While There’s Life

I knew what had happened even before I hit the ground, but there was nothing I could do. I still didn’t know who Petrosyan’s accomplice was, but I knew then that he’d got one.

How long would my processor power last, without my main power pack? With a new unit, probably three or four days, if I conserved energy carefully – but my unit wasn’t new, and it had had one hell of a hammering recently.

I wondered for a moment whether I should put myself into hibernation, and wait for rescue; but I realized very quickly that I wanted to hear whatever was going on, at least until there was nobody else around. And see whatever I could – which probably wasn’t going to be very much.

There was somebody there. I could hear them pottering about.

Then someone laughed. I wasn’t sure, but I thought the laughter came from a different direction. So perhaps there were two people around?

Someone running, getting further away. Laughter again, that getting further away too, but surely not as far as the runner? How difficult it is to judge these things when you’re lying on the ground facing a wall!

Two people running? I wasn’t sure. The sound got fainter and fainter, and then I couldn’t hear it at all. Silence.

Silence. For a long time.

Was it time to put myself into hibernation? All I could do was hope that when someone else turned up, they’d be friends. Or at least, that they’d not be enemies, that they’d be someone with an ounce of compassion, who wasn’t afraid to resuscitate a stranger who’d obviously fallen foul of some pretty unsavoury characters.

I waited another hour or two, but nothing happened. I set a timer on my hibernation – without help, there wasn’t anything I could do except listen, and I couldn’t do that all the time, but at least I could listen for a while every now and then.

Listen to the silence. Look at a wall. For ten minutes, once a month.

All I ever saw was slightly different lighting on that wall. It was six months before I heard anything, and then what I heard was rain.

The wall in front of me wasn’t wet, and the ground in front of me wasn’t wet either. I wasted precious energy swivelling my eyes upwards as far as I could, but all I could see was more wall. I remembered the surroundings clearly; where I fell was definitely open to the sky. Had someone erected a shelter over me? Or was that sound not really rain, but something else? If not rain, then what was it? If someone had erected a shelter over me, who had done it, and why? If they were friends, why was I still lying there, powerless?

An ounce of compassion, but afraid to resuscitate a stranger who might be dangerous? I thought that must have been it. Or perhaps they’d gone to get a power pack for me – quite a coincidence that I should have happened to wake up between them putting up the shelter, and returning with the pack. Or perhaps they were afraid I might be dangerous, they were getting the authorities to come and look at me, and the authorities were taking their time?

My processor power unit seemed to be holding up, but I knew that in the condition it was in, it could give out quite suddenly from an apparently well-charged state. I stayed awake a little longer that time, in the hope someone was coming imminently; but after an hour I went back into hibernation. I set the timer for three days, thinking someone must be coming soon.

But when I woke, I was looking at a wall, and there was silence. I set the timer for a week.

Then a month again. My processor power unit still seemed okay.

Listen to the silence. Look at a wall. For ten minutes, once a month.

Until the power runs out.

(Long-listed in the Brilliant flash fiction Science Fiction short story contest 2016.)