July 14th 2023
The sea is so salty on this planet that as I float on my back it feels like I’m swimming in the stars. Below, a dark abyss, above an indigo night, dual-moons grinning across the sky. It’s peaceful. Or it would be, if not for how I ended up here.
The shipwreck lies marooned on the beach behind me, engines whirring erratically in rhythm with the ebb and flow of the waves. Not long until it runs out of juice. Not long until all the lights blink out, leaving me a castaway on a strange planet with only the sand and salt as company.
It is lucky that I descended unscathed. Though I can’t help but feel that the universe is still testing me. My escape pod could have landed anywhere, but instead it followed my destroyed ship down here, so that its form now looms large behind me. An ever present reminder of my failures while I wait for help to come.
It will come. The ship’s systems began to break down just before we breached the planet’s atmosphere. We only just had time to transmit the emergency beacon, to signal our location, but it was too late to do anything else.
My rescuers will arrive eventually, and they will have questions, of course. I should start preparing my answers. Oxygen leak, contaminant, fire. That I had no choice but to jump ship. That everyone else was already dead. That no one else could be saved.
There’s an explosion from behind, lighting the sky amber as the engines finally die. Then, a stillness. The kind that allows dark thoughts in.
Captains are supposed to go down with their ship. But the escape pod was right there. Only space for one.
Only space for one.
I turn, unsure what I’m hoping to see – that some of my crew will walk out of the wreck alive, or that none of them will.
Lyndsey is a Scottish author of strange and speculative fiction, with work published in several magazines and anthologies. She’s a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awardee, British Fantasy Award Finalist, former Hawthornden Fellow, and a LOHF Writers Grant Recipient. Her debut novelette “Have You Decided on Your Question” was published in April 2023 with Shortwave Publishing. Find her on Twitter as @writerlynds or via www.lyndseycroal.co.uk.
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