did."
Song shrugged. "I can give you something to help you sleep. We're going to need you now we're out here, out between the stars." He held up a bottle of pills.
Evans shook his head. "No Doc. thanks. Those things just make me fuzzy. Anyway, Pluto's orbit isn't even a line in interstellar dust. There's no difference between one side of it and the other."
"I'll take your word for that," Dr. Song said. "Now get out of here. I've got actual sick people to deal with."
Hours later Evans sat, staring at his console. The room was quiet around him, apart from the hiss of the ventilation system and the vibration in the floor plates that had become just part of the world.
The screen in front of him showed the blackness of space ahead, the tiniest of pinpricks showing distant stars. The line representing Pluto's orbit lay behind the dot that indicated the ship's position.
He shook his head. Well, they were in the dark between the stars now. If anything were to be found there, now was the time.
"Yes," came a voice from nowhere and everywhere.
Evans froze. The vibration in the floor plates was gone.