THE COLD ROMANCE OF SLEEP:

A Sample

A scene of a rescue attempt during the assembly of a lander in space, after a long journey to a new planet.

0 NC, Day Minus 5, Hour 21

Miriam said, “What happened?”

The brawnier, paler-skinned of the two men said, his voice rolling Sinese-Welsh tones, “Took a hit from a ten-meter strut she did, about four hundred kilos of it. Door started to sequence open, she lost her air, three minutes now. She forced it shut, got it locked, her hand got caught and jammed the seal, and it’s a one-way outbound valve for her pressure. Can’t get air in, can’t unlock it. If we break it open, the flying glass will blind her.” The speaker banged a fist against the frosted door, rotated away to the wall, and stabilized.

“Smash it! She’s better blind than dead!” Miriam sputtered, snatched a pair of short prybars from a wall bracket, flung a bar at the one who had spoken. They stuck the prybar ends into emergency notches on either side of the glass. “On three, one, two, three!” They rammed weight against their prybars, recoiled away from the pod.

The steelglass door’s multiple layers crazed into dust and blew inward. On the rebound, dust bellied back out into the cramped room. Miriam choked, “Get her out!” The three of them cradled the woman from the pod. She hung inert.

Even compared to Miriam, she was tiny. Her face, frosted in front with the steelglass powder, showed mottled pink and white blotches: hemorrhages from the vacuum. Her eyes were shut. Miriam thanked the Ship for that much; the needled dust from the implosion would have shredded the woman’s corneas.

No pulse. Blowing aside dust, Miriam hitched her belt to the woman’s, made airway, powered the oxygen system, jabbed probes through the woman’s skinsuit into her chest for monitoring and cardioversion, and slapped monitor patches on the small head of matted blue-brown hair. Like working on a child. Blood seeped from the probe shafts to darken the grimy, powder-saturated blue cloth.

“She’s dead, and command’s to skin us,” mumbled her helper, loosing his prybar so it hit the outer bulkhead with a clang, “and we a day behind. We’ll call another doc for you. Come on, Ryo.” The two men eased out through the socket room’s sealdoor.

“Hurry!” Miriam yelled after them. She checked her monitor: not a thing. The traces lay as flat as the steel decking. Miriam drew back, slapped the CV button; the woman’s body arched, settled; steelglass dust drifted in a static-charged fog that fell back to silver the woman’s skin again. Still no response. The oxygen system crooned; Miriam smelled the final bowel flux.

“Please, come back,” she muttered, her mind and fingers racing. Four minutes. Bit by bit, the brain was dying. Miriam spat dust and hit the CV button again; the body jerked, twitched, rested. The cranial traces said death.

“White bleeding shit,” she swore. She unhooked herself and her gear. This woman couldn’t have been over twenty-two, her face unlined, her breasts high and small. Twenty-seven light-years and ten millennia, to die here. Her tags read, Carrie Annakouri, Melbourne, Australia, Earth, 2416 CE.

Miriam studied Carrie‘s hands. The right one was chopped in half from the thumb side of the palm to the crease between ring and little fingers, leaving only the little finger attached. In her fight to live, Carrie had sliced herself free from the access door.

At the base of the pod socket, escorted by Carrie‘s hack-knife, the three mangled fingers floated, joined by skin and tendon: a discarded orchid leaking tiny red spheres. Miriam tucked the fingers in Carrie‘s belt pouch, called in, and said, “Need body removal at Pod Bay 36, 468. She’s gone, so cancel any medical calls for this one.” She’d give the rest of her report later.

She took the room-to-room route back to the clinic, the slow way, closing each door with an angry, vicious slam, ramming open the next. Life was impossible here, just like Cape Town, and there was no urgency now.

Last Updated Wednesday, February 28 2024 @ 04:49 pm  92 Hits   
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