This was written for Microcosms last week. The prompt was “The Beginning of Loneliness”.
I lived this in a nightmare, once. The most vivid thought I had was “what would get me first – the loneliness or the lack of oxygen”?
“This thing is now buggered beyond repair, you know that, Jack? Completely bust.”
Jack grinned at me slack-jawed from his seat at the console. The eerie silence, which I had woken up to, remained. No hum of electronics or engines soothed my nerves anymore. I tried following the breathing exercises a shrink taught me once as my heart hammered away in my chest. They didn’t work and my breaths became shallower and faster, my head dizzy and light. This was supposed to have been a normal cargo run between two planets. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to fear.
“Damn job!” I cussed. I was never any good at cussing. “I only took this stinking job to send money home, you know, Jack.” He did not answer and I did not blame him. I had told him and the other two crew members the story half a dozen times already. No one wanted to hear about the farm boy who sent money home to his sick parents and siblings. The Fever hit us hard, spared only me. Boohoo.
I strapped myself into my seat and looked out at the great expanse of space stretching out before us. I picked up the radio, tried to see if it would work. Hoping beyond hope. It was dead.
“Mayday,” I said. Jack grinned slack-jawed, his eyes closed. Bastard. Taking the easy way out. I ignored the blood at his temple.
“We’ve run into engine trouble. Nothing’s working. Oxygen levels low.” Bloody Mike and Daniel used the other two bullet. Tears blurred the darkness. “I don’t know what’ll get me first, Jack. The loneliness or lack of oxygen.”