Reply To: Den monthly competition September 2018



The EVA suit’s read-out flashed Warning! Oxygen levels at 18% in eerie red. Jepson’s mind was foggy, irrational. All her training hadn’t prepared her for the reality of being stuffed into a damaged evacuation tube and launched into the airless void.

It had begun with impact. Many in fact, although Jepson only counted three as noteworthy. The meteor which had broken into seven chunks in Earth’s upper atmosphere, each landing with the force of a hundred atomic bombs. The event had propelled the Santa Maria’s fleet into orbit four years early. An exploratory mission became a desperate one way exodus. Jepson had grown up on the flagship. Kepler 186f proved inhabitable, but a second planet in the cooler zone of a new sun was discovered. The remnants of humanity cluttered some four dozen ships, creaking from decades of constant use and repair, with barely enough fuel for the trip.

Jepson tried to see the stars through the cracked hood of the evac-tube. Nothing. Endless, indifferent darkness. Her mind skipped and caught and skipped again. The cramping, tingling of her limbs had faded to numbness. Not good.

The second impact was the unkindest. Santa Maria was in visual range of the planet when the engines took a direct hit. Another mass evacuation. The resultant micro debris had totalled the tube’s thrusters – hardly an impact worth mentioning, except it would kill her.

Jepson remembered another impact. One that made her entire body throb like a rotten tooth. She must have greyed out. Woken for the final moments. The last lungful. She didn’t want to die, adrift in the void. A memory of other tubes flaring past in brilliant streaks. The last gamble, futile. A streak of hot colour grew in her peripheral vision. Brilliant. Beautiful. Deadly. Jepson felt no fear although surely she was about to burn up on collision with a flaming piece of ship. Except who would have thought death could be this beautiful? What are we, except one huge organism, living and dying as the universe seeks to understand itself?

Jepson blinked. The o2 warning light blinked a dirge but she was breathing. Cool, fresh air. Instinct stabbed her numb hands at the emergency release, the hood tore away. That third impact! Dawn! She crawled from the tube on to the surface of a new world as the sun rose, gleaming on other tubes and a new day.