Author: Rick Tobin
Matt drifted in distant thought, staring at melting butter pushing raspberry jelly seeds up and over the pockmarks of his whole wheat English muffin. His senses filled as a mix of fruity sweetness rose up, enhanced by toasted bread essence to dance with the ship navigator’s Arabica coffee fumes.
“Tell me, Carlton, do you suppose they’ll even still have raspberries when we get back? That time continuum stuff still worries me. We never heard back from the first mission. Maybe their messages can’t even reach back to us.”
“Eh,” Carlton replied to his captain. “It’s all a risk. Who knows? Here we are, about to hit the star drives for the first time on board…and you’re eating jelly with coffee, no less. I thought we were NPO for twenty-four before we got sealed in.”
“Captain’s prerogative. If we don’t make it to Proxima Centauri, at least this will be a memory I’ll take into the afterlife. Anyway, we’ve got Einstein on our side. That should be enough.” He bit down on the edge of the crisp muffin, letting the juices flow slowly over his tongue.
“Yeah, the guy who divided by zero. I’m not as sure as others that we go on and the Earth ages away behind us. Seems like we get the best end of the deal.”
Matt offered a second muffin to his executive officer, but Carlton declined, as he headed for his steel cocoon.
Ugwanyazu slithered over reflecting shards mixing with smoke from the ship’s debris field. Drought on Proxima Centauri had reduced much of the core plains to dust and everlasting sandstorms that long since blistered away once flourishing herds of conjo beasts, formerly plentiful food for the taking. Protein was precious now. Ugwanyazu motioned a tentacle over the dusty plain to his partner Uwanazu. There would be no new spores to continue their race without a fresh meal.
Their thoughts bound as their suckers shared labors to pull open hibernation pods, revealing desiccated, ancient skeletal remains within, some with a bit of dried flesh still clinging along with hair and extended nails.
“It is good so many continue to fall from our skies, my mate. These are like the last, but not as substantial as some earlier ship crews. Did they not know that moving in a craft at light speed would make them age so fast? We abandoned star flight so long ago, yet so many species still try. Someday they may discover light passageways. Now, with our world’s magnetic fields failing, we have no way to use ladders of light to other stars. We are abandoned. Ah, but we have the benefit of others mistakes, do we not?” Ugwanyazu sensed the other corpses about the shattered hull.
“Yes. They and so many other cultures have crashed here like this. But oh, they are delicious. So crunchy, and this one has a sweet taste…something with seeds still in it. Perhaps it was pregnant once.”
Uwanazu finished absorbing the Captain’s uniform after his skeleton dissolved. She lifted one of her eye pods up and flashed a sign to her young to come feed on the latest debris from the heavens.