Author : Erin Ritch

When I build a world in my mind, I build it from the ground up. Brick by brick, beam by beam, I know every corner as though I constructed it with my own hands. And in a way, I have. I find solace in the details. Peace in the straight, sturdy lines. In my dreams, I escape to these structures and explore them. And now, I send myself there to escape the pain.

I knew better than to land in that storm, and of all places, on Harmsway. But I was low on fuel, having been led off course by a snag in my navigation system. Damn interns, budget cuts had promoted them into Certified System Analysts and now their lack of experience was probably going to cost me my life.

I only remember glimpses of consciousness during my descent. With sickening cracks my craft tumbled through the thick trees, disintegrating in flashes of light. When I awoke, I took inventory. My head, my torso, my arms, my hands, my legs – they’re all there. My craft is shattered and I am half attached to my captain’s seat, probably from an attempt to eject at some point. I free my arm and drop to the half submerged floor. It’s at this point I realize I can’t move my legs.

“Shit,” I struggle into a sitting position. My voice causes a dozen creatures to scatter, scuttling into the black rainforest. Above me, just past arm’s reach, my radio is scratching. Somehow, someway, it has found a signal through the dense treetops. I extend my right arm and reach for the radio, cursing the broken limbs that are dragging me down.

The radio sputters as if losing charge and I hold my breath, counting the seconds in between crackles of life. The battery is on its last power cell. With my extended arm I pull myself back up into my dislodged captain’s seat. My heart pumps painfully as I focus everything on the strength in my arms. My broken craft rattles along with me as I finally strap myself into the harness.

My head is spinning and I notice a trickle of blood that has been drip, drip, dripping down my face. Fuzzy darkness begins to creep in around the edges of my vision and I feel myself slipping back to that structure in my mind, enticed by the safety of its tombs. Maybe if I close my eyes for just a moment, I can find some reprieve. Suddenly a voice shouts my name over the radio and I reach up instinctively, grabbing the radio calling out my coordinates.

“Roger your relayed Mayday,” crackles back across the radio. “Hold on.”

I was sinking fast. The floor of the broken craft was now completely submerged. I shake my head and stare down at the murky waters. Small blue algae flicker through the water, glistening even in the absence of light. Blood from my head wound falls like red rain and the organisms swarm around the droplets. Movement catches my eye as the algae part. I reach for my pocket knife, still hooked to my back belt loop.

I don’t know how long it will take help to get here. I don’t know who was on the other side of that radio. Maybe one of those interns had finally figured something out. Through my broken craft, I see the light of dawn begin to break through. In my mind, the sunlight appears through cracks in the sky. I close my eyes from atop the fortress in mind, forever safe there within those straight, sturdy lines.

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