Conversations With Nomad
By Max Swan © 2013
“There goes my safety record,” Dot thought numbly.
It’s strange how the human mind can think of the most irrelevant thing in a moment of great crisis. Asteroid miner Dot Hennessey had one such moment as she was suddenly sucked out into space through blow-hole. These occur when a mine shaft passes too closely to the asteroids surface, and as pressure builds-up inside the mineshaft, the rock wall suddenly gives way. Dot got caught unaware and as the mine shaft depressurised, she found herself moving through space with only the sound of her ragged breathing inside her helmet accompanying her.
A sense of dread gripped her watching the smoke, air and rocks billowing into the vacuum from the newly formed hole and then disappearing in the darkness as if it never existed.
After several minutes of free-falling, she forcefully collided with another nearby asteroid that immediately knocked the wind out of her. Dot knew from years of safety training the best chance of rescue is to grab onto the nearest asteroid and wait for her Company to come looking for her. So that’s what she decided she’d do, she turned herself around to be facing the asteroid. It looked long and narrow with half of it illuminated by the sun, and the other in complete darkness.
She began to clutch desperately at its surface trying to find something to grab onto, but oddly the surface of her potential lifeboat seemed almost smooth. Try as she may she could not find anything to hold onto as she silently sped less than a metre over its surface. Looking up, she could see the surface of this asteroid was just about to run out and beyond that is oblivion.
“Oh shit!” she cried as she reached down to her tool belt and retrieved what looked like a handgun that had a metal spike sticking out the end.
She attached her safety line to the spike and then aimed the gun at the surface knowing that if this didn’t work then all she would achieve is tripling her speed, sending off in the general direction of Jupiter.
Dot fired and watched the spike hit the asteroid surface and bury itself in it much to her relief. But her momentum still took her away so she just closed her eyes and hoped like hell the spike would hold. After what seemed like an eternity the safety line suddenly went tight and yanked her hard winding her again, but thankfully the spike held.
She had overshot the asteroid so she started to reel herself in until her feet thankfully touched the surface. Then she collapsed to her knees trying to catch her breath and her senses.
She hit her radio. “Dot to base. Do you read me?”
Suddenly there was a huge burst of static, which hurt her ear so she had to turn the volume down fast. Then after her hearing recovered she tried again, “Dot to base. Do you read me?” she waited listening to the empty static.
A familiar voice broke through momentarily, “Dot!… Read… Shaft 39… Dot?” The frenetic tone of her foreman’s voice was obvious but the static kept breaking him up.
“TJ? TJ?. I have landed on an asteroid just next to the shaft I was just in. I can even see the blow-hole I came out of. Send a skip to come and fetch me. Do you read me?” she screamed down the microphone in her helmet.
But all she got in return for her effort was static. Activating her emergency locator beacon she sat and listened to the static of her radio hoping to hear TJ again. She felt sure they would be coming soon as she was so close to asteroid 48721 she could practically touch it. As she sat watching asteroid 48721 looking for any sign of human activity she couldn’t believe just how tired she was now feeling.
The warm air rushed past her as her dirt bike sped through the outback scrub. Dot and her brother were chasing a mob of red Kangaroos and having a great time in the process. Her mum had told it was unladylike for a young girl like her to act so like a boy, but Dot was never one for dolls and tea parties. Especially when surrounded by the wildness of the Kimberley’s. Dot rode her dirt bike screaming like a banshee trying to reach the alpha Kangaroo that they had named ‘Nomad’.
The aim of the game was to see who could actually touch Nomad, but they never did get that close to the wily old Kangaroo. But on this bright sunny day as Dot was closing in on Nomad, terrifyingly the front of her bike went down a hole and she was thrown clean off over the handle bars. It all seemed to happen in slow motion with her flying through the air all arms and legs until she hit a big old boab tree and fell to the ground with a yelp of pain.
She woke up with a gasp looking around the asteroid she was now marooned on. She checked her air and seen she had an hours worth so there was still a chance, a slim one at that. She looked down at the surface of the asteroid again and noticed that where she had rammed her spike there was a black ooze coming out and then freezing in the coldness. It looked like oil but that would be impossible. The urge to touch it was overwhelming but after 40 years in the mining business she knew better than that. A shadow suddenly covered her and she looked up to see a skip about fifty meters above her.
She stood and started waving fiercely at it, “Down here! I am down here, space skip alpha three I am below you. Do you read me? Hey come back!”
But it just passed over her in silence without any indication it had seen her. She turned and watched it travel about another two hundred meters and then bank left with what she recognised as a standard search pattern.
“How the hell could they not see or hear me?” she said to herself. “Dotty, you are in deep doo doo here,” she said feeling very tired again.
Dot sat up and lifted her helmet off. She had a nice gash on her arm but apart from that she wasn’t badly injured, she thought. She looked to her left and to her surprise found Nomad the big red kangaroo laying there chewing on some long grass watching her.
“Hi Nomad,” she said to him.
He just sat there regarding her like some strange specimen he had never seen before. Climbing to her feet she began getting closer and closer to him but Nomad didn’t move. This was weird because wild kangaroos are very skittish even the friendly ones like Nomad. She got close to him and reached out and touched him on the neck. Nomad just sat there passively watching her.
Dot realising that she had finally done what no one else had, not even her annoying older brother felt very excited. “Nomad, I’m the only human to have ever touched you.” She stroked his soft fur on his back and he seemed to enjoy it.
“Oh, what’s wrong with me? This is no time for naps,” she scolded herself.
If she wasn’t rescued soon then she would die here looking at the very asteroid she had just been working in. Dot stood up and checked her line was still secure, and then started to walk back along the asteroid to get a lay of the land. She went over to the edge, keeping herself steady with her line, and started to survey the side of this strange asteroid.
It seemed to be exactly the same as the top side. A kind of rough marble looking surface, with dust and small pock marks but no craters as such. The asteroid looked like it was possibly shaped like a blimp, or something similar. This was unlike anything she had seen before. The effort was making her feel very tired though, and to top it off she had developed a splitting headache as well. She sat to get her breath.
Dot woke sitting under the boab tree in the shade, and Nomad was standing in front of her moving his head wildly. She didn’t understand why he was acting so strange, it was almost like he was telling her to look. So she stood and looked behind the tree. Not far away, there was a big outcrop of red rock, and halfway up the rock was a cave opening. To young Dot’s surprise, there was smoke coming out of it.
“Yeah there’s a fire in that cave, so what? Maybe it is just someone from the Kurnangki people up there?”
Nomad seemed to look disappointed which bothered Dot, because since when did Kangaroos have facial expressions. Nomad then hopped close to her and pushed her with his head.
“Heyyyy? Whatya do that for, you stupid kangaroo?” she shouted.
Nomad turned like he was frightened and hopped away from her which made Dot feel suddenly lonely.
“Come back Nomad. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be angry. I’m just… Scared.”
Nomad stopped in his tracks and looked back at her, his ears up in that classical kangaroo pose. Regarding her again.
“Ahhhhhhhhhh What is wrong with me!” she screamed to herself.
Looking at her air gauge she was down to twenty-minutes of air left, and a feeling of panic hit her. She pushed herself onto her feet, even though she was physically exhausted now, and grabbed her locator beacon. It was still flashing on the top which was meant to tell her it was working fine. Then why has no one found her yet?
She activated her radio, “This is Dot Hennessey. I’m stranded on an asteroid about fifty-meters from asteroid 48721. I have less than twenty-minutes of air left. Does anyone read me?”
Nothing but static again, she fell to her knees with tears streaming down her face.
“Why can’t you arseholes hear me?” she screamed down the radio.
She fell onto her face sobbing softly to herself. “Why can’t anyone hear me?”
Dot awoke under the boab tree again, with Nomad the red Kangaroo strangely gesticulating his head wildly towards the cave.
“It’s just some Kurnangki business, Nomad. Why has it got you so excited?”
Nomad went hopping off past her towards the cave and then stopped looking back at her. She thought he must want her to follow him and so set off after him. Nomad hopped along slowly for a kangaroo, so she could keep up, and she followed him for what seemed like a good kilometre. Eventually she lost him in some scrub and long grass.
Dot kept running in the direction she thought the Kangaroo had gone, when Nomad suddenly appeared beside her out of nowhere; colliding with her. She fell to the ground feeling winded and sore and she began to cry.
“Hey whatya do that for?” she said climbing up and rubbing the dirt off her jeans.
Nomad just stood there, looking forward ignoring her protests. Dorothy came up to stand beside him to discover that the ground just disappeared into thin air. They were on some kind of a cliff, looking over at the cave entrance Nomad seemed so keen on. Dorothy shivered in fear as she realised that Nomad’s bump had actually prevented her from falling down the cliff.
“You saved me, Nomad. I would have been a goner if I’d fell down there,” Dot said, absent-mindedly stroking the neck of the large kangaroo.
Nomad just looked sadly at the cave, with the smoke coming out of it. They both did as a matter of fact.
Dot woke up and pushed herself up onto her feet with great effort scanning the horizon for any sign of rescue. Strangely it appeared as if she had moved as
She was now standing on the edge of this asteroid looking at 48721. The blow-hole was still open but the there was no longer anything spewing out of it. That meant that they had sealed the shaft off now, and would probably start sealing up the hole soon. I’ll be dead by the time they’re looking right at me, she thought.
The air gauge now read only ten-minutes of air available.
However, what was troubling her the most was that she had somehow disconnected her safety line from the spike, and then walked all the way over to this part of the asteroid while she was asleep. Anything could now knock her into space, as she wasn’t tied to the small meteor anymore. Still, what was even stranger was that she had never sleep walked in her entire life before. She looked down over the edge of the meteor, into the bottomless nothingness of space and shivered in fear.
Suddenly, Dot saw sparks coming out the blow-hole that ejected her to this place. She started to wave her arms towards it, hoping that someone might see her. Her air continued to run down, the effort just made her feel very tired, and she gave up quickly. Dot reached down and began to stroke Nomads neck again trying to find comfort in her final minutes, when she noticed her hand had a space suit glove on it. She jumped back in horror, she was standing beside a large red kangaroo in the middle of space.
“What the… fuck?” she said falteringly.
She strained her eyes at the Kangaroo not really understanding what was going on, and why he was here in space, on a meteor. Was Nomad really an angel sent to take her to the after world, or maybe she was going crazy with lack of oxygen? She decided it was lack of oxygen.
“If I’m to die, then I’m glad it’s with you Nomad,” she gasped falling to her knees as her strength escaped her.
The strange meteor slowly began to move, making Dot fall onto her hands. Looking up she could hazily see that asteroid 48721 was getting closer and closer.
“It’s too late for me…,” She gasped as the arrow on her air gauge hit the red.
Asteroid 48721 began rocking, as the smaller meteor that Dot was marooned on, impacted with it. She was now barely conscious, lying prone on the front tip of the meteor. At the point of impact, her body got thrown forward through space. She was catapulted towards the blow-hole on asteroid 48721 like a rag doll, as two wide-eyed men reached out for her inside the blow-hole.
“Quick grab her! Get her! Don’t you dare let her go Bluey or I’ll kick your arse,” one of the men screamed into his helmet radio.
They both grabbed her as she came level with the hole, and her momentum carried them all inside to end up sprawled out against the back wall of the shaft.
Bluey flipped her sun visor up anxiously looking at Dot’s face, “Jesus TJ, her lips are blue!”
TJ grabbed the emergency air hose from his own supply and connected it to Dots suit, while Bluey did the same on the other side.
TJ began shaking her, “Dot! Breath Dot, god damn it breath! Come on Dot don’t you dare give up on us!”
It took a few minutes for her to return to her senses once her air supply had been replenished, but when she did finally open her eyes both TJ and Bluey were kneeling over her looking very concerned. So she reached both arms up which they grabbed tightly, holding her in palpable relief.
“Don’t you ever do that to us again Dot!” Bluey said his eyes watery.
“Help me up will ya, I need to see if… If he’s still there,” Dot said weakly, and the two men pulled her up to her feet easily in the low gravity.
The three of them connected by air hoses jostled over to the blow-hole and peered out.
Nomad the red Kangaroo was gone, of course, that was all in her mind she realised later, but instead there was a large black silhouette now moving away from asteroid 48721.
“What the hell is that thing?” exclaimed TJ standing beside her.
“It’s… Nomad,” She replied, feeling a sense of loss watching it move away.
She waved to Nomad, knowing it was a futile human gesture that this alien creature probably would never understand. How do you thank a thing like this for saving your life? How does one come to terms that such an alien creature can feel compassion for something as insignificant as a human life.
A voice echoed in her mind, the voice was hers from when she was ten years old; but the words were meant for her, “Nomad, I’m the only human to have ever touched you.”
Then Nomad was gone.
TJ and Bluey were insisting they take her back to get a medical check up. Dot stood and they headed for the docking bay on the asteroid.
Bluey then asked, “So Dot, what the hell happened out there?”