I’m inspired to do something on spaghettification as a Pete and the Swede story. Had to hunt for the last one, and realised it’s on the Viridian website. It’s all because of the BBC science programme The Sky At Night for February 2015. It’s a real term, and the story’s around the 970 word mark. Enjoy!
“No, not this one!”
Pete’s cry of anguish came too late to stop them slipping inexorably into the gravity well.
“Why not? It’s just a wormhole,” replied Dolores, puzzled at Pete’s over-reaction.
“Lars! Zed zed five!” he called to his mining partner.
Dolores looked round from the console as Pete shot through the hatchway. She could hear Lars clattering around sounding like he was locking things up. Pete flew back into the control area, threw a switch on the stasis field and shoved Dolores sideways onto the next seat as his hands flew over the control panel in front of her.
“Strap yourself in!” he ordered, clipping his harness on as Lars joined them, pulling the hatch to, taking up the seat on Dolores’ other side and locking himself in the webbing. Dolores reached down to her sides for her straps. The two men lurched against her and grabbed her straps, yanking them across her body. She was just about to complain when…
That feeling of your stomach coming out through your bottom when the policeman glares at you, and you know you did it.
The rollercoaster you swore you’d never go on again.
The night you drank seven ebelzer and rums for a dare.
The time you realised that Fanwester was a Pavanian. And you remembered what a Pavanian really likes most from his female attendants.
None of those came anywhere near the feeling of being drawn down a natural wormhole.
And if Dolores had realised that this uncharted, natural wormhole was not even guaranteed to have an end, she’d have felt even worse.
Pete felt worse. For some reason spaghettification hit him worse than most. Lars said it was something to do with bone density when he’d looked into the subject, but just knowing his bones were less dense that Lars’s did not help him endure the stretching, extruding, deformation of his being any better. All natural wormholes created spaghettification, a term coined in the early work on the impossibility of faster-than-light space travel at the start of the third millennium, and rediscovered four centuries ago. Artificial wormholes automatically minimised the effect, leading to ‘that sinking feeling’ that put many people off space travel altogether.
Spaghettification was a hundred times worse, at best. No-one knew quite how bad it could be, because uncontrolled wormholes could kill you. Survivors of bad trips suggested they would be better off dead.
Pete did what he always did during a trip down a charted natural wormhole. He concentrated on the navigability factors, concentrated on ignoring the spew-coloured lights flashing past that threatened to bring on a fit, and counted.
Lars did what he always did during a trip down a charted wormhole. He swore. It didn’t matter, since nobody could hear him, although Lars considered a theory he’d once read that there was intelligence in the warpspace around them that could hear him. If they disapproved they could punish him, he thought in his more rational moments. It would be several zillion times better than this, whatever they did to him.
Since Dolores had no real idea what was going on, she imagined she must have taken some illegal substances by mistake, and maybe this was dying.
Pete got to three hundred and seven, making it by far the longest wormhole he’d gone through. He carried on counting and concentrated on the theory of space-time, and whether there might not be an end. Or perhaps it would bring them back to the beginning?
Lars ran out of swearwords in every language he knew and started on a second round.
Dolores passed out.
At five hundred and seventy-two, Pete opened his eyes, since his body appeared to be weightless. Lars did the same. They locked on to each other’s faces across Dolores’ slumped form. Pete’s eyeballs bulged slightly, until he rubbed them gently. Lars ran his hands over his head, gently manipulating things that felt out of place. They may not have been, but they felt like it.
Pete’s lungs started working again a centi-second before Lars’s. Each drew in a deep breath fighting with an audible gasp and let it out again, coughing and choking on what felt like foreign matter in their lungs. Pete leaned against Dolores again and felt her neck. He nodded to Lars, who started rubbing the arm on his side, while Pete massaged the other one. Lars moved to her head while Pete reached to rub her abdomen.
Dolores came to with a huge indraught of air. That prompted a paroxysm, which Lars merely watched while he continued to massage her shoulders.
Pete pulled back and massaged his own abdomen. “Ow.”
It was a comment that reflected the enormity of what they’d been through. Dolores looked at him, at first blankly and then with recognition, like she had been away for a long time and forgotten who these people were. She turned to Lars and nodded, satisfying herself that she was who she thought she was, and she knew these people, even if she couldn’t remember anything else about them at present.
Lars pulled back, and loosened his harness. “The chart is confused.”
“Where are we?”
“Do you know your name?” Pete asked her.
“Yes,” she replied, nodding to herself. “Remind me,” she admitted after a pause.
“You’re Dolores, I’m Pete, and this is Lars.”
“Of course you are. How come I don’t remember?”
“You passed out,” Lars said, reaching under the console for three beakers of liquid. “Here.”
“Restorative,” Pete cut in. “Drink!”
Three survivors of the longest uncontrolled uncharted and unstable wormhole anyone had so far encountered sat and gazed at their confused screens drinking hot sweet tea while the effects of spaghettification wore off.
They’d be fine. As long as they could get home.
(c) J M Pett 2015