by Jason P. Burnham
Three thousand habitable planets in the known universe, and I’m stuck on the only one without object permanence.
Well, I’m not technically on it. If I went down there, I too would forget you as soon as you left my field of vision. Fortunately, I am safe in orbit, monitoring, tasked with landing party communications. And every time I stop talking, they panic.
Do you have any idea how overwhelming a planetary absence of object permanence is to your senses? Do you know how noisy their feed is?
I imagine that my job hazards equate roughly to living in a poorly kept senior living center on Earth. The volume on the TV is so loud you can hear it before you knock on the door. So loud that it drowns out the doorbell when you do push it. An entire planet suffering from early-onset pseudo-presbycusis. On the other hand, when I used to visit Granny, I do not remember her having an existential crisis every time she could not hear me. Usually more of a, “Huh?” or “What was that?” Granny definitely never thought she had been abandoned by everyone and everything she ever knew in some cruel conspiratorial plot to murder colonists for forsaking Earth. Sometimes Granny would just let it slide.
Do something for me. Tomorrow, wake yourself up to the loudest alarm tone you possibly can. The only way you are allowed to turn it off is if you start talking at a decibel level that exceeds the alarm. Then, for the rest of the day, you either have to have that alarm playing, or you must be talking. Breathing exceptionally loud is also acceptable.
You may be asking yourself – but what happens while you are sleeping? Good question. White noise machines. On loud. Your follow-up question is probably something like – why don’t you just play that all the time, then you won’t have to talk? And if you think I did not try that, you would be wrong.
A lot of problems pop up while I sleep. Way more than can ever be addressed in a wake cycle. All I have time to do is fix the mission critical issues that are urgently or emergently life threatening. Earth is trying to work on a solution to automate some of this stuff, but I do not have the time or resources to work on that and keep everything calm. At first, I tried to do it at night instead of sleeping, but after a few weeks of that and the loss of a quarter of the colonists I had to put an end to nighttime programming.
What exactly is it that I do all day? Picture yourself as the parent of several thousand children who are language fluent and mobile, but forget literally everything else. You should be exhausted just imagining it.
Did you remember to water the life-sustaining crops you planted yesterday? No? Better do that again today.
Did you remember to turn off the stove?
Did you remember to put away the food you cooked?
Did you remember to wipe your butt?
Did you remember to upload all the energy conversion efficiency logs so I can monitor whether you are going to be able to keep the domes warm enough to survive the night cycle? (Yes, this is how we lost a quarter of the colony.)
Ah- I have to go. Alarms. Space Babysitter, PhD, signing off.