Hyper sleep- A “down to earth” space story
It was every kids’ dream to go into space, not understanding the perils or the boredom that comes with it. The idea of floating weightless and “boldly going where no man has gone before” permeated the imagination as nothing had ever done before. Space, why did there have to be so much of it?
Einstein popped our lofty space travel bubble; nothing could ever go faster than the speed of light. Sure, there are people who are still trying to find a work around, but as of today, there is none. So when Uncle Sam asked volunteers to be rocketed at a mere fraction of the speed of light for hundreds of light years, at first we thought they were crazy.
Who would volunteer to die on a space ship just to see our great, great grandchildren possibly be able to set foot on an alien world? Why would we subject ourselves to life in a composite tube with little space to do anything of interest? Then they dropped the bombshell, hyper-sleep.
The idea was simple enough; suspended animation would allow us to age days to the decades. The goal would be, not to have our great grandchildren set foot on an alien world, but to do it ourselves after aging just weeks. The worst-case scenario would be that technology would have advanced far enough to send a ship hurling through the universe technically faster than the speed of light, without breaking the unmalleable laws of physics and they would intercept our ship on the way.
On the other hand, maybe that was the best-case scenario given the violence us humans are prone to causing.
When I signed on the dotted line my body belonged to the government, so I was ready for the poking and prodding they planned on doing, the intense training was needed for the rigors of living on a new world, since it was just our best guess that this new planet was actually habitable for humans.
Best guess, which was all any of this really was.
We trained, and were taught to survive no matter the cost. We were humanities’ hope, the culmination of every H.G. Wells novel and science fiction movie that was ever made. We were not just excited about the opportunity; we were making history.
We trained for years before boarding our ship, mostly in hyper-sleep — mainly to get used to the idea of being shoved into an even smaller tube then that which we were calling our ship.
The name must have been ironic – hyper-sleep – there was no sleep involved, it was more like a twilight sleep. You were painfully aware of everything around you, the sights, the sounds, but time was seemingly accelerated. What felt like seconds was actually hours, days, weeks, or even years.
Even still, it was plenty of time to think once we took off, hundreds of years to think in fact.
Once we took off it was all “easy” from there, launches were always difficult. It was assumed that once we made it into space it was all going to be okay. After our final systems check, we said goodbye, one last time to our families, our friends, and to our planet.
Talk about being home sick, we were going to be hundreds of light years away the next time I would actually be moving again.
There were over 100 of us, all seemingly crazier than the last and each of us settled into our pods for the sleep we would not be getting. The computer could pilot us to our destination without any need for human help, so we were all destined for the same hyper-sleep fate on this journey.
Has it been years or minutes? I can’t tell, the problem with hyper-sleep is you can’t move, it’s like your body has been disconnected from your brain so you sit there in blackness.
There is a slight cold feeling somewhere off in the distant expanse that was my body, if I focus hard enough I can feel the tubes forcing air into my lungs, a machine breathing for me. Instead, I choose to focus on the sounds.
It is almost comforting hearing the mechanical lung breathing life into my body off in the distance. The whirring and occasional clicking of the pump lulls my brain until I cannot remember any other noise before it. I have forgotten what my own voice sounds like and I cannot recall with confidence how I look, nor do I care. In this moment, or rather these moments, I just am.
My quiet Zen-like state is interrupted by the foreign sounds my artificial lung is starting to make; the once rhythmic breathing is now pulsing and quickly my calm sleep-like state dissipates leaving me panicked. Failure of the pods was supposedly impossible, yet I know instinctively that something is happening, something is not right.
Suddenly I feel it — there is a rush of air hitting my face — the perfectly built seal has been breached. My heart starts to race, it is not time yet the alarm has not gone off, what is going on?
I wipe the sleep from my eyes, as they adjust to the darkness around me and see my wife lying next to me.
“Stupid CPAP,” I mutter as I roll over to adjust it.
Moments later I hear that signature rhythmic breathing and I am once again back to my distant travels. The things I do to make wearing this thing bearable, yet the story I play in my head works surprisingly well and makes using it at least livable.
What, you thought this was actual space travel? No, not quite yet, but someday maybe.
It may seem silly, but life with sleep apnea is no walk in the park, if you or someone you love suffers from sleep apnea and has to use a CPAP but does not enjoy it, there is information out there to help them deal with the problems it can cause.
Here are some useful links: