Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

It’s one of those moments everyone dreads. You’re standing in front of an observation window looking out at open space and you see a crack silently trace its way up from the corner and across the glass.

Once when I was seven, I stayed with my mom on an Earth farm during the winter. The snow was deep and the air was cold. There was a small pond on the property that froze over in the winter.

I walked up to the pond and out across the ice. I was nearly at the center when I felt the ice crack. It was a crack I felt in my bowels, in my bones, in the very bottom of my soul. It wasn’t so much a sound as it was a muffled concussive force from beneath my feet. It became the subterranean creak of a door. I could feel very, very subtle changes in balance starting to fire up inside me as the vector of the surface I was standing on started to change.

I looked at the shore and in the clear cold air of winter panic, I calculated how long I had to get to the bank of the pond divided by how fast the ice was breaking and came up with a totally unknown quantity.

The spell broke and I dashed back to the shore. I never fell through the ice. If I had been older and heavier I never would have stepped through the ice on the shallow shore on my first step. If I was younger and lighter, I would have been safe on the ice.

I’m remembering that moment now looking at the flaw in the monocrystal of the spaceviewing window in front of me. It’s creaking its way across the glass with questing fingers that look like crystal tree branches growing in stuttering time lapse.

With a sharp intake of breath, I run. The alarm sounds on my first step towards the deck doors. I know the emergency shutter seals are going to come crashing down the millisecond they detect a drop in pressure.

I’m screaming like I didn’t know I could as I leap and dive through the doors into the hallway. The blast door comes down suddenly to cut off the doorway. There is a moment of silence. A second later, the blast door stiffens with a bang as the window on the other side blows out.

This is an old ship. I’m gasping and crying as I get to my feet and the emergency crews arrive. I swear if I see the engineer in next few hours, I won’t be legally responsible for the bodily harm I inflict on him. I cannot wait to dock and get off this ancient freighter.

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