Oscillate

Sonia starts to collect her tools and put them back into her toolbox, a small green box with a cord attached to her belt. She leans back on the cushion that she brought down into the machine’s guts a couple months ago, giving her just the barest comforts. She tightens one more valve before putting away one of her smaller wrenches. The glowing light of the screen in the crevice of the machine asks if she wants to “Oscillate.” She nods.

The display turns a bright red and shows the words “DO NOT MOVE, OSCILLATION IN PROCESS.” Sonia closes her eyes and holds her breath as the machine starts to whirl alive. She listens to every hiss and scream of the device as it awakens, mentally marking if any need to be corrected. 

A large pendulum comes swinging down towards the crevice that Sonia is hiding in, just inches to her left. It swings right above the chalk mark that she made on the ground when she first became this ship’s mechanic. The job position opened in the first place because of a botched oscillation. She was incredibly grateful that they cleaned the place up before she joined.

The pendulum swings back again and Sonia finally exhales. Her watch begins to vibrate and flash on and off. She presses the button and the face of Alexei appears on the screen.

Alexei smiles and shouts, “It seems to be working again! The signal is looking clear as day.” Alexei brushes his hand through his short curly red hair.

“Oh thank god. You can never be too sure with these damn things. I swear, I’ve worked on over half a dozen of these things and not a single one of them wants to act the same.”

“Hey man, that’s more your territory than mine.”

Sonia laughs a little, her eyes squinting, and responds, “Yeah, and what exactly is it that you do here anyway?”

“Oh. Crzrzrzrrk, sorry, didn’t quite hear that, must not have been important.”

“Sure there buddy, sure.”

“Well, turn that thing off and come back up here, we’ll start it remotely and get this thing moving. Ganymede Lagrange waits for no man.” 

Sonia tilts her head and then shakes it. “Nah, I’m going to stay down here for a bit and make sure it’ll stay going.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, just give me ten minutes, tops.”

Before Alexei can respond, Sonia closes the call and puts her arms behind her head. Her sigh fills the crevice. She puts up her left arm and starts projecting pictures from her watch as she pulls her legs tight with her other arm.

The first is a picture of a green field that simply stretches, downwards, for miles, until it rises back up into a snow capped mountain. Running down the length of the field is a gravel road she helped her dad repair almost every winter. 

The second picture was of the first car her father let her work on. It was an absolute classic, all the way back in 2018. “They really don’t make them like they used to.” She laughed. “They are much safer now.” 

Then there is a picture of her halfway tipped over into a car’s hood, probably fiddling around with the precursor of the machine she was in now. She couldn’t have been any older than 14 in that picture.

Sonia stops looking at the pictures for a second and rests her head in between her arms. She breathes deeply and just starts to sob. And the pendulum keeps swinging. She lifts her head and her eyes start to follow the pendulum as it goes back and forth, back and forth. Up one side of the machine, and then it swings back down and up to the other side. It seems no closer to resting, to finding a place to sit still for even a second.

And then her watch begins to blink again, saying that Alexei was patching in a call. Sonia wiped her tears away and picked it up.

“Hello? Who is it?”

Her father responds behind a thick salt and pepper mustache, “Hey jackrabbit, how are you doing?”

“I’m fine, I guess. I’m in the middle of fixing up the oscillator right now.”

“Oh, do you need me to call you back?”

Sonia adjusts her weight so she can rest more on the cushion than on her own legs. “It’s okay. I’m just letting it run right now. I’m watching it for any defects.”

“Well, I don’t want to keep you too long. I just wanted to catch up. I met your friend Nina at the market and we chatted for a bit. It made me think of you.”

“Yeah, what did you guys talk about?”

“Well, we talked about her life, she’s about to graduate finally, and we talked about you of course.”

“Hope you didn’t say anything embarrassing.”

“Is it embarrassing that I’m incredibly proud of my daughter? That she’s going on an adventure that I never could have imagined?”

Sonia starts to cry once again. 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“It’s okay dad.”


Alexei sits in the cockpit of the Bluejay, trying to open a bag of chips with his one good hand and his lime green cast. He hears the sound of the bulkhead in the lower floor close and then he watches Sonia start to climb up the ladder in the floor. 

“Oh shit, you got one of those grins. What’s the plan today?” Alexei pops a chip into his mouth.

“Let’s get this rig moving! The Ganymede Lagrange waits for no man.”

“Aye Aye boss!”

“I told you, I much prefer comrade!”

Alexei starts the remote oscillation and waits for the ship to say it was ready to set sail. “What did your dad want?”

“To give some perspective.”

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2 thoughts on “Oscillate

  1. I really enjoyed this! It strikes a familiar feeling of longing for the past even when successful. It makes me remember that longing for good things from the past is okay.

    Like

    1. Awl, thank you! I’m glad it affected you that way. It can really help you find some perspective if you reflect on it the right way.

      Like

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