A Girl’s Best Friend in Space

(WP) A Girl’s Best Friend in Space

               The
lone astronaut stood in the doctor’s chamber of the ship, listening as her
records are read to her in a monotone, robotic voice.

               “Your
records state that you are at risk of loneliness. In my databases, I am finding
that such a feeling is detrimental to human health.” There was a short pause,
and there was a faint pinging sound as a light zeroed in on the woman, scanning
over her face.

               “One
option to combat the feeling of loneliness is to apply for a canine companion.”
Another pause, and the light, this time, stayed in front of her eyes; the
astronaut had to struggle not to screw them shut.

               “Would
you prefer that method, Miss Lorena? Another recommended remedy is to talk to a
psychiatrist, though in your case, of course, it will be digital.”

               The
computerized voice waited for an answer. Lorena Cortes wasn’t exactly sure how
this worked; even in the files that had been on the ship long before her time,
it mentioned nothing about any companions, much less a canine sort.

               But
really, what was the harm?

               And she
had been getting lonely; it was part of the ship’s job to monitor her, to make
sure of her well-being, but even five years on, it was hard to know that she
was being watched, every moment of the day.

That wasn’t to say that the AI didn’t give her privacy; it
didn’t look at her while she was showering, shaving, or using the bathroom.

“Yes, I think I’d like to do that,” She replied, and at
last, the light powered off. Little colored spots like stars hovered in front
of her vision.

“But I have a question. How, exactly, does that work?
Getting a dog up here, I mean. We’re out in the middle of deep space, after
all.”

There was a short pause, then there was buzzing and whirring.
Then the computer trilled again; it reminded her of a noise on a game show.

“One of the first astronauts on this ship initiated the
practice, in an attempt to combat the noble but lonely pursuit of mapping the
unknown parts of space. I notify the people at NASA, and they make arrangements
to send your pet up here, into space. You can also have options.”

“Options? For my dog?” Lorena replied, her brow wrinkling
slightly.

“You can choose which breed and gender you would like,” The
AI replied genially, and Lorena found herself smiling for the first time in
several months.

“Could you show them to me?”

“Certainly, Ms. Cortes.”

**

In the end, Lorena chose a German Shepherd puppy, with black
and brown fur and bright amber eyes; his name was Bear.

While the AI made the arrangements, Lorena returned to her
room, sat on her bed, and began to cry quietly into her knees. She’d been alone
for so long now, and space stretched before her, endless and beautiful but too
empty for her.

She wouldn’t be lonely anymore. She would have a purpose
beyond paperwork, staring out at the cold, bright stars, and feeling like she
was the last human alive up here.

It was over, but in a way, it was just beginning.