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5th April
posted by amber

On the Voyage

He was struggling in every direction, he was the centre of the writhing and kicking knot of his own body. His face was covered with dampness; he couldn’t breathe. A viselike grip held his arms and legs, negating every effort he made to free himself of his imprisonment.

He was an adult, he could remember the years of his life. Otherwise, this trauma was very much like birth. He’d been warm, safe, cocooned, but now if his efforts didn’t succeed, death would come.

With a final kick to propel himself upwards and a reaching of both arms to grasp a slippery handhold, he attained air and freedom.

Slumped over the edge of the watery prison he’d escaped, he asked, “What the hell?”

The room was familiar. It was the crew storage hold where he’d lain himself down for deep sleep nine years earlier. Or perhaps fewer than nine years. This difficult waking was not the one he’d expected at the end of the voyage.

“What year is it?” he demanded of the ship, but the ship was silent. The room felt cold, and he could not hear the comforting familiar rumble of the engines. He allowed his body to slide down to the floor and he crawled to the next transit coffin. Melany’s own battle was obvious in the torn plasti-web and the scratches on the cowling, but she had not found freedom. His two other shipmates, Rit and Lewis, were similarly beyond help.

He was alone.

The revival rations cabinet opened, to his relief, and he sucked the energy gel down despite the awful taste, knowing he needed his strength. One hand on the wall, he shuffled down the corridor to the control room where he found his worst fears confirmed. The engines were dead, basic life support still maintained by battery power alone. Unless they soon floated near to some light source, the batteries would die within a week.

It was a busy week. First he performed a completely illegal outside manoeuver to deploy the light sails to head the ship toward the closest star, then he undertook a sad burial in space. He rigged the batteries to provide heat to the control room only, where he set up a rough living space for himself. He restored enough power to the ship system to enable it to communicate with him and to calculate how long they’d have to stay near the star to gain enough battery power to limp home. The greens in the freezer hadn’t survived the melt, so he started up a few plants under full spectrum lights. Each day was long and busy, so he didn’t have time to mourn, or worry too much about his desperate situation.

Each night, in his makeshift bed on the control room floor, he dreamed about his tasks for the next day, adrenalin making it almost impossible for him to rest. But one night, he fell into a very deep sleep and woke with a shock to find a hand on his wrist.

“Wake up, Malcolm. We’re here.”

His eyes were sticky with thick mucus, but he could make out Melany’s features.

“But you were dead,” he mumbled as he wiped his face and reached toward the grab bars.

“Thanks a lot!” she laughed, handing him some energy gel. “Hey, guys,” she called out to Rit and Lewis. “Malcolm killed me in his re-engagement dream.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

This story is inspired by the first line of a very strange and wonderful novel, Pincher Martin, by William Golding.

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