Friday, May 24, 2024

Answerless Journey, by Han Song (author), Alex Woodland (translator)

Published in Adventures in Space: New Stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers, Flame Tree Press, ISBN 9781787588158, April 2023

A person wakes up, in a chair, alone. There are two other identical chairs in the otherwise empty room. The person has no memory, and can find no way to identify themself than as "Creature." After a while, another person walks in. Creature's retained language is slight enough that they can only call the new person "Same Kind." The two start talking, exploring the space they're in, gradually retrieving more language.

They're on a spaceship, but they don't know where or how or why. They find what appears to be the control room, except for the evident lack of any controls.

They don't know who, if anyone, was in the third seat. There are also three seats in the "control room," and three sleeping rooms. Oh, and there's a supply of food, presumably intended for three, but they don't really know.

They talk, work out some things about the ship, and get acquainted. They keep recovering more language and more bits of memory. They experience friendship, joy, imagination, and growing worry, indeed paranoia, about the existence and intentions of Third.

It's ultimately quite a dark story, and to me it feels "experimental," for what that observation may be worth.

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