Week 38: Bioshock (Prompt: A story set on another planet)

They say culture shock is the experience of the difference between your home culture and the new one. It can be destabilizing at best, catastrophically so at worst.

Before we came to AA-Hefter-5521, affectionately known as Heft, we went through counseling similar to what they give for culture shock. I guess it was supposed to prepare us for living on another planet.

I bet right now at home they’re inventing a new name for what we’re actually going through. The first psychologists are no doubt being trained. Maybe they’ll even be ready to accompany the first round of settlers. Our reports are forming the base of their textbooks.

Here on Heft, we call it bioshock: the experience of the difference between your version of life and the new one. Tell you what, it’s pretty destabilizing.

See, we didn’t actually know that Heft was inhabited. Indeed, we’ve already been here a year, and we only recently figured it out.

The thing is, the life on Heft isn’t anything at all like life as we understand it. It’s only due to the jaw-dropping genius of Dr. Ecker, our biologist, that we even know the Hefters are there.

The Hefters are not made of cells, or molecules. As far as we can tell, they’re made of waves, electrical waves. I guess they communicate in the same way. We’ve progressed as far as sending each other electric blips that neither of us understand.

We’re pretty sure they can’t “see” us, and hell, they certainly don’t have eyes. Maybe they only know we’re here because we blipped at them accidentally.

That’s the creepy thing about it — I guess they’re everywhere. They live here. They eat something in the atmosphere (it explains the enduring mystery the scientists back home could never figure out: Where the — — — is all the extra gas going?). “Eat.” “Breathe.” Words we use to explain something that has no form.

Are we hurting them? Do they want us here? Are they afraid? Do they even have emotions? These aren’t just games psychologists play with us anymore, they’re real, every day questions. Are they here right now? Can they hear us? Most importantly, are they friendly?

Bioshock might eventually prove to have the same stages as culture shock. That’d be nice, because it’d mean I’d get used to this at some point.

In the meantime, every time my equipment blips when it’s not supposed to, I get this chill in my spine.

It takes a long time for it to go away.