Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
There is a clarity that comes with crisis, he thought, a simplicity that comes with emergency.
That’s why this movie night on a space station named Heron 6 pinned in the perihelion lagrange point between Triskus and Constantine became a sudden trial. There was a crack in the hull and there were eighteen of us. There were six life boats. Two to a boat equaled twelve. That left six people that would have to stay on the space station and die.
The chances of being holed in that part of space were very low and the ticket prices to this station were super cheap because of the poor safety measures.
We were all experienced spacers. We knew without speaking that the first to the lifeboats would survive. The movie, something hideously outdated from Original Earth, stayed cycling on the screen as we scrambled without language to the porthole irises of the lifeboat pods.
It was an interesting race. Jason and Tanya had my ankles at one point. I broke his nose with my foot. She let go when Jason’s blood got in her eyes in the zero gravity. None of us had weapons and we knew that if we were to detour to pick them up from the weapons locker, we would lose our chance to get to a pod.
The scramble was made more intense by the dropping temperature and air pressure. My ears popped and the cold numbed my extremities frighteningly quickly.
Peter shouldered past me with his larger frame and I careened over into the wall. I knew that I was going to die if I didn’t keep going but if I was panicking, I couldn’t feel it. I think that the entire group of us were experiencing what cattle in stampedes must feel, or rabbits trying to escape flooding warrens, or groups of people trapped in burning buildings. I scrambled forward through the thinning air, watching Peter receive a sharp elbow from Lorenz and double up, winded in the rapidly declining atmosphere. He floated back past me.
The whole race for life must have taken two minutes but I remember it as a timeless extended moment bereft of clocks. I felt as if I joined the mindless fight for survival that every single living being has experienced. The chase to beat death with the certainty that there would be losers amongst your number.
I slammed into a life pod and Tanya slammed up against me. I struck out with my fist and hit the button to close the door. The doors shut and sealed loudly. The thuds of fists echoed on the outside. The thuds stopped after a minute.
Tanya must have clawed her way back to the forefront after our tussle. When she looked at me, breathing deeply of the emergency air supply gushing into the sealed lifepod and smeared with Jason’s blood from earlier, she smiled with the nervous, bright-eyed smile of animal triumph. There was no resentment of my earlier clash with her and Jason.
We held each other there and waited for help. It arrived seven hours later. We didn’t say a single word to each other in those hours. We shared the bond of beings that had survived a crisis. We were in a place beyond the usual banality.
The others that survived met up with us back in the rescue ship with sighs of relief and knowing nods and tears over who we had lost but beneath it all was a joy. A completely placid, guilt-free aspect of gene-deep peace. I still remember that.