Cat’s Cradle #202-203

Cat’s Cradle
RINKU!Blog of Catrina Soeder, MD

text post #202
set to: PUBLIC

Hey everyone! It’ll be a whole night cycle of celebrations later, but try not to drink too much! Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, headaches, and dizziness, all of which can be avoided by considering that next shot may not be a good idea. Remember: the only cure for a hangover is not to get one to begin with.

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a whole year on Empezar D04, aka the Beherzt (a bit more than a year, if you’re one of the early shuttlers like me). For the non-German-speaking among you who haven’t figured it out yet, the word means “spirited” or “valiant”. Something to think about while you’re carrying your unconscious buddies back to their pods.

And for all my dear followers, here’s my RECIPE FOR THE DAY. For lunch, I had TOFU SKIN NOODLES. That’s standard tofu skin (NT-0162-B from any food depot), soaked for 30 mins, shredded, boiled, and fried in soy sauce (NT-0032-A). Light seaweed garnishing (NT-0442-G), because it just feels fancier that way. Served with just the lightest drizzling of that refined stuff sugarpops are made of (it’s kind of a sugar, or a molasses, not sure. NT-0021-H).

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Zero Day!

text post #203
set to: PRIVATE

I miss weather. Like the kind that isn’t controlled ventilation and fluctuations in temperature when the day cycle switches to night. I miss the breeze. I even miss rain. Whoever thought -anyone- would miss rain?

It’s been 1 year plus on this boat.

There are 202,421 listed passengers aboard, majority of whom are still probably out in the courseways for the celebrations. RINKU!’s been streaming celebrations from the other Empezars too; fireworks vids projected on walls, speeches from the Strekan government, a few parades.

Ralphie said he and the other Admin boys were going to crack open some of those bottles from Earth, to which I raised an eyebrow. Wine keeps, we should be saving them for when we’ve all forgotten what grapes grown in actual soil tastes like. Then we can take a sip, and remember. Right?

I know, I’m being mopey again, but what are we celebrating exactly? That we made it? That living on a bunch of boats floating in the void is sustainable? Sure, I mean, the biggest collective endeavor in the history of humanity should give us that much.

It just niggles that we’re here, and people are drinking wine or whatever (“morale-boosting activities”, the official memo said), but what about everyone else back home? Are we just supposed to look out the Earth windows and say ‘hey, glad I’m not stuck on that stormy little rock, like all those billions of people we left behind’ (they’re not even really windows. Just big screens on the walls, to help us feel we’re not as cooped up as we actually are).

Is that supposed to make us feel special? Because I don’t feel ‘special’ at all. Like most everyone here, I trained for a mission. But then the mission changed, didn’t it? It doesn’t significantly affect the day to day work. A sprained leg is a sprained leg, and a gastrointestinal infection is a gastrointestinal infection.

But when I think about it too hard, my hand itches. The left hand. Between the pointer and the thumb. The usual place. I try not to think about it too hard, most days.

I just told Ralphie I was tired. It’s not just because—okay, maybe I wasn’t in the best mood to hang out with him either—yeah, I know, the Partnership Program decided he and I were compatible (and he’s not bad-looking, in addition to being really -very- nice), but I don’t know. He’s trying a bit too hard.

And I really did have a lot on my plate today – a conga line of persistent nausea, fungal infections (someone’s got to get that outbreak under control in Level 75), the sniffles (no matter where human beings go, the common cold will follow). Even got a guy who was standing under a grow shelf when it collapsed. Needed stitches.

Also, the Mouse came back today.

(Am trying to ignore the impulse to look over my shoulder when I type that down).

As usual, it was lunchtime, when the clinic’s closed down. I think she gets in through the window—she’s certainly skinny enough. Not that I heard her coming in, I never do. But there I am, cooking in the kitchenette, and when I look up, she’s out in the waiting area, standing perfectly still.

She’s gotten more confident since I caught her with her hand in the sugarpop jar (and to be fair, I didn’t scream this time. Just gasped aloud and clutched my heart).

‘Do you really have to do that,’ I ask her. ‘Sneaking in like that.’

She looks South Asian, but I have no way of telling where she might have come from. Hair hangs loose, thick with muck (I think it’s grease). Her eyes are the exact shade of brown that mine are. When she smiles—enjoying giving the ‘ol Doctor a little fright—I see how bad her teeth are. At her age, those are all still milk teeth, but still.

She sits herself at the counter—like I said she’s gotten confident—hauling herself up on the seat. She’s small for her age, and her limbs are skinny. Like scary skinny. Like you should be hooked to nutrient drips and then put in a fitness program kind of skinny. But there’s a sureness to her movements, like she’s been climbing and creeping and hauling herself up all her life.

She’s trying to look over my shoulder, at the pan.

‘Is that expectation?’, I ask her. I’m not even sure she understands, but you know, I like to talk out loud when I’m nervous.

‘Yeah, you know what this is,’ I say. ‘You, dear Mouse, are about to partake of Chef Cat’s latest culinary masterpiece.’

‘Preeeeesenting—‘ I tip the pan towards her, those hazelnut peepers light up.

And——it’s tofu. I mean, what else was it going to be? Tofu noodles (recipe in public post). To be completely fair, it’s a good day when I don’t realize I’ve already cooked this variation of tofu. And we can all ignore how the attempt to make a fancy culinary type sauce smear on the plate was really just a regular ugly smear.

Mouse, though, she looks like she’s about to shriek in joy. Affirmation!

The moist towelettes don’t leave the counter anymore. Mouse has been here enough times to know I’m not having her touch the food with grubby fingers. It’d be great if she decides to use the fork. It may happen one day.

If anyone were to take stock of what’s been in my larder for the last month or so, they might surmise that I’ve been cooking a wee bit too much for one person. To which I can always say that I like to eat, and outer space living has only improved my metabolism. And what’s a bit much for one is pretty acceptable for two. At least that’s what I tell myself.

‘So how are we today,’ I ask her. Not really expecting a response, I’d gotten to assuming that she was mute as well as malnourished.

‘Oh me, I’m fine,’ I say. ‘It’s the anniversary of Zero Day, did you know that? Do you keep track?’

No response. Too busy chewing.

‘Everyone’s going to go out and party tonight,’ I say. ‘My assigned partner’s asking if I want to go get wasted. Still thinking about it. He’s nice. A bit too nice. I wish I could just tell him—I know you left someone behind, and I left someone behind too, but that doesn’t automatically mean we’re right for each other. Any love life advice for me, little Mouse?’

She blinks, then returns to decimating the tofu like it were pasta coated in olive oil and tomato slices. Like it were ribeye steak in truffle sauce. Like it were lemon-drizzled salmon (ughh, I could just die).

‘I guess you’re too young to miss anything you might have left behind on Earth,’ I say. ‘I miss plenty of things. Plenty of people. And I miss the weather.’

I give her a tissue for the smudge at the corner of her lip.

‘You probably remember the storms,’ I say.

I certainly do. The typhoons that struck and never lifted, so every day was the color of slate and life became about ducking from one shelter to another, and whispers began trickling through the web – something is wrong. This isn’t just climate change. Storms are supposed to end some time.

‘There was weather before that,’ I say. ‘There was a sky that would go from blue, to orange, or purple depending on the time and the season. There was rain, yeah, but sometimes it’d be a drizzle, a light rain, that you could walk under, and it wouldn’t flood the streets or anything. And there were—‘

‘—Clouds,’ she says.

I almost drop the plates.

‘Clouds,’ she says again, with a voice like the creak of a door. ’Fluffy big clouds.’

‘You remember clouds?’

‘No,’ she says. Downright loquacious now. ‘I’ve seen pics.’

Then she stands up, glances at the plate, at me.

‘Thank you,’ she says. And leaves.

Clouds, I think. They can project stock footage of clouds up and down the courseways in high enough definition to convince you that you were walking through the corridors of paradise, but they’ll never hold up up to looking at a summer sky and seeing clouds as large as mountains, lit from behind by the sun as they drift overhead.

The Mouse will come back. I’ve got a handful of recipes I want to try, though I know she’ll accept anything I put in front of her. And if she doesn’t come back tomorrow, she’ll come on the next, or the next.

And if I think about it too much, my left hand’s going to itch (just now, it almost spasmed). Because if I do, I’ll have to consider that one of those days, I’ll have to tell someone about the Mouse. Because there are 202,421 listed passengers aboard this boat, and she isn’t one of them.

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