Each day he chooses which view the dome’s artificial windows will show him. At the press of a button he can be in the middle of the desert, or overlooking a square in Paris, or surrounded by high-definition rainforest. Most often though, he chooses the marina. He likes to watch the sun ease up over the horizon as he sets to work each day. All that space. All that sea and sky.
It’s a tough gig, working at the bottom of the sea. As the deployment lengthens he finds himself longing for the surface. It’s not human company he misses so much as the chance to run somewhere that’s not a treadmill. The chance to be outside, with nothing above him but sky.
Some days it’s hard to bear. Some days he sits watching the marina for hours at a time, face inches from the glass, weeping freely. He slopes around the station, banging implements together, cursing underneath his breath. His daily reports become terse: ALL WELL. ALL WELL. BORED. ALL WELL.
One day he presses his face against the window so that there’s nothing else to see. It’s beautiful. If only he could break out through the window glass. Dive through into the sunlit blue water of the marina and swim towards those boats. He sits for hours, face cupped against screen. Watching. Hungry. Then he fetches the fire axe. He lines it up with the window. He’s been down here too long. He wants to sail.
Krishan Coupland is on the Creative Writing PhD programme at the University of East Anglia. His writing has appeared in Ambit, Aesthetica, Litro and Fractured West. He won the Manchester Fiction Prize in 2011, and in his spare time he runs and edits a literary magazine. His website is www.krishancoupland.co.uk.