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25th October
posted by amber


Jason let the flimsy message slip from his fingers, fluttering in the gentle, centrifugal pseudo-gravity of the station apartment. It soon was sucked against the air-return screen, sharply-etched black letters visible through the thin rice paper, the anger of the message like an unpleasant smell in the room.

The other guys who worked with him on the loading dock had warned him not to get into a relationship with Twyla. “Man, your stint’s only six months, don’t start dating a lifer. They’re all weird and Twyla’s the weirdest. Fool around with another half-year grunt, or go to the Relief Centre. Just stay away from Twyla.”

Jason had figured they were jealous. Twyla was beautiful, she had a light in her eyes like the fire of an exploding star. She was mysterious, she knew things about Nebula Station no one else knew; being with her was exciting and fun. Until it wasn’t.

The change occurred in the Tethered Pod, an escape vehicle that doubled as a gravity-free experimental lab moored by a long umbilical to the station. Twyla was the lead scientist on the research done there but no matter how many secrets she’d told him during their weeks together and how many times he’d asked, she had never spoken of her work.

When she invited him to join her in the Tethered Pod, he’d assumed the goal was sexual acrobatics in null-gravity, but she surprised him.

“You asked about my research,” she said, as soon as the hatch was secure. “But if I told you about the things I’m doing for the Inter-Stellar Outreach, you’d find it really boring. What’s fascinating is my personal research into other modes of being. Jason, I think you’re a very special guy and that’s why I feel I can share this with you. I’ve spent long hours out here, alone and in a mental state made receptive by repetitive mindless data collection. That’s when they came to me.”


“The Others. I don’t know if they’re from another dimension or another time, if they’re ghosts or aliens or gods. They could be all or none of the above. I don’t know what they are, I just know what they want.”

“What do they want?” Jason wasn’t liking the light in her eyes. It was a crazy light, like the fire of an exploding star that he’d allowed himself too near to.

“To commune with them. They’ve asked many things of me over the years. Some of the things have seemed really dangerous, but I’ve always agreed and I’ve never come to any harm. Tonight they have requested that the two of us go through the airlock with no protection whatsoever. We’ll step into the vacuum, trusting to the Others to protect us. We’ll be together with each other as never before, and you’ll become one with the Others.”

She tugged him toward the airlock but Jason tore himself from her grasp and ran for the umbilical.

The angry note he received from her the next day castigated him for his cowardice and warned him not to tell anyone about her secret relationship with the Others. She needn’t have worried. He saw her from the port in the station after he’d hurtled along the umbilical. She had been pushing herself away from the Pod’s airlock, her long hair streaming out into the void, as naked as the day she was born.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story written every day and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

This story was inspired by a first line of a David Brin story in his anthology, Otherness.

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