By Ryan Matejka
Based on the writing prompt: Write a story based on this image.
88 never ceased to find beauty in the sight of the endless abyss. Each speckle of light that dotted the black canvas represented something greater than her and everything she'd ever known.
Whenever the confines of the Ark wore on her psyche, 88 needed only to plant herself in front of one of the large viewing panes and let her mind wade out into the infinite stretches of space. It was here, watching entire solar systems slowly float by like dust aglow in a beam of light, that she found serenity.
Her complete isolation was, somehow, more bearable knowing there was so much of the universe beyond the Ark. 88 took great pleasure knowing that each star bore the possibility of life, beauty, and love - none of which she would ever fully experience firsthand due to the malfunction that had released her from her stasis.
Sometimes she would revisit that pod; the six-foot-tall capsule which had given birth to her. She would run her hand along the cold steel interior, trying to remember how it felt to be conceived and yearning to return to that blank state. Then she would inevitably catch a glimpse of the silent, motionless figures that floated in the five hundred adjacent glowing-blue pods and pity that they could not experience life as she understood it for another three thousand years.
Despite the malfunction, and despite the decades of intense loneliness that lay before her followed by an inevitably quiet and unseen death, 88 found fortune in being the sole witness to such vast stretches of space and time. Each distant star, glowing comet, black hole, and passing asteroid was hers and hers alone to behold.
Still, she wished to understand love.
A handheld computer she'd procured held a detailed record of all of humanity's history, discoveries, and philosophies, and while she'd spent countless hours studying all of it, the one that fascinated her the most was the concept of love. The nearest sensation to love that she'd experienced, as far as she could fathom, was the intense peace and yearning she felt every time she gazed out that giant viewing pane, yet according to her research that was nothing like what one individual was capable of feeling for another.
88 wandered the dark corridors of the Ark, surrounded by nothing but the gentle sound of her own footsteps and each life-bearing breath she took. She made her way back to the warehouse of five hundred stasis pods; all but one containing life that she was so close and yet infinitely distant from meeting, and ran her hand along the glass of each one she passed until she came to her own. She again gazed into the open capsule, remembering where she'd come from, before moving on to the next pod, where 89 floated in a state of deep, dreamless sleep.
88 pressed herself against the capsule of her duplicate, washing herself in the beautiful blue light that illuminated the pretty specimen. She watched its naked chest gently rise and fall with each carefully operated and monitored breath. She imagined the blue fluid draining away, the capsule opening up, and 89's eyes blinking open to experience sight for the first time. She imagined the sensation of being seen, of locking eyes with a living thing, and knowing that she was no longer alone.
She imagined herself saying "I love you," to the living replica.
She imagined that it felt like gazing out into a whole new universe for the first time.