Short Story Post 1e: Gravity for the first time

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!

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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.

“Khh-”

“Hu!”

“Ah-”

“Guh-”

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.

“PERDIE?!”

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.

“Romero?”

“-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?”

 

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Short Story post 1d: Gravity for the first time

Writer’s note:  Why?  Why do I even bother to make predictions and promises?  They just make me a liar.

 

 

 

Before she had a chance to protest, Shmee was pulled away from her spot against the window. Her head bumped against her still free floating helmet, and she was able to grab at it before Perdie had towed her too far.

“We’re on our way!” Perdie shouted breathlessly into her own helmet as she launched herself anew into the hall, her little sister trailing just behind.

This time they didn’t bother switching on their lights. Helmets in hand, they thew themselves from one wall grip to the next in the diminishing light of the observation deck; trusting their sense of touch and memory as the darkness swallowed them whole. A fresh wrenching of metal bellowed deafeningly around them, and Shmee screamed as the handhold she was expecting jerked down, barking her knuckles.

“Shmee?!?”

Shmee heard her sister’s voice slip from above to behind her and her mind’s eye envisioned her body flipping forward in a slow tumble.

“Shmee! Are you okay?”

“I’m! I’m okay! I just lost my grip.” She held out her limbs stiffly to slow her spin. The helmet bumped against the smooth surface of the nearest wall just as Perdie’s light popped on below her. “Ah! That hurts!”

“Sorry!” They were plunged back into darkness and glowing streaks floated stubbornly in Shmee’s eyes.

“Okay, let’s keep going.”

“God damnit! If you girls aren’t back here in 1 one minute, so help me, I am willing to face down your mother-”

“We’re here!” The two figures were lit up by multiple beams of light as they slid in through the hatchway.

“Romero! Lock’er up!”

Perdie helped Shmee into her straps against the wall. As the engineer triggered the emergency lock.

“Got it! Perdie get yourself buckled up. I got Shmee.”

“Good!” Doctor Souchong barked from his perch. “Everybody, make sure your locks and straps are secured. I can’t have you bouncing around in the turbulence.”

“Turbu-?!” Romero locked Shmee’s helmet into place, temporarily muting her before the communicator could be activated.

He walked his hands over to Perdie and double checked her straps and buckles. She tried to hold a brave face while he hovered so close, but another nightmarish growl shuddered throughout the ship and left her breathing shallow gasps. Romero looked up and flashed a wry grin.

“Relax, kid. Nothing to do but enjoy the ride now.” Her universe shrank to the breathing in her ears and the framed view of her visor has he locked her helmet into place.

 

Short Story post 1c: Gravity for the first time

Writer’s note:  This upcoming conversation may be a bit clunky still.  Later edits should smooth it out.

 

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After a few twists and turns, Perdie was diving back through the residence hall. A quick glance in their dark apartment confirmed it to be empty. She flung herself farther down and caught herself on the hatchway to the observation room. It was still dim in the shadow of the new planet, but she easily spotted the small figure of Shmee in the pail light of the stars, curled against the far window as best she could be in her bulky suit.

“Shmee, what are you doing?? Can’t you hear that? We have to go!” As if on cue, another metallic, mournful groan had emanated from the hall.

Shmee had taken off her helmet, and the two skinny braids reaching out stiffly behind her head wobbled as she wordlessly shook her head.

“Shmee!”

“Then go!” She sniffed, and Perdie realized she was crying.

She eased into the viewing deck and toward her little sister, the panic in her chest suddenly tempered by her sister’s tears. She took off her own helmet and reached out a hand in time to cushion her stop at the edge of the large window.

“Shmee, what’s going on?” Perdie’s tone had softened to a whisper.

“I’ll be fine. You heard Doctor Souchong. There’s a chance the ship will stay in orbit….”

Perdie cut her off with a shake of her head, her own braided pigtails swinging around her.

“There’s no way you can stay, Shmee. Those noises mean bad things are about to happen.”

“But-”

“Soon!” She watched the young girl process this.

“Why would you want to stay behind? And by yourself? That’s crazy.”

“The hamster wheel.”

“What?”

“I never,” Shmee swallowed, “I never even started logging exercise hours on there. You didn’t notice. Mom didn’t notice.”

Perdie’s mind reeled with the implications. Shmee’s body had not been conditioned to gravity at all. Spoiled by a lifetime of weightlessness, the shock of it might be too much for her system to take.

“But… how?”

“Mom’s been so busy preparing for the landings… and then she put you in charge of me ’cause I kept getting in her way, but you don’t want anything to do with me anymore.”

“Shmee, that’s not-”

“No one does. Just like this ship.” She turned to her big sister. “The ship is all I know. You at least remember something about the old world before. Most everyone does, and so everyone’s been so eager to leave, and go back to a real world.” Her gaze drifted to the dark mass looming below them. I don’t care about living on a real world. I thought I’d stay here with the ship and… we’d keep each other company.”

Another low groan, accompanied by a series of booming creaks demanded their attention. The skin of the ship vibrated with each pop.

“Shmee, the ship… she’s old and tired. This was all she was built for, you know? To get us here. Now, I think she would be ready to let us go.”

“But what about me?” Shmee squeaked. The girl seemed to shrink, to revert back to a younger version of herself; back when the word “sister” was synonymous with “best friend,” before teenage growing pains pushed Perdie away. The older girl reached out and gently drew her sister into a hug.

“I’ll take care of you. Okay? It won’t be any fun for awhile, but I’ll make sure you get on your feet down there.” Perdie chuckled to herself, “Literally, I guess.”

Shmee pulled back. After a moment of uncertainty, she offered a weak smile.

“Look,” Perdie continued. “I’m sorry I’ve been so short with you lately. I don’t mean to be.”

The younger girl sighed, “It’s ok-”

She was drowned out by a thunder clap that shook the room around them. Static burst from helmets that had been floating aimlessly away from them.

“Perdie!” Barked Doctor Souchong, “Do you see her?”

She plucked her helmet out of the air and squeezed the communicator at the chin.

“I found her.”

“Get back now!”

 

 

Short Story Post 1b: Gravity for the first time

Writer’s Note:  Yeah, no, I didn’t finish it… again.  I’m gonna be more realistic and predict two more posts to round this out.  I realized I’ve been spelling Romero wrong this entire time, so that’s been fixed.  I’m also gonna go back and tweak the descriptions of the place.  No more “floors” only “walls” more falling away and rising, etc.  Also, I don’t think I ever really described the girls fully.  I’ll let you know when I go back and do that.

 

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Perdi pulled herself over the organized confusion of parts that was the engine to meet Romero at the hatchway.

“I knew you were the right person for the job. Not many people can squeeze in over there.”

“Oh, really? Um, thanks.” Perdie wasn’t sure if he was paying her a compliment or stating a fact. Regardless, she felt herself blush as she approached the young man and was thankful she had kept her helmet on. “How do, um, you get through when it’s running?”

Romero shrugged. “Very carefully. We usually don’t have to wear the suits.”

“Oh… yeah!” Perdi chuckled. Her helmet’s flashlight spotlighted his figure drifting away from her.

“You coming?” He looked down at her from the top of the hall.

“Y-yeah, right behind you.”

“You’re taking this very well, you know.”

“I am?”

He waited, helmet in hand, for her to catch up before pushing lazily through the next hatchway.

“Well, yeah. This has been our home for so long, and you’ve spent most of you life on this ship, right?”

“I remember the old world!” Perdi shot back defensively.

“Ha! Well, yeah, but you were just a little kid weren’t you?”

Perdi mumbled a noncommittal grunt.

“Well, I was just saying, this place has been our only safe place for so long. And now, suddenly, it’s not a safe place anymore. It’s an upsetting thing, especially for kids like you and Shmee.”

Perdi narrowed her eyes, unhappy with being lumped together with her little sister.

Romero looked back again as they reached the last turn in the hallway.

“I mean, it would be understandable if you wanted to cry… or something.”

“Thanks,” Perdi spit out, “but I couldn’t wait to get off this claustrophobic, metal wad of junk. I’m only still up here because of my sister.”

“Oh.. okay.” Romero stammered.

The reflector strips along the walls guided them to the escape pods. The handful of flashlight beams emanating from one of the hatches told them which pod they chose.

“How’s everybody doing?” Romero said as he slowly dove through the entrance.

“You took your sweet time!” Doctor Souchong barked gruffly.

Perdie heard a symphony of sniffles and whimpers from the silhouettes around her. Everyone had the lights on, giving her dozens of spots in her eyes and making it impossible to tell one suited person from the other.

“Shmee? Where are you?”

“What? She’s not with you?”

Romero and Perdie looked to each other.

“No,” Romero said slowly, “she was supposed to come straight here.”

“Shmee??” Perdie pushed her chin down to open the radio. “Shmee? SHMEE??”

She was answered by another metallic rumble from the depths of the ship. Romero flipped his helmet in his hands and secured it over his head.

“Do you know where she could be?”

Perdie’s mind raced.

Someone started unbuckling themselves from their seat against the wall. She knew it was Doctor Souchong as soon as he spoke.

“Right, I’ll need volunteers to search the ship.”

“No wait!” Perdie held up a hand. “I… I know where to find her. Give me 10 minutes?”

She couldn’t see his eyes, but he seemed to look around in uncertainty.

“You know? Why? What’s going on?”

“I don’t know. I just… I think she’s okay. She’s just scared.” Perdie shot a glance at Romero. “I think she’s hiding.”

“You have 5 minutes. 5 minutes and I want to hear visual confirmation from you or I’m sending everyone to crawl over this place.”

“Okay.” Perdie nodded.

“Well, go-”

“Okay! Sorry!”

“-I’m not liking they way the ship’s groaning out there.”

Perdie hadn’t floated much farther than the mouth of the hatchway, and she reached back up to scramble through. She hoped she only imagined wall vibrating under her gloved fingertips as another booming groan echoed through the hallways.