Author : John Gerard Fagan
The air inside smelled of bonfires. He shivered and fastened the boy’s jacket to the top.
“Try and sleep,” Claud said. Broo replied with silence, staring at boots that were too big for his feet. They huddled together on the ship’s metallic floor for warmth, lost in fearful thoughts, listening to the hum of the vents. There wasn’t enough air for both of them to make the journey, never mind water or food. He had stayed too long. Time was up.
“Promise you won’t leave me.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“If you run, I’m running. You said that.”
“Yes.” Claud sniffed and placed an arm over his shoulders. “But I want you to make it, Broo. If I stay here we both die. You know that.”
“But I don’t know what to do,” the boy said, eyes watering.
“All you have to do is be brave. This pod is headed for one of our colonies. There’s some good people there. You just have to find them.”
Claud kissed the boy’s head. “Don’t worry about it right now. You’ll know when you get there. Just stay strong.”
He heated a red soup and they ate in silence. They were a long way from home, but it still called to him like a long forgotten song from childhood. All that was left was fading memories. Her face was still clear though. Always would be. Even after the trees, rivers and fields of summer were long gone.
He looked at the boy with eyes welling. Almost five. Worth dying for. Worth all the sacrifice. Worth leaving her behind.
“I want to see it one last time,” Broo whispered. Claud nodded and lifted him to the small window. They stared but could only see the darkness of space. No stars. Moon. Nothing.
“I don’t want to go without you.”
“Promise you’ll stay with me then.”
Claud placed his jacket over the boy’s shoulders and wiped the hair away from his forehead.
“If I promise will you sleep?”
“Then I promise.”
“With your whole heart?”
“With my whole heart.”
Claud waited until Broo was asleep. Hands shaking. Eyes wet and running. Any longer they were both dead. He stepped into the release port and sealed the door behind. He closed both eyes, pulled the leaver and drifted from the ship.