Author: Bryce Parker
“What’s that?” my colleague asked. He pointed a thick finger toward the smooth black stone at the end of my necklace. I glanced down. The stone had drifted away from my neck as our landing craft bounced between microgravity and intense g-forces.
“It’s nothing,” I said and I stuffed the end of the necklace back into my shirt.
“It’s superstition,” growled the woman sitting across from us, “if I were heading this mission-”
She shut up because our spacecraft spun wildly. Through the thin window above me, I caught a glimpse of our target: a comet flailing its way toward the sun. In just minutes, we would be the first people to land on a comet’s surface.
The ship shook violently and I grasped onto the smooth stone beneath my shirt. I felt its featureless form through the fabric and rolled it between my fingers. My companions didn’t understand. They concerned themselves with the science of our mission; I worried about coming back alive. Out here superstition was necessary, for in the vast expanse of space one was never more than a few inches from certain death. Only idiots didn’t hedge their bets. The smooth keepsake hanging from my neck had brought my grandmother home safely from the moons of Saturn. Her son, my father, had taken it on a mining tour of Mercury and Venus. Now it protected me as I skimmed my way around the asteroid belt. If you take a piece of Earth with you, perhaps one day you will return it.
“Can I see it again?” asked my colleague, tapping me on the shoulder.
I put my hand up and rejected his request. This was the crucial moment of our journey. I would honor the void so that it would not take me. I clasped the trinket, which was still under my shirt, in my fist. He tapped me on the shoulder again. I ignored him and shut my eyes tighter.
“30 SECONDS TO INTERCEPT,” the pilot’s voice echoed from the cockpit.
I considered I might have only half a minute to live. My fist tightened around the ball of obsidian. The void grew inside me. Maybe it would be alright.
The lander twisted suddenly and my eyes jerked open. My focus shattered. I looked up to see a blinding white light through the thin window. The comet’s tail was eating us alive. The man next to me shot me a smile. I returned his volley with a dead serious glare.
“Why are you so-?” he began asking.
I shut my eyes and tried to—