Writer’s Note: They’ve changed the website a bit, it seems. Once upon a time, I could copy/paste my text in and it would automatically be flipped to white for the black background. Then I had to color the text white before pasting it in otherwise it stayed black on black. Then a helpful reader pointed out that people using their phones didn’t get to see the black background, so I had to change the text to gray so it would read on both black and white. Now it seems my text in italics don’t paste with the gray coloring, so I guess we’ll see how that ends up translating.
Also, still not done but sooooooo close!
Doctor Souchong’s voice buzzed to life in everyone’s ears.
“Now listen to me carefully. The beacon on this pod will activate as soon as we are released. It will get a little bumpy on the ride down, and losing consciousness is not out of the question. This thing was designed to keep us alive, not comfortable. Just don’t panic and know that you will come out okay.” He reached up, flipped open a panel identical to those over everyone’s head, and pulled down the lever behind it. The girls felt a series of knocks through the wall at their backs as the release gears were set into motion. “Once we land, the first to wake up is to man the radio until help arrives. Understand?”
There was a chorus of stilted answers, cutting in and out as they awkwardly worked the communicator buttons for the first time. Everyone was suddenly overwhelmed by a violent shaking and the many flashlight beams darted and whipped about frantically in the dark, windowless pod. They felt what seemed to be a muted explosion from the other side of the locked hatch, and after a final shake everything was still and quiet again. They were floating free.
Heavy breathing cut in and out over the helmet radios as people accidentally triggered their com buttons.
The beams of light settled on the helmet of Doctor Souchong, including those from Perdie and Shmee. They couldn’t see his face behind the visor but it was a comfort to have someone to look to. The pod continued to float in that stillness for so long, the thought occurred to Shmee that time had stopped. She could remain suspended in the moment forever.
And that’s when they hit the atmosphere. At first it was a subtle vibrating in the wall at their backs. The vibrating became increasingly violent and the roar of fire and wind drowned out clips of radio chatter. Shmee felt the belts of her harness strain at her shoulders and hips as the new earth’s atmosphere resisted their entry. Then it lurched and the harness yanked her back, her head and limbs flailing helplessly as an unseen force seemed to drain the life out of them. She tried to look over at her sister, but managed to see Perdie’s head hanging limply in the small beam of her flashlight just before her own vision went dark.
Shmee came to slowly, feeling of pitching angles and violent jolts flickered through her memory. She blinked furiously but her light must have been damaged, its weak beam barely piercing the dust floating calmly before her. The roar from her unconscious dreaming was still there somehow, but hushed. Her arms moved sluggishly as she raised a hand to her head to check its flashlight.
She pushed her chin down.
“Perdie?” Her voice was weak and tiny, even within her own helmet. There was no reply.
Shmee looked over and could dimly see the suited figure of her sister, limbs waving slowly before her. Her stomach jumped.
She looked around for help, but those closest to her were also unconscious. The other end of the pod was still shrouded in darkness.
“Hello? Can anyone hear me?” No response again.
Shmee struggled with her belts, her limbs frustratingly slow to respond. When she finally broke free she was floating again, but something was wrong. She could feel a pull inside her head and stomach, as her body gently rotated with the inertia of leaving the wall, that pull seemed to move as well. At the same time, she felt a pulling way. Her body kept trying to rotate and move without her guidance. The two sensations didn’t grow stronger or hurt, but it made her stomach feel queasy, and she felt an uncomfortable pressure build behind her eyes. She tried to move her hands back to her head, and her entire body slid down toward the floor of the pod, as if she had pushed off the ceiling.
Shmee froze. What was going on? Was this how gravity worked? She realized it wasn’t just a pressure behind her eyes, her entire body felt compressed. She waved a hand in front herself experimentally, it was like she was pushing away invisible fabric. As her arm moved, her body would rotate in the opposite direction. Panic began to creep into her chest. How could she stand living in an atmosphere like this? It was too thick, too oppressive.
A bump from behind startled her out of her paralysis, and she made small movements to reach for the body behind her. She struggled to turn herself around in the heavy atmosphere and was face to face with an unconscious Romero.
“Romero!” She tried to shake his shoulders but his straps and heaviness around her made that attempt futile. “Romero, wake up! Please, wake up!”
She saw a spastic movement from behind his faceplate. Eyes fluttered then squinted into her light.
“-t’s going on?”
“I don’t know, I think we landed. Everyone’s asleep! It’s hard to move! Is this- is this really what it’s going to be like?”
“Wait, slow down.” He reached a slow hand up and adjusted her helmet’s flashlight so that it pointed over his head. “What are you…” His left his arm to hang out beside her, then waved it slightly. “Dio mi… are we under water?”