In the torus there lived a man, a woman, and a small dog--a collie/mutt mix. The torus had three levels. In the top, fresh water was stored and processed. It also housed the CO2 scrubbers. In the middle was the living habitat. And in the bottom was the waste water treatment area. The torus spun--very fast, though it accelerated very slowly so as not to crush the three occupants. It spun for months that stretched to years. On the inside.
The dog, named Jane, spent most of the day in her bed under the desk belonging to the woman. Her name was Sydney. She passed most days tapping a pen or a pencil on the edge of the desk. She drew or wrote letters. On the opposite side of the torus, the man, Arno, spent his days tending to the plants they ate. Jane avoided him.
"The carrots are sickly," said Arno. He leaned against the doorframe to Sydney's room. He held a bunch of small carrots in his fist. Sydney blinked rapidly, and the fingers holding her pencil relaxed.
"What's that?" she asked absentmindedly.
"Never mind," he said. He turned and started walking back down the corridor.
"Mmm," said Sydney. After Arno had passed beyond the curve of the torus, she looked up and thought that she had imagined Arno standing there.
Jane yawned and licked her muzzle. She stood and stretched, first leaning down on her front paws to stretch her hindquarters, then pushing forward and stretching out her back. She shook and headed for her water bowl. Sydney watched her lapping.
"You're a good girl, aren't you?" Jane started wagging slowly. "Yes you are! Yes you are!" Jane stopped lapping and looked back at Sydney. "Come here. Come here!" said Sydney with a rising and falling intonation. She held out her hands and the promise of a belly massage. Jane looked back briefly at the water bowl, then turned and padded towards Sydney, her long toenails clacking loudly against the linoleum floor.
Later Jane and Sydney went for a walk around the torus. The corridor lights turned on ahead of them, and turned off behind them. They blinked and flickered, then buzzed with a solid fluorescent light. They passed various hydroponics rooms, the tiny swimming pool that produced it's own current, several storage rooms, the server room, the medical bay where they had to take their blood pressure and heart rate daily and their bone density and a blood analysis once a month. They passed one of the two bathrooms, the galley, and the room with the fish tanks, which were now empty.
They passed Arno's room. Jane stopped to lick a spot on the floor. Sydney stopped and waited for Jane. As she did, she looked into Arno's rom. The blanket on the bed was wrinkled. Several books were opened on Arno's desk. There was some sort of stain on the Peruvian carpet he used to decorate the floor.
"Come on," said Sydney.
They continued their journey around the torus. They passed more hydroponics rooms, the mechanics shop, and the lounge, before returning to Sydney's room. They did not see Arno.
"He must have been here," said Sydney to herself. "Curious." She returned to her writing and Jane returned to her bed.
The next day, after Sydney recorded her blood pressure and heart rate, a new message came in from the lab. It took several hours to assemble, since the signal was so degraded.
"HAPPY NEW CENTURY" it read. Sydney stared at it on her computer screen.
"The question is, which one?" said Arno. Sydney jumped and turned around, but Arno was no longer there. Jane looked at her from underneath the desk.
"Which one..." said Sydney. "Jane, I don't think they're going to stop the acceleration. Soon it will be milleniums." She started typing a new message to send.
"WHEN DO WE START TO DECELERATE?"
She pressed enter, and wondered if the lab would send a reply, and whether the computer could sort it out from all the noise.
Two months passed, and there was no reply, though Sydney sent the message every day.
"The carrots are sickly," said Arno.
"What?" Sydney was folding her laundry, fresh out of the dryer. She spun around. Arno was already gone.
"The carrots," Sydney muttered to herself. "Always, it's the carrots. We haven't been able to grow carrots in a year. In a century."
Back in her room, on her bed with Jane curled up at her feet, Syndey listened to the music of her childhood. Morrisey and Depeche Mode and U2. She wore headphones so as not to disturb Jane. The light above started to dim. Sydney looked up at it, staring. The light inside the bulb started to oscillate, then developed standing waves with troughs an inch from brighter crests along the length of the tube. The music started to skip.
"HAPPY NEW CENTURY" came the reply.
"Which one?!" yelled Sydney. She stooped over the computer screen, her forehead gently bumping the bottom of the cabinets above. "Which one..."
"The carrots are sickly."
"I know," said Sydney. She didn't bother to turn around.
In her room, Bono belted out 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'. The headphones were not plugged in. The music echoed throughout the torus.
Jane walked alone on her circuit around the habitat. She stopped briefly to glance inside each of the rooms and noticed the stillness. She stopped by the bathroom to drink from the toilet that was running. Her stomach rumbled. She returned to her bed under the desk, and put her paws over her head trying to block out the incessant loud song that was on repeat.
The lights flickered. The music skipped. Jane woke up. Then the computer beeped. A new message arrived, but Jane could not read it.
Jane resumed her walk, and tried the other direction. Each room was still, except for the bathroom with the running toilet, and the kitchen which had a dripping faucet. Jane listened to the drops impacting against the stainless steel of the sink. She licked her lips and made her way back to the toilet to drink deeply.
Eventually she laid at the base of the toilet, too weak to get up even for a drink. Her chest rose and fell and she didn't even notice 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' anymore, except when it skipped.
And then all was still, even when all was not still, as the torus kept spinning, accelerating inside its frictionless vacuum, pushed and pulled by vast electromagnets.