30 Stories in 30 Days #5 – “A Cabin Under a Cloudy Sea”
A Cabin Under a Cloudy Sea
The airlock from the garage cycled through and then opened into the habitat’s living area. “Lights on,” Tamara called into the dark. Once the lights turned on she quickly carried her luggage and crate of supplies inside. She then closed the airlock and dogged it.
The habitat was a hemisphere seven meters in diameter buried under four meters of lunar regolith. Back in the old days, it had served as an emergency shelter for those constructing the Collins Highway and had been filled with water, rations, and medicine. But after decades of never being used, countless such shelters had been refurbished into quaint little cabins for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle. It had all the homey touches that could be crammed into such a space: a bed, kitchenette, a tiny bathroom. There was even a two meter screen that could pick up satellite broadcasts or be switched to cameras on the surface.
Tamara looked around the habitat and sighed. “Home for the next month,” she said.
She laughed and stripped out of her everyday jumpsuit. Digging in her luggage, she pulled out her pink, fleecy bathrobe and put it on. She hugged herself for a moment, then announced, “I should get my stuff put away.”
She set the habitat’s stereo system to play some Beethoven and over the next hour she checked the air and water supply, emptied the crate on its rations, and set up Ludwig. When she was all done, she decided to call it a day and got into bed. “Lights off,” she called, and the lights went out leaving her in complete blackness. She snuggled under her old quilt, and quickly fell asleep.
Some hours later, she awoke and at first had no idea where she was. That quickly passed, and she smiled thinking about the work ahead. For some time she hoped to fall back asleep, but she just grew more and more awake. Finally she asked, “What time is it?”
The habitat replied, “The time is 1917.”
She had been asleep for almost nine hours. “Damn,” she said to herself, and then said, “Lights, low.”
The lighting came on to its lowest setting, enough for her to make it to the bathroom. When she came out she turned the lights up to full and opened an oatmeal ration for breakfast. After she ate, she got to work.
She had named her synthetic orchestra program Ludwig after her favorite composer. Most people just wrote some music and let a computer play it exactly as written with all the instruments playing in perfect lockstep. To Tamara, such pieces sounded flat and soulless like any computerized music. But she took the time to tweak each computerized instrument as if human beings were really playing them; perhaps a violin would start an almost imperceptible moment too early, or a trumpet note would go on just a little too long. Little imperfections such as these made the composition richer, almost alive. Of course going through a twenty minute piece played on hundreds of instruments, making minute changes to each, listening to how they all interacted, looking for the best sound possible took a lot of time. Which is why few people did it and Tamara’s work stood out from the rest.
Tamara sat in front of Ludwig, turned the lights in the habitat off, and began played her base composition over and over again. The first few times she just listened to it, but then she began making notes on areas that needed work. After her lunch of an egg salad sandwich, she began tinkering with the percussion section.
Her days soon became a blend of music, eating when hungry, and sleeping when exhausted. Hours, days, weeks passed in a blur. She knew her time was almost up when she noticed her food was starting to run low. On the bright side, her composition was almost done. It still wasn’t perfect, but it no longer had the stale feel of computerized music.
After a dinner of baked potatoes and vegetable soup, Tamara was just about to go to bed when the habitat chimed and announced, “This is your requested one hour warning.”
“Warning? Warning for what?”
It took a second for Tamara to remember. “Oh. Oh!” She had worked through the long lunar night and sunrise was just an hour away.
Sleep forgotten, she turned on the screen and linked it to a camera facing east. The lower half of the screen was just pitch black, but a few stars shone on the top half. She moved her chair over to sit in front of it and waited.
At some point, she detected a gossamer glow in the middle of the screen: the solar corona. She debated increasing the magnification, but decided against it. Minutes later, a point of light appeared drowning out the corona. Tamara watched it for a few seconds before she realized it was a mountain top far to the east that was already seeing the sun. Minute by minute the spot grew as more of the mountain saw light. Then a blinding point appeared for a heartbeat before the camera automatically filtered it. Tamara could now see the dull grey landscape of Mare Nubium to the east of the habitat. The occasional boulder or shallow hill left lengthy shadows which minute by minute grew shorter as the sun rose into the sky.
Tamara sat and watched morning come to the Sea of Clouds for some time before falling asleep in her chair.