My response to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Check it out here.
Heavy Ceiling – Said the Whale
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but how can we possibly know what ordinary is supposed to be? No one had ever travelled this far from Earth before. Yuri, Sunny, Will and myself – we’re the history makers, the lucky few. No one else had made a successful trans-galactic jump before. Just us.
Frowning at the emptiness before me, I couldn’t help but wonder why we’d bothered.
“There’s nothing here, Yuri.”
“Of course there is. There’s us.” His German accent was slight, warming me to the core.
“What are we in the cosmic scale of the universe? There’s so much more out there. I thought we’d get to see something.”
Smiling and crossing his arms, he leaned against the hull before me, the picture of relaxation. The trip hadn’t phased him at all. “What did you expect?”
“I don’t know. Not this…emptiness.”
“Well we won’t be staying long. Come on, you need to do the medical reviews before we jump back.”
“Yeah, yeah.” The glittery blackness of the universe stared at me, mocking me. Turning, I followed Yuri out of the observation room and back to the med-room.
My job is simple: sit back and enjoy the ride. Don’t die. Once we succeed, perform medical evaluations and record everything. Then buckle up and try not to throw up when the universe swallows you whole and regurgitates you in an entirely different location.
I threw up the first time, so it’s bound to happen the second time. No one else had thrown up.
Will and Sunny were waiting for us when we entered the small, white and cream med-room surrounded by the faintest smell of antiseptic and gleaming, never-before-used instruments. Some part of me felt guilty for having to be the first one to break in the equipment; I like things neat and clean and shiny.
“Will, Sunny, how do you feel?”
“Peachy.” Sunny, whose disposition and coloring was anything but, had draped herself into a medical chair, her thick Russian accent affecting nonchalance and boredom.
“Don’t sound so enthused, Sunshine,” Will beamed from his chair. Like me he was American, unlike me he was almost childishly excited about every little detail of the trip. His never-ending perkiness didn’t seem to bother anyone except Sunny, who had threatened to throw him out the airlock three times since we’d jumped.
“Lea – we’re all yours.” Nodding, Yuri took the third remaining medical chair and began attaching the monitors to his body. Sunny and Will quickly followed suit, with varying levels of enthusiasm. Since I was the doctor, my monitors were wireless. I attached them quickly and efficiently.
Cracking my knuckles I pressed a few keys on a pad below a monitor and waited while the computer hummed to life. “Will, you’re hooking those up wrong.”
“So come help me out Doc.” His tone was suggestive and I noticed he’d stuck one down the front of his pants. Wonderful. I would have removed it – not gently – but just then the ship exploded. At least, that’s what it felt like.
Sound crashed around us in waves, so loud that I quickly stopped hearing anything at all, the air pressed in all around us and the fluorescent lights flickered out. Red emergency lights burst on, casting everyone in a dim, hellish aura. Yuri was up and out of his chair in less than a heartbeat, feverishly tapping at the computer next to the door. Sunny dashed up next, her sleek body pressing against the med-room doors as she strained to close them. Will followed just seconds later, throwing himself against the opposite side of the doors. The tethered monitors swung limply around the abandoned chairs.
They were all shouting, but I couldn’t hear any of it. I stood pressed against one of the chairs, my short nails digging into the cream leather. Outside the door, chaos reigned. Papers scattered, red and ghostly in the emergency light. Across the hall in the observation room the thick, unbreakable plastic window had broken. A series of spider-web cracks radiated out of a fist sized hole in the center of the window.
Yuri was still pounding at the computer when Will and Sunny abandoned the doors and dashed off in the direction of the cockpit. What was the emergency protocol in this situation? I couldn’t remember. The world grew fuzzy as the oxygen left the ship.
Then Yuri was standing before me, his blue eyes filling my vision, calm but serious. With my line of sight to our deaths broken I felt the fear enter me for the first time, heady and electric. The computer beeped at me –my pulse had increased to a near-dangerous level. Here I was, near death, and I felt the most alive I had in my entire life. I didn’t bother trying to hold back the wild laugh that tore through me.
I was being dragged towards the cockpit behind Yuri. The world slowed as we reached the open cockpit doors. Sunny was buckled into the co-pilots chair, Will was furiously pressing buttons at the computer in his designated seat as navigator. But Yuri, always the hero, had stayed behind to pull me to safety with him.
Behind me something cracked just as Yuri dove towards the doors, muscles bunching as he pulled us against the emptiness of space. Sunny and Will were yelling at Yuri to let me go – he had to let me go because they had to seal the doors. They could still jump back but they had to seal the cockpit and they had to do it NOW.
I felt the pressure pull at my body from behind. I wasn’t the hero – that was Yuri, but he would kill them all to save me. I flashed him a rare smile and let go, feeling the soft warmth of his hand slip away from me.
As the heavy ceiling of the universe pushed against me I realized that now there would be something out here for someone to find: me.