Author: Lewis Richards
A rumble from deep in the ship jolted me back to my senses, mechanical protests from the air scrubbers up-ship as they struggle to compensate for the rapidly expanding population on board I guessed, all but confirmed by the light-headedness that had haunted me on my flight through the air ducts and the condensation build-up hindering me on the slippery metal of the ducts.
I crouched by the air grate at the end of the last leg of air duct on my path, the last leg of relative safety. I’d only meant to catch my breath before moving, but breath was becoming harder to come by with every minute that passed. Through the grate, my eyes found the light, a ruby glow building before fading away. 10 metres. I watched the light cycle, breathing in time with it.
Breathe in… Breathe out…
I had to move. I’d come this far in search of the light, it marked the hatch to the lifeboat, safety, my finger fumbled with the latches on the grate, pausing between each turn to listen for the cold clicks of alien claws hitting metal deck.
Were they claws? They looked more like spikes from the brief glance I’d taken at one before I bolted from the sleep deck.
Focus, I thought, taking a deep breath to steady myself. I tensed against the grate, preparing the push it aside when I heard it. Eyes wide looking for movement I realised too late that the sound was coming from behind me. A scream rose in my throat as a hand clamped over my mouth. Panic and relief fighting for control. Whatever was hunting me didn’t have hands.
I turned to look, seeing familiar eyes. Salty, One of the dock crew, as old as the ship itself if you believed the deckhands. He held a finger to his lip, I nodded and he removed his hand, pointing out of the grate and up.
I pressed up to the grate, straining to look up, seeing nothing until the light grew and it reflected off of a dark orb of slime attached to the ceiling.
“Egg” Salty whispered
Inside, something moved. Something big.
I looked back at Salty as he pointed at the red light
“You open the door, I’ll distract it” he pulled a flare out of his boiler suit for me to see.
I nodded and squeezed his shoulder.
We moved the grate together, push and lift and it barely makes a sound. I sigh in relief as we slide it across.
I tense, ready to spring,
“Go on 3” he says, holding up 3 fingers
I give Salty a thumbs up,
the first falls
Then the second
I breathe in
The third goes down and I’m out of the duct, sprinting towards the light.
I hear the egg tearing, the splash of liquid hitting the floor, the screech of the alien as it crashes onto the floor. I hit the wall and fumble for the keypad. I see the flash of the flare as Salty stands between me and the alien,
“Open it for christ’s sake!”
I hammer in the code
The light turns green and the hatch Grinds open, I push myself through, turning to Salty standing off against the creature
“Got it!” I shout.
Salty looks back at me, turning to run as the Alien Spike slams through his side. His eyes go wide as a silent scream escapes him.
“Go” he mouths.
The hatch closes and I breathe in clean air. Safe.