Take me to a...
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
For more options, try our:
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
If you've already submitted a story, you may check its:
Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

The Allegiant

Carl Gable is a longtime graphic designer, illustrator, and writer living in Atlanta with his wife, two children, and one cat. He reads science fiction of every type from classic era, to hard science, to space opera. He enjoys a bit of dark humor and is a three-time winner of the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.

"I'm not sure, Doctor. I want to be fully open with you, but I am afraid of how this is going to make me look." In fact, the man speaking looked terrible. He was maybe fifty years old, shoulders slightly stooped, with a receding hairline, but one could be forgiven for thinking he was older, the way his hands were shaking as he clasped them in front of him.
Across the table was a meticulously dressed woman in her forties, hair pulled back in a bun and a look of tempered concern on her face. She held a small notebook, open to a page already a quarter full of handwritten notes. "You are worried I might think you're... crazy, Mr. Hollis? Don't be. There is no 'crazy' here. Only problems to be dealt with. Yours may be comparatively minor. Believe me, I've heard it all."
"Call me Kurtis. And no offense, Dr. Tennant, but strike one. You haven't heard this." His eyes were gazing restlessly out the window at the parking lot.
"Well, there's only one way to find out, Kurtis." The doctor paused and let the silence stretch. Kurtis Hollis' face showed a tense internal struggle, but finally he spoke.
"I've started to have blackouts and... and hallucinations." He glanced furtively at the doctor and then back out the window. "The first was a week ago. At work. Since then, there have been two more. They seem to be getting more frequent and more... urgent. That's why I made this rush appointment."
"Are the blackouts and the hallucinations separate events?"
"No, Doctor. I blackout--specifically, I see a field of gray static--and then I'm lying on a flat surface looking up at a white ceiling with some sort of ring-shaped light fixture. And I hear an artificial-sounding female voice speaking to me."
"Mm-hm," said the doctor, making a short note in her book. "And what is the voice saying?"
"It starts out the same each time. It says... it says 'Code red, Captain Hollis. Code red. Assistance needed on the bridge.' I try to sit up, but I can't move at all."
Dr. Tennant waited to see if Kurtis was going to continue. When he didn't, she prompted, "I see. And then what?"
"The first time? Nothing. I closed my eyes and sort of willed it away, and after a moment of gray static I woke up back at my desk. Seemingly no time had passed at all. I was staring at the same document on my computer screen. Needless to say, I was very freaked out. I had to have my secretary cancel an afternoon meeting, and then I went home."
The doctor now had a furrowed brow and was writing quite a lot in her notebook. "And how long was it before the next time?"
"That first time was last Monday. It happened next on Thursday morning. I was shaving and my wife was in the bathroom as well --at her sink getting ready for work."
"And you had the hallucination while you were shaving?"
"Yes. This time the voice started out the same: 'Code red, Captain Hollis. Code red. Assistance needed on the bridge.' Then it said 'Malfunction in suspension pod. Initiating revival protocol.' And then... and then...."
"Then what, Kurtis?"
"And then it shocked me! I mean the table I was on. It shocked me enough to make me buckle!"
This time the doctor let the silence stretch as she wrote extensively in her notebook. She turned the page and wrote some more.
"Still think there's no 'crazy' here, Doc? 'Cause I still couldn't make myself move. When I willed myself to wake up this time, I was back in my bathroom. I turned to my wife and said, 'Captain to bridge--state nature of emergency.'"
"Yup! And believe me, Doc, that is not the kind of thing that can be brushed off as normal! At least not by my wife. Caroline just about jumped out of her slippers. She said my tone scared her half to death."
"Your tone?"
"Yeah. She said it was loud and authoritative. Scary."
"Yes. That does sound unnerving."
"So... anyway... the last time was a doozy. It was this past Saturday, and I was at a company softball game. I claimed a leg injury to sit it out. I didn't want to have another episode and get hit in the face with the ball." Kurtis tried to smile and failed. "So, it was the fifth inning when I suddenly got the gray static again. After that, the voice said the stuff about an emergency on the bridge and then, 'Captain Hollis of the interplanetary ship Allegiant, your cryo-suspension pod has malfunctioned. You are stuck in an extended simulation narrative. Take all possible measures to exit sim.'"
The doctor looked concerned. "Let me ask you at this point, Kurtis, do you have a history of mental illness in your family? I'm not ready to make a pronouncement yet, but if there is any record of paranoid schizophrenia in your extended family it might have relevance here."
"I... I'm not really sure, Doctor. I mean I can't really remember too much about my family right this moment.
"Is that unusual? The reason I ask is because...."
But just then, Kurtis stopped seeing the doctor and saw only gray static. In a moment he was lying prone on a flat surface looking up at a ring-shaped light fixture. A disembodied female voice said "Code red, Captain Hollis. Code red. Assistance needed on the bridge. Situation on the Allegiant is dire. Take all possible measures to exit simulation mode." Then, just as quickly, he passed gray static and was with Dr. Tennant again.
"Mr. Hollis? Kurtis? Are you ok? I think I lost you for a second there."
"It's ok, Doctor," Kurtis replied slowly. I think I know what to do now." Closing his eyes, he said in a firm, experienced voice, "This is Captain Hollis. Exit Sim."
The End
This story was first published on Friday, December 11th, 2020

Author Comments

This story started out as one thing and, as many do, ended up morphing a bit. When I began, it was with a wish to examine what might keep space travelers sane when in near-stasis for long periods of time. I imagined it might be necessary to live an alternate, simulated life of happy families and white picket fences. But then, what if real life started to bleed over into this fantasy? This brought about the idea of a character, "Captain" Hollis, who has begun to be torn between these two worlds, to the point where he feels he needs professional help. After all, how would one react to a failed attempt to wake them from sleep? More importantly, is this really the case after all, or is he, as Dr. Tennant feels, possibly schizophrenic? It became important to me to leave this question up to the reader. In the end I think it is this uncertainty which provides the payoff.

- Carl Gable
Become a Member!

We hope you're enjoying The Allegiant by Carl Gable.

Please support Daily Science Fiction by becoming a member.

Daily Science Fiction is not accepting memberships or donations at this time.

Rate This Story
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.5 Rocket Dragons Average
Share This Story
Join Mailing list
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):