I stopped to stare at the stars.
From my tiny cockpit, they shone like fireflies in the void of the universe. It was the only thing worth noting in the darkness I was destined to travel for the next six months beyond the debris that came and went.
There were no planets to awe at like any person who’ve never been into space before, nor the colorful dust I was promised back at home.
Recently, the harmless debris became larger in size, looming over me like a thundercloud. A few came too close for my comfort, making pause my meal of foil pouches just to dare them. Like I had anything to stop them.
“I’m guessing it’s from another ship,” Sharen said after I brought it up, “an old route had some blunders here and there. Nothing interesting. Just try to avoid what you can, will ya? What you got can only withstand so much of you.”
“It takes a whole village to stop you from treating this craft like a race car.” Her eyes had bags under them from all the sleepless nights we shared for the past three weeks. Her chestnut colored hair was haphazardly placed in a bun on the top of her head. She tried to resist the oncoming yawn that was partly my fault.
The world around me was dark, illuminated by the many buttons on the panel I sat in front of, and the screen that gave me a clue if something decided to approach. I probably looked worse than she did without a mirror in sight to fix the flaws of not showering for a few days.
“I haven’t gone that awol yet.”
“Good, ‘cause out of all candidates for this mission, you seem the most reliable.”
I arched a brow, “Wasn’t I the only candidate?”
She waved that detail off, then watched as my attention went back to the starry abyuss that surrounded me. Quietly she asked, “Are you okay?”
I ran a hand through the mess of my black hair almost self consciously, “Do I really look that bad?”
“I mean mentally. You’re alone. Like...very alone.”
It was true. I was. And in the beginning, that was all my mind filled up on as I pace the little space I had. Without Sharen to talk to, I might’ve gone insane. Because silence was so crippling to me.
All I did was shrug. “It pays enough. Maybe then I’ll get some land, adopt kids. The old stuff…”
“Optimistic, I love it.”
“But you know, if I die, you get my cat.” I saw as her nose wrinkled in disgust.
“I don’t remember signing that form.”
My lips twitching into a smile as I thought back to the restaurant she dragged me to before I was stripped from having real food to what was stored under me with my other necessities. Loud music, hard drinks...most of that night is still a blur.
“Get some sleep,” she told me before signing off for the night. I figured I would humor her in that regard.
Sleep wasn’t peaceful, even with artiful gravity keeping me grounded on the maress I pulled out.
I was warm, I was fed. But it wasn’t enough to turn off my brain from other affairs. Like debris that Sharen told me wasn’t interesting.
My curiosity told me otherwise. It pecked at my mind with all the possibilities one could imagine.
I wondered if there was a crash, or if someone out there needed help. A little detour wouldn’t hurt.
“So that settles it…” I moved back to my controls. The screens slowly came to life from their sleep mode, telling me groggily that steering from course was a bad idea. I did it anyway.
I steered to where the debris came from.
Sharen beeped on, having the six sense. “Why are you up?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” Which wasn’t a lie, but she saw through me just as well.
“Okay, so it warrants a midnight stroll through debris?”
“Maybe. It’s been bugging me, the origins of it.” I glanced at the screens, seeing only the sea of the metal up ahead.
“I don’t think your brain’s working there, space boy,” she tells me, pushing up her thick rimmed glasses, “ever heard of pirates? They snagg people who go off course.”
“I’m not going to get snagged,” I scoffed.
I rolled my eyes. “Aren’t you curious at all?”
“Boo, I love your intrigue, but this ain’t the show where there’s a talking map that tells you a thousand times where to go. It’s dangerous. Go back on course like a good boy before you give me a heart attack.”
I opened my mouth to argue, getting cut off by a notice from one of the screens. The once empty landscape of medal and parts promised something much more notable coming in from my right.
“Sharen...there’s something here.”
And there was.
Calling it massive would be an understatement. It slowly crept up from the depths like a whale in the stars, ten times the mass. I was impressed, showing it with my jaw dropping reaction when I took in its size that matched a colony’s. A mammoth. A wounded one at that.
I found the gaping hole where the debris I came across had broken off from. Lights from windows that line its body flickered in their efforts to stay on. What was written on the side was distorted, unreadable, leaving where the ship was from a mystery.
“Kohl,” Sharen was stiff on the screen. “Get away from it, I’m serious! You don’t have the capability to--”
“Talk soon,” I closed the chat without tearing my eyes away. I never saw anything like it. I aimed straight for the hole, ready for a landing.
I took a breath as my puny ship touched down successfully on the edge of a distorted area one would see in a horror movie.
Equipment and furniture barley held on in the remnants of artificial gravity the damaged section could muster.
I had minimum training training when it came to spacewalks. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t launch yourself into space, etc. But it didn’t stop me from getting out of my pilot chair to dress myself into my suit. The wrist part of my suit beeped, showing my stats on a floating screen until I drew it close with my forefingers.
I secured my pack I planned to take with me, checking it twice to make sure I had what I needed before I finally reached the door that allowed me to leave.
I pressed in my code on the small panel, hearing the ship prepared for me to enter the zero gravity as I activated my helm.
The door whined, being forced opened for the first time in weeks.
The wanky fake gravity made it feel as though I was underwater as I stepped out with my flashlight at the ready for anything lurking behind broken beds and bend metal I kicked around for extra measure, watching it sail to a sealed door with a muffled THUNK.
I noticed something beyond the door that beckoned me for a closer look. Lights flickered like those I saw coming here, showing glimpses of what contrasted the very white walls around. Holes riddled the once smooth panels, missed shots from a blaster. What they circled around was a figure slumped over, purplish hue pooling around his thigh.
He didn’t look normal.
Dots freckled his cheeks, fading in and out as if breathing, blue and vibrant. His wavy blonde hair covered part of his face, tangled from a gelelition I didn’t recognize.
Did I just find an alien?