I am lying face first in the middle of my sleeping quarters, the floor feels warm against my cheek, I must have been unconscious for some time. Exactly how long I have no idea. I feel groggy, this is more than the feeling of waking up after a long sleep, there is a deep fatigue cloying at me. My vision is fading in and out, accompanied by a low ringing in my ears. I have no idea what happened after the Herald came for me.
I push myself to my feet faster than any champion surfer could ever hope to accomplish. My heart starts pumping adrenaline around my body as my pupils dilate in panic, as I scan my quarters for any sign of the Herald, seeing none, I do not know if I should feel fear or relief. Was this a nightmare? Was I really visited by a being from another universe? Just as I try to put the whole episode down to my overactive imagination I feel that my feet are wet, I look down to see that I am standing in a shallow puddle of blood. My blood. My senses return slowly, I smell the iron tang of my claret red blood and the bitter stench of my vomit, which is lying in smatterings next to my feet. My heart starts to quicken once more as I realize this is potential evidence that the Herald was real, that it was aboard the space station. As my senses begin to sharpen I realize that the ringing in my ears is not a side effect of being unconscious, it is a machine call from the command module.
I try to break into a run, forgetting I am in zero gravity, my movements are sluggish and labored, appearing to be over choreographed. I travel through the sterile oval corridors of the space station to the command center, the walls of corridor are covered in aluminum foil. As I enter the command center the ringing is far louder as a light on the main console flashes repeatedly, trying to catch my attention. Before I answer the machine call, I fire the thrusters of the space station to simulate gravity, for the first time in a week my feet touch the deck and stay there. There is a twinge in my stomach as my body adjusts to the feeling of gravity. I pick up a head set from the center console and answer the machine call. -the console has a small screen built into it which can be used as video conferencing.
'Astronaut, Themis. This is Houston, do you copy?' ask's a firm voice, edged with distortion. 'Themis, do you copy?'
'Houston, this is Themis, I copy.' I reply, trying to put all dread and foreboding from my voice.
Suddenly the screen in the console winks into life, it is split into two screens, one is of me, the other is the main atrium of Space Command. I now see the man who is speaking to me, it is Operations Director, Read. His features are craggy and unyielding, just like his temperament 'Damn, son, you look like shit!' exclaims Director Read, behind him are the flight and monitoring teams, all eyes are on their screens, which will be relaying the image of me. 'What happened to you? Do you realize how long we have been trying to contact you!'
'I have no idea, Sir.' I manage, trying to keep my voice level, I look briefly at the representation of be, I do look like shit. 'I believe I have been suffering hallucinations, brought on by my being up here alone.'
'Does that involve opening the external and internal airlock?' asked Director Read, with his brow furrowing. 'Hallucinations be damned, what the hell has been going on up there?'
I freeze for a long moment, the feeling of fear I felt in the presence of the Herald returning, I may not remember what happened after I blacked out, but I know that it would be impossible for me to open the external airlock without being in the vacuum of space. The Director and the rest of the staff staring at me now, know this also. It had to of been real the Herald and its message, I feel my face begin to perspire with sweat.
'Well?' asks the Director.
'I don't know what I can say, that won't cause you to send a shuttle to haul my ass back to Earth.' I shrug, I realize I am actually going to have to share what the Herald told me.
'Now, you listen to me, Themis.' said the Director, barely able to reign his temper, his brow is screwed up, pent up in frustration. 'You do not have a choice in what you can and cannot tell me, I am asking for a report and you better god damn tell me what happened.'
I let out a pent up breath that I had not realized I had been holding, my shoulders sag and feel a film of sweat forming on my brow as I recount from when I woke up and found the Herald in my sleeping quarters. I tell the Director -and the rest of the staff in Houston- that the Herald described itself as a being from a different universe, and that it had been here in the times of Jesus, and that they have been watching and we are to be judged. As I try to describe the Heralds physical appearance, my vision begins to fog, as pressure builds in my skull, as I attempt to bring up a mental image of the Herald. I am no longer aware of the Director or anything, I am now looking through crimson cut glass once more, I feel I am close to blacking out once more.
'Themis!' exclaims the Director. 'Look at me, Themis! Focus Themis!'
At the voice of the Director I snap back into focus. I catch a glimpse of myself in the conference monitor, streams of claret mark my face where blood has been running from my eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
'You are serious about this?' asked the Director in a hushed tone, with an incredulous look written across his face.
'Am I serious that I believe it actually happened?' I ask rhetorically, while shrugging. 'Sir, I don't know. Am I serious that this is all I remember, yes I am.'
This time it was the Directors turn for his shoulders to sag, he let out a long low whistle. 'Right, we have to treat this as First Contact. When you asked what is was going to do, did it answer?'
I shake my head. 'I don't know, Sir. I blacked out, the last thing I know it said was "You already know, Themis."'.
A look of unease was deepening on the directors features with each and every passing moment, he asks next what I know is coming. 'Before you lost consciousness, what did you think it was going to do to us?'
'Apocalypse. Judgement day. The end of the world.' I say, as I do I realize on thing that has been in the back of my mind. 'Sir, you said you registered the internal and external doors opening, did they open again afterwards?'
I look back to the image of the Director, he is looking back at me, but over my shoulder, his eyes and nose begin to bleed. I look to the image of me on the conference screen, there is a figure in black behind me, a shrill of fear runs through me.
The Herald did not leave the station.