Awake Afterwards

Author: R. J. Erbacher

I was oppressed by the constraint of the unyielding humidity and the dust which coated every inch of this installation despite the scrubbers working full time. Outside the dull sodium lights that lit up the hallway seeped in through gaps in the privacy covering with enough luminescence to give the cavity a sorry glow.

The room was reminiscent with the faint echo of desperate groans and a creaking bed cradle. Sweat and discharged bodily fluids scented the night with sluggish desperation as if someone really didn’t want to tidy up. And no one really didn’t. The sheets were tangled at the foot of the bed, kicked off during the scuffling into a frustrated pile of laundry. I stared at the colorless canvas of the ceiling that was draped across the steel grating of the box.

Yeah, it was a room. A privilege because of my seniority, my second tour in this pit, now a crew lead. But there wasn’t much to the space. A mattress in a bracketed housing that was slept on by a slew of dirty and drunk past occupants. A footlocker for my few personal belongings. A portable toilet in a chair, like the kind the used in old folks’ homes but even that was a luxury so you didn’t have to crap in a communal tomb with pissing troughs and two dozen bowls without separation walls. Oh, and a mirror so I could gauge the descent of my weather-worn face.

The work was hard, the pay was good, the conditions were deplorable. The off-world mining colony was in perpetual motion, shifts around the clock, every goddamn day. There was a wealth of useful ores being scooped out and shipped back to earth and somebody back there was making a hell of a lot of money. That left roughnecks like me sweating our balls off. But one thirty-month tour was all anybody ever did. Except for guys with no family, no social life and no money. So…me.

Tonight though I decided to spend some of my hard-earned pay. My one day off every fortnight was tomorrow and I could sleep in. I had showered, but still not clean, and was dog-tired and I didn’t want to waste money on beer that would just sour in my stomach and probably wind up regurgitated in the chair-o-potty. So, I spent it.

On her. Twisting my throbbing neck, I stared at her supine form.

I watched a bead of sweat track down a mound of her flesh as it slowly rose and fell in blissful sleep. It came to rest in a depression of her body that was simply perfect. And all I wanted to be was a bug-sized man walking across the desert of her skin to reach that oasis, that sublime semi-sphere of moisture; to leap into it, bathe in it, quench my eternal thirst with it. And then I was dazzled by all the other pools of perspiration that dappled her chest and I thought ‘what better way to die of exhaustion then to try and visit each and every one of them.’

She was way too exquisite for this rock. She belonged on the deck of some sheik’s yacht soaking up the sunshine and the cool Mediterranean ocean mist and not here moan-acting, trying to please some broke down nobody like me. Yeah, she was that beautiful.

And I truly wanted to know her name.

I turned back to the mundane tapestry above me as a drop of sweat dribbled out of the corner of my eye.

4 Comments

  1. Hari Navarro

    I love your style of descriptive writing, R.J. The way you paint in such detail draws me in and this grubby fictional off-world you’ve created seems at once so strikingly real.

    • rjerbacher

      Much appreciated. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. kohlersc

    The visuals were nice and I wanted to like the story, but it is in need of a few more editing passes.

    • rjerbacher

      It’s not my usual style. I kind of went heavy on the flowery adjectives to offset the desperation of the story. Trying to be almost lyrical in my descriptions of bleakness.

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