Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Sometimes, when we got bored, we’d turn off the artificial gravity and do mundane things in zero gee.
Sitting on either side of what passed for a mess room table over breakfast was a particular favourite pastime of mine. The slow motion ballet of sucking bubbles of liquid from the air, forcing a stream into the space between us and trying to catch every one before they coalesced on some surface.
You were always determined to win, while I remained focused on memorizing every line of your visage as you floated around the room, face creased in concentration, eyes crinkled into a determined smile.
Sometimes zero gee breakfasts devolved into zero gee sex which, if I’m being honest, is my absolute favourite pastime.
You were studying the morning’s long range scans, and I was playing connect the dots with the flecks of grey in the iris of your eye, charting out some constellation or other in that brilliant sea of blue.
Everything happened too fast for it to really register, the speed of events in stark contrast to the slow motion of the morning.
My coffee container was halfway between the table where it had been mag-locked and my lips when there was the most delicate of snicks in the air between us. The hull breaches auto-sealed so quickly the klaxons didn’t sound, the ship just logging the event for later review.
Your look changed, the light in your eye suddenly dimmed, and your mouth opened in a soundless expression of surprise.
Droplets of coffee drifted away from their cylinder towards you, my eyes only then noticing the hole punched through and through in the alloy, the passing so quick as to not even have registered as an impact in my brain.
A cloud of crimson drops pulsed into existence to hang in the air behind you, one burst, then another, then stillness.
There was no sound, no screaming, no sobbing, nothing at all. You just, in that instant, stopped.
That was three days ago, and as I watch your wrapped body leave the airlock, jettisoned on a trajectory towards the last planet on our records so as not to leave you abandoned in space, I wonder how long before I follow you. You were my crewmate, my partner. You were my lover and my friend.
You were the root of my tenuous grip on sanity out here in the never ending void.
There’s no record of the particles that shot through the ship, perforating inches of shielding and structure like needles of fire through ice. I have no idea if they were meant for us, or if they were chance shots fired astray from some conflict in some other place, some other time.
I find myself wondering how far death travelled, and for how long, to take you from me.
We’re taught to fear and respect the vacuum, that thing that nature so abhors, but in this moment I find myself almost longing for its cool embrace.