Since time immemorial, in many of the Earth's colder climates, the living had been vexed by the sacred dead.
It was a problem in Europe, Eurasia, and even the provinces that were as far north as North America went. In the months where vegetation gave way to frost and the ground would grow hard as concrete, burying the bodies of those claimed in winter had become an impossible task. But even in such climates, decomposition was an inevitability - it was an irritating bit of fine print, a sticking point of the terms and conditions for ever having lived at all. The more superstitious the culture, the more steeped in its own mythology and folklore, the more worrying this became; no one wanted to be haunted by their granddad after they let him starve to death, after all, and leaving the bodies to rest atop the frozen earth seemed as distasteful as allowing them to become living room fixtures. So, as a temporary measure, the bodies were frozen artificially - left in wells or chambers, packed with ice to the point where they would be suffocated had they not already died, and left not to rot, but to keep, until they could be buried with honors. They would sit, unmolested by humans and untouched by age, until the spring came and the ground could be cracked open like cold beers. Which, in essence, is what the people were too. Even the unknowable alien gods from afar had followed this principle to some extent, although it was unlikely they understood it; the ship that had started it all, with its awesome machines and unfathomable power, had created one such chamber for itself in Siberia over the eons. Hallowed dead, frozen and forgotten for all of time.
It wasn't hard to imagine why those were the first thoughts on Gypsy's mind as she woke up. Not that she could relate to the frozen dead - they didn't have to feel cold, or even particularly feel dead. But if they were capable, they would probably envy her right back for being able to wake up, so it seemed everyone had something to complain about.
She rarely had time for second thoughts of any nature, but a second thought did
creep in as she felt her heart hammer in her chest, felt her her mouth suck in air before her nose did, felt the dryness of her eyes try to clear with lazy blinks - my face.
They hadn't let her enter the pod with it.
Her first voluntary muscle movement in a decade and a half was a lethargic, but no less serious, flop of her arm over the top half of her face, bicep doing its best to disguise her from hairline to the soft tip of her nose. Once again, darkness swallowed her sight, but it was more comfortable than the alternative of being seen. The panic that had seized her rebooting body began to subside. She was protected again. "I'm good,"
she said lazily to the technicians swarming to her side, as though she'd just been roused from the devil's nap. "I'm alright. Showers are this way, right?"
The hand that had flopped across her right temple and ear balled into a fist, with only an index finger pointed outwards in the same direction. Her whole arm was ungainly, a familiar feeling; it reminded her of nights on Earth and Mars, staring at the ceiling through a protective curtain of blonde hair with a lover who had decided to snooze right on top of her arm until pins and needles filled the entire limb. She found herself, absurdly, spending a couple seconds wondering how many of them had settled down. Aside from the unpleasant physical sensations of leaving cryo, she didn't feel particularly haunted by the places her brain had taken her during hibernation. She felt like herself. In reality, she had wasted fifteen years, the same way she had once wasted one night at a time. Many of her cohorts probably had families by now; some might even be dead. She doubted that they ever thought of her, either, so mentally she dispelled their ghosts and focused on a hot shower. And getting her face back."Right. Thanks, boys."
She had no idea if the buzzing in her ears was the techs responding or not, but her memories of the ship's layout seemed sound. Arm still covering her face, she moved - painstakingly slowly - out of her frigid coffin and began shambling towards the shower.
Even in the safety of her stall, the water had to plaster her long, dark blonde hair over her face. Only when she could move her mouth and feel soaking tufts brush her upper lip was she able to relax and enjoy the soak. Instinctively, she knew the water was only lukewarm compared to how she had liked her showers in her old life, but to her body it felt absolutely scalding, and as soon as she could look in the stall and see her reflection swallowed by hair and steam the dormant years began to slide off her back just the same as the water.
When she was done showering, she took the chance to wipe some of the steam away with the back of her hand. Before it fogged her reflection back again, Gypsy took a second to stare at herself head to toe. She was paler than she always pictured herself - residual self-image from the days where a tan was accessible anywhere, whether she was in her apartment or in Chiron Works. Gypsy wondered if a tan would ever be that accessible again.My boobs do look good, though.
She smiled, then caught herself staring at the expression as best she could with her obscured vision. From what she could tell, her grin was still as bright as people had always told her.
Gypsy stepped out of the shower, drying off and running a towel through her hair to dry it off in a hurry. She knew it was a recipe for an absolute mess, but now was hardly the time to get fussy about her appearance when the most important part of it was still missing. Luckily, she found it on top of the belongings that had been set aside for her. Her face - red, black and gold, made with the contours of her cheeks and brow in mind. She hurriedly put it on and let out a sigh that would have been audible had she not been alone. Her sight felt clearer than it had since she awoke, and what was left of the tension in her body from before her shower had ebbed away entirely. Even getting dressed felt good - as soon as she was wearing her face again, she could have walked out completely naked and still felt comparatively comfortable.
For five seconds, Gypsy Alexandros actually, finally
knew peace. Then her stomach growled."Uh oh."
The second growl was much
So it was that Gypsy Alexandros, composed and self-assured once again, drifted out in search of the mess hall. She didn't know the path there as well as she did the way to the showers. That had been an absolute necessity to feel whole again, while finding the way to instant coffee and crappy MREs had been more about memorizing a routine. That had never been second nature to Gypsy. Luckily, the ship had been plastered with labels, directions, and 'You Are Heres' that made it feel more like a shopping mall than a bleeding edge interstellar cruiser. She took a second to gauge the aesthetics of her new home as she drifted towards the mess. It was alright, she supposed. Definitely looks human.
When she reached the mess hall, the first thing she did was look for an MRE that was the closest thing to a pepperoni pizza and breadsticks. They certainly had a container that shared the same name
as her desired food, and she supposed there was no such thing as bad pizza. But she knew she would probably never have the real thing again. Underneath her face, her eyes crinkled in mild displeasure, and her lips drew into a full pout as she stared down at the package in her hands.This is what you signed up for. You knew you would have to make sacrifices.
As great as the alien gods seemed in every respect, she found it hard to believe they'd mastered the art of a good pan pizza. Or maybe they had?
Those were the possibilities battling in her mind as she sat down, numb to the pilots alongside her at the table. She only vaguely recognized their presence due to the repeated buzzing, the same as she heard when the techs had responded to her. She could make it out and respond in the same way she had to them."The Colony Module,"
she said to no one in particular, as she spread her jalapeno...paste(?)...over her breadsticks. "Wonder if anything in there can make flare bursts safer from planetside. Could help with tanning."