Artwork by Prakash Vasanthakumar.
Dr. Silas Nimbus had a morning ritual: spend a few minutes peering out of the window right next to his bed, observing the world below. Earth passed languidly a thousand feet underneath him. Sometimes it was the vastness of a dark ocean, other times the patchwork of farmlands, their green and beige patterns like a quilt. He never knew where they were headed, and he never felt the urge to ask. He knew he chose this life of no destination the moment he decided to specialize in Aerostatic Medicine—the practice of medicine in the setting of airships and blimps.
This morning, the blimp Apollo glided over a sprawling forest. As Dr. Nimbus took in the view, his thoughts shifted to the inviting warmth of a coffee. With a mug in hand, he began his rounds to check on his patients.
First on the list was Eugene, a man who suffered from a chronically squeaky voice due to helium poisoning. The affliction had started months earlier, during an unforeseen accident: a helium leak from the Apollo’s main body had filled the cabin overnight. The ensuing morning was chaos. As the crew awoke, everyone sounded like chipmunks. Even as the captain tried to maintain order, his voice betrayed him, causing an outbreak of uncontrollable laughter. Dr. Nimbus, seasoned in the quirks of blimp medicine, quickly directed the crew to locate and seal the leak.
Post-incident, most of the crew returned to their normal voice pitches, but for some inexplicable reason, Eugene’s didn’t. Previously an imposing figure due to his role as a burly blimp mechanic, Eugene now struggled to retain respect among his peers, his self-esteem plummeting. To counteract the squeak, Dr. Nimbus had recommended voice-deepening lozenges, but they were ineffective. Currently, he was working on a voice-altering electrical device, inspired by the likes of Darth Vader. However, Nimbus couldn’t shake off the nagging fear that it might just make Eugene sound like a Chipmunk-versioned Sith Lord.
After seeing Eugene, Dr. Nimbus went to see Yasmin whose debilitating fear of clouds had confined her to her cabin. Shades drawn over her porthole, she was tormented by visions of cottony wisps, like ghostly fingers beckoning her to the abyss. To make matters worse, Yasmin was Apollo’s chief meteorologist. She was dearly missed by the captain and mates in the bridge during episodes of incoming weather.
Dr. Nimbus’ approach was to use gradual exposure, and had contrived a holographic projector that Yasmin could use in her cabin. It projected small clouds – hardly threatening – that floated around the dark room until Yasmin’s anxiety eased. Dr. Nimbus hoped that one day they could walk out onto the deck together, into the open air and Yasmin could confront the real things up close.
Dr. Nimbus decided to pay a visit to Captain Harrington on the bridge. He entered to find the captain carefully studying the vastness ahead, hands clasped behind his back. Together, the two men watched the world drift below in a tapestry of greens and blues. No words were needed as the hum of the blimp’s machinery filled the silence. Dr. Nimbus reflected on the world he inhabited high above the ground, feeling a connection to the skies that carried them onward. Their journey continued, serene and unfazed, as they sailed toward the horizon.