Jessie's New Job

Jessie’s having more trouble adjusting to life on the submarine than she thought she would. She’d been on the intergalactic space station for eight years before this. She’d thought this job would be much the same, a rigid routine in a confined space, just a different view out the windows. Instead of stars and planets, she’d see fish and other sea creatures.

She’d been unprepared for the cloudy water. The mission wasn’t quite as it had been described. Instead of investigating interesting flora and fauna of the deepest ocean and the seabed of the Mariana Trench, they were looking for species that had somehow survived the war. The First Great Nuclear War had destroyed the surface of the planet. The only survivors were the people who’d taken to the air or gone underwater, the only livable places left as far as anyone knew. Perhaps the scientists were lying to them. Still they’d been warning for years that climate change would mean the end of humans on earth but instead it had come in a quicker form, from men with big egos pressing buttons on stockpiled nuclear warheads. Maybe the scientists were living the high life somewhere on earth, a post-war Garden of Eden. She wouldn’t put it past them.

Jessie felt worn out by the constant fruitless searching and the never-ending murky gloom seen through the windows. She wished she’d stayed on the space station. Up there there’d been constant danger of encountering space junk but everyone had taken their turns as gunners on the lasers to disintegrate the junk. It was exhilarating. She’d heard her grandfather talk about playing video games when he was a youngster. She imagined it was the same sort of feeling.

There seemed to be no danger on the sub. There was never a worry about running into anything because the wrecks – supertankers, container ships, cruise ships, oil platforms, huge aircraft – all littered the bottom like toys on a child’s bedroom floor.

The biggest worry down here was dying of boredom. And people did. They just snuck into the garbage hold through the airlock. Everybody knew the garbage hold was opened every Wednesday at noon. Apparently death was quick and painless. You didn’t drown. You were squished to death in milliseconds from the water pressure, down to the size of a basketball. Jessie asked how big a basketball was. “About half the size of your pillow,” the guy who answered her said. He clapped his hands together with a smack that made her jump.