The Home, Part 5: Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 4 here.

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The Home, Part 5

At five till two, the staff that was going to the meeting were already in the conference room. The security guard had the door open while Ralph made a big scene getting broom, trashbags, mop, and water-filled bucket through the door into the lobby. Mike was trailing along with the buffer. Edna had a stack of buffer pads. I stood at the door with a clipboard and pen. “Okay,” I said as I made check marks on the paper. I smiled at the guard, who was glaring at the four of us. “That’s everything. Thank you, Austin, for holding the door for us.”

Austin wasn’t happy, and he grunted in what sounded like disgust. “Just get on with it,” he said. “We’re not supposed to have the door open this long.”

“Of course. Just let them put the stuff down. Shall I hold the door while you go with them?” I smiled sweetly, doing my best not to let my excitement show. This was going to work!

He looked with alarm at the other three, steadily marching toward the front door. “Yes. Yes.” He hurried across the lobby. “Hey. Stop right there.”

I slipped out into the lobby and let the door close behind me, holding it so it barely snicked as the lock caught. I rushed across the floor. Ralph put the bucket down, dropped everything but the broom and shoved the handle end of it right into Austin’s chest.

Edna all but threw the buffer pads to the side and Mike let go of the buffer. I really expected a horrendous scream from Austin but he was making little mewing sounds instead, eyes wide in shock. Mike and Edna ran for the front door. I grabbed Ralph by the arm. “Come on.” He was standing, staring at Austin, hands still on the broom handle. “Let’s go!”

He nodded, releasing the broom and took two steps then went back.

“What are you doing?”

“Keys.” He dropped to his knees beside Austin, still making those noises, and searched his pants pockets. Ralph pulled car keys from the left pocket. “Got ‘em.” He rose and ran to the door Mike was holding open.

I don’t know about the others, but outside in the sun I was nearly blind. “This way,” Edna called. We followed her to the parking lot. I had my hand over my eyes, looking through the spaces between my fingers.

Ralph was holding the key fob out, pressing the unlock button until we heard the car horn of a newer model four-door sedan. To say we ran was an understatement. Ralph took the driver’s seat. Edna was front passenger. Mike and I slid into the back seat. “Let’s go!” Mike yelled.

That’s when a klaxon began to sound. “Hurry!” I yelled. I looked out of the car windows. That noise was going to bring the neighbors. But there weren’t any neighbors. There were no other buildings within sight.

The car tires squealed as Ralph floored the gas and pulled out of the parking space. Security was running out of the building.

“They’re going to catch us!” Edna yelled.

“Not if I can help it.” Ralph had both hands on the wheel, white knuckled.

I slid back into the seat and put on my seat belt. We were already going so fast I was scared to death. Mike saw what I was doing and did the same. “Look out!”

One of the security guards was just about at the parking lot. We just had to get past him and we’d be able to drive down the driveway and out of here.

Edna covered her eyes. It looked like we were going to hit the guard. I held my breath. At this speed, Ralph might lose control of the car if we collided with the guard. We brushed by it, it’s hand out. I could hear it thump against the rear window, right in front of Mike’s face.

“Hoo!” Ralph yelled. “We made it!”

We were at the edge of the parking lot, driving onto the access road. That’s when I saw the shimmer. “What’s that?”

“What?” Ralph asked.

Then we hit it.

I woke up in the infirmary, sick to my stomach and fuzzy-headed. Some noise was piercing my brain and I just wanted it to stop.

It was coming from my right. I turned my head to look. It was Ralph. A monitor beside him was screaming, a bright green flat line running across the middle of it. A monster came to Ralph’s bedside, made a note on an electronic pad, then turned the monitor off. He pulled the sheet up over Ralph’s face. He noticed me watching, then left.

Ralph dead? How? Then I remembered the car. We were out! What? I was trying to get my brain to function when Dr. Jenkins appeared at my bed. “Laurie. How are you feeling?”

“What happened?”

“You and your friends tried to escape.” He took a pad from the monster I saw cover Ralph. “You had your seat belt on. That saved you.” Jenkins shook his head. “Your friend Edna died on impact.” He stared into my eyes. “I know you planned this. Now two of your friends are gone.”

“Mike?” I asked.

“He’s been transferred to another facility.”

Sadness and grief came over me like a mountain crashing down on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I could feel tears leaking from the corners of my eyes and running down my face into my ears. They were all gone?

“I’ve called for your son.”

A small bright spot of hope. “Stan is coming?” It was so hard to focus. What kind of drugs had they given me?

“He’ll be here this evening.” With that he handed the pad back to the other monster and left.

I drifted in and out of sleep. They brought me a tray, but I couldn’t face the glop that they’d served. My stomach rolled and I pushed it away. I fell back to sleep. I woke up to voices in the hall. Was that Stan? I tried to focus on the conversation.

“What happened?”

“She led an escape.”

“Escape? How’d you let that happen?”

That was Stan’s voice. What did he mean by that?

“Your mother is very smart. It was a long-term plan and she and her friends carried it off beautifully. The training said humans were smart. They were right.”

“How is she now?”

Ah, that was my boy.

“She’s fine. She had a seat-belt on. Right now we have her heavily sedated.”

“Can she talk?”

“Yes. I told her you were coming.”

“Fine. Let’s go in.

I tried to wake up more. Of course they’d drugged me. Monsters. I just wanted to see my son. I tried to focus as they entered the bay. There he was. He must have come straight from work. He was still in his suit and tie.

“Stan?”

“Yes, Mother.”

I reached out for his hand. “Stan. Get me out of here.”

“We can’t do that, Mother.”

I looked up at his face. Tears began to flow as I saw at his gray-green skin.

Thank you for reading The Home.

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The Home, Part 4: Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 3 here.

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The Home, Part 4

The next morning, over the watered-down oatmeal, we put our heads together. “I’ve been awake most of the night, thinking about what we can do to get out of here. We should become trusty’s.”

“What’s that,” Edna asked.

“Trusted inmates,” Ralph said.

Mike nodded. “We become the best inmates ever. No complaining, no causing trouble.”

“Tattling on the others.” Ralph sighed. “I don’t like that part.”

“If we don’t, they aren’t going to trust us.”

“Maybe we can just report minor stuff, that wouldn’t get people in trouble.”

Edna was soft-hearted. I had to sigh. “Sure. Just as long as they buy that we’re now docile as sheep.”

It took us months. Winter came and went. Spring was in full swing. “Time to put this into play.”

“Good,” Mike said. He was much sharper than he had been last summer. He was off of all of the meds they’d been giving him. “What’s the plan?”

I looked around the room. We’d ticked off all of the other inmates. None of them would even look at us anymore. We were safe to talk. “We get outside of the security door. Ralph, you offer to mop the floor out there. We’ll all do something that takes us out there or that puts us near the door. Once we’re there, open the door and we’ll get out.”

“What about the guard?” Edna looked scared.

“We’ll take care of the alien.” I had just about all of the kowtowing I could stand. If I had to run the gray-green skinned monster through with the mop handle, I was going to do it.”

“Does anyone know where we are? How do we get to a town?”

I shrugged. “There has to be a parking lot and cars. We’ll figure something out.”

All three of them nodded. They were as sick of being meek as I was.

After breakfast I went to Dr. Jenkin’s office. I’d become his personal assistant. I’d had to explain the concept to him but once he understood, he latched on to me like a leech. I fetched him coffee, retrieved reports from the printer, did his laundry, and any other menial task he could think up. Once he realized I was a former counsellor, I was even allowed to type up patient notes. I’d found out about every one of the inmates here. Every single one could see that the staff were alien. I’d learned how to make myself so handy, that the staff began to talk in front of me.

They knew we could see them. It was some kind of immunity, the way they talked about it. People who weren’t immune, could only see them as regular humans. I told the others, of course. It made everything so clear. My boy didn’t hate me, he just didn’t realize what was going on. I needed to get out and warn him. Him and his family.

In the meantime, the residents here were being gaslighted into thinking they were crazy, that there were no aliens. I ran into Edna on a trip to fetch coffee for Jenkins. She was washing woodwork in the hall. “Hey.”

She looked around and replied. “Hey. How’s it going?”

“Good. Jenkins is having a staff meeting at two. That’s when we make our move.”

“I’ll pass the word.”

I went on my way. Having Edna in the halls was a life-saver. She could pass messages between us easily. I found Mike in the kitchen. He’d been taken on as kitchen drudge. While he put cups away, I grabbed one and gave him the word.

“I’ll be ready. Maybe take a pot of coffee to Jenkin’s office?”

“Good idea. I’ll be waiting.” I left with the coffee on a tray with some cookies. Jenkins loved cookies. That would put him in a good mood the rest of the day. I still had to figure out how to get Ralph outside the security door.

“Dr. Jenkins, coffee.” I put the tray down on a side table, then poured him a cup. I put that, and a napkin with three cookies on it, on the desk, close to his hand.

“Thank you, Laurie.” He picked up a cookie and munched on it. “Umm, that is so good.”

I swear the monster began to purr. “Um, as I was walking by the outer door, I noticed the floor out there is in a real state. Not a good impression at all when visitors come in.”

He sipped his coffee. “Well. Yes, you’re right. I’ll have someone clean that up.” He started to go back to his reports.

“I can tell Ralph. I swear he’s a genius with that buffer. Did you see the dayroom floor? It’s like glass.”

He looked up. “I don’t…”

“Don’t you worry. I’ll tell him. You don’t have to look after every little detail.” I started to leave the office. “Oh.” I turned around just at the door. “I don’t want him to be in the way of the staff. When would be a good time for him to get cleaning?” Then I waited, all innocence.

I could see him struggle with the decision. I knew he didn’t want Ralph out there. But there were guards. Come on, come on. Say two o’clock.

“Have him do it at two, while I’m having the staff meeting.”

“Good idea.” I had to restrain myself. I didn’t want to look too enthused. “Should I tell Security?”

“No. I’ll do that. You just tell Ralph.”

“Yes, Sir. I’ll do that right now.” I could feel my heart beating against my ribcage as I left the office. This was going to work!

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The Home, Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 2 here.

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The Home, Part 3

Ralph and Mike waved. I waved back.

In the doctor’s office the guard motioned me to sit down.

Jenkins nodded to me. “Mrs. Nathan.”

“Doctor.” He wasn’t too bad as the aliens went. At least he could speak clearly.

“You took a walk this afternoon.”

I waited. Let him ask me a question. I wasn’t going to give up anything I didn’t have to.

He fiddled with his pen.

If he thought I’d be uncomfortable with a long silence, he was wrong. I had been a counsellor and knew all the tricks of the trade. I folded my hands in my lap and waited in the blessed quiet.

The clock on the wall behind him ticked off the seconds. Loud in the quiet room.

“Why did you leave the dayroom, Laurie?”

Score one for me. He spoke first. And now he was trying the friendly familiarity tact. When I entered I was Mrs. Nathan. “What do you mean?” I put on an innocent face. I was having fun for a change.

“The staff tell me they found you in your room.”

I shrugged. “I don’t recall.”

He tapped his pen on the desk top and took a deep breath. “Now, Laurie. Let’s not be difficult. What’s the problem today? It’s not like you to be a trouble-maker.”

“I could use another blanket on my bed.” If I had to be in here, let’s see if I could get something out of it.”

“Perhaps you were confused?”

“I’m not confused. I’m old.”

Jenkins wrote a note in his book, glancing up at me as he wrote. “We’ll see about another blanket.”

Well! I was surprised at the quick capitulation. “Thank you.”

He nodded and checked his file. “You’ve been with us six months now. How are you enjoying your stay?”

I did my best not to grind my teeth. Enjoying my stay? Did he think this was a resort? “I’d rather be home.” Who knows. Maybe he’d listen.

“Hmmm.” He flipped though the file. “It says here you were having difficulty at home alone.”

“No. I wasn’t.”

It was his turn to shrug. “Your son thought so, Laurie. You were falling, unable to keep your home tidy.”

“That’s not a crime, last I knew.”

“But it is a health and safety issue. Your son was very worried about you.”

“So I can check out at any time?”

His head slowly shook. “I’m afraid not. Your son signed you in. Don’t you remember?”

I did remember. I was furious with Stan. I told him it was just a cold. I was fine but he insisted that I needed full-time care. I had been helpless because I’d made him my health proxy after my husband died. For just in case. Now I was here. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“You’re seventy-eight, Laurie. It’s time for you to relax and let others take care of you.”

“I can take care of myself.” I clenched my hands into fists. He didn’t answer and that made me even more furious.

“We can’t have you wandering around, Laurie. I think a few micrograms of benzodiazepine would be appropriate. To keep you calm.”

“I’m calm enough.”

Jenkins nodded but pushed a button on his phone. The door opened and the goon who’d dragged me in here came in and stood behind my chair.

“Carl. Please take Mrs. Nathan back to the dayroom. There’ll be a new prescription for her in the file.”

Carl, if that was its real name, put a hand on my shoulder. My skin crawled. The interview did not end the way I had hoped.

“Laurie, we’ll talk again.”

I snorted. Some talk. I stood up as Carl squeezed my shoulder. I jerked it away form him and marched out of the office ahead of the goon. I plopped into my chair. When the goon left, Edna, Ralph, and Mike leaned over to look at me.

“What happened,” Edna whispered just loud enough to be heard over the noise box.

“I lost. The so-called Doctor Jenkins prescribed something to keep me calm.”

Ralph looked horrified. Mike and Edna were concerned. “Oh, no,” Edan cried out.

I had my arms crossed in front of me to control my shaking. I didn’t want to end up like Ralph, drooling and mindless most of the day. “My own fault, walking in there with an attitude.”

Mike asked, “What did he say?”

“He said I can’t sign myself out, for one thing.” My knee started bouncing. “I was sick when my son signed me in. I’m fine now. I could go home.” The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. What was wrong with Stan, signing me into this pit?

Edna put a hand on my arm. “I’m so sorry, Laurie.”

I hated the comfort her hand on my arm gave me. I wanted to be angry. “Can you see that all of the staff are aliens?” I asked it suddenly. I wanted confirmation that they saw what I did.

All three of them looked around in alarm.

“Shh.” Mike put a finger over his lips. “They’ll hear!”

Ralph looked sick. I wondered if he was going to throw up.

“So you see it, too?”

They all nodded but were keeping their eyes down.

“We need to do something,” I said.

If anything, Ralph looked even more sick.

“Do what?” Edna asked. “We’re helpless in here.”

Mike and Ralph nodded.

“Crap!” I put a hand on my knee to keep it from jumping up and down. “The first thing we have to do is stop taking their miserable drugs. They’re making us stupid.”

Ralph brightened. He was always better in the afternoon. “How?”

I grinned at him. “I don’t know. They’re pretty diligent about making us swallow those pills.”

“We’d have to make sure we act as though we took them.” Edna stared at the ceiling.

“Docile.” Mike nodded. “Not too active.”

“But then what?” Ralph asked.

“We get out of here. I’ve had enough.”

All three nodded.

I sat back in my chair. We had a team. Now we needed a plan.

Return next week for Part 4.

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The Home, Part 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post


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You can find Part 1 here.

The Home Part 2

After lunch was a dull time. They passed out tiny cups with pills. Designed to keep us quiet I thought. When I first arrived, I threw the pills at the four-armed jailers, but that just made them hold me down and force the pills into my mouth. Eventually I gave up resisting as a waste of time. I wasn’t even annoying them, and I hated being forced.

The screen blasted more depressing images. I’d like to read a book, in a quiet place, a view out of the window of a broad, green lawn, a pond or stream in the distance. Not going to happen. I’ve never even seen windows in this hell hole.

I thought about Ralph’s question at lunch. How did I get here? Is everything I remember a lie? No. Wait. I remembered the pudding from lunch. I could taste the rich chocolate. My husband died years ago. My son graduated from high school as valedictorian, from college as Magna cum Laude. He was a famous engineer, had a beautiful wife. Wait! I have tow grandsons, lovely boys, smart as whips. They were real, right? There were pictures in my cell of my boy and his family. Even of my husband and me at the beach. Right?

I began to panic. There were pictures, weren’t there? I wanted to get up and go check but the monsters didn’t like us to get out of our chairs. I looked around. The afternoon jailer was at a desk, pretending to do something. I really wanted to check for those pictures. Glancing at the monster, I got up.

Enda gasped, “Laura!”

“Shh!” I took one step. Then another. Ralph and Mike stared, open-mouthed. I went slowly down the row of captives. Each of them reacted to my escape with raised eyebrows, gasps, and even holding out their hands as though asking for help to go with me. I ignored them all and kept moving. As I cleared the end of the row, the last woman made a sound.

“Shhh,” I hissed at her.

She stared, wide-eyed as I checked the goon at the desk. It looked to me like it was asleep but who knew. As quietly as I could, I continued on to the door and slipped outside.

The hallway led to several so-called treatment rooms. Then a cross-corridor to the right which led to the rooms. That’s where I stopped and checked to the right. That direction was where the doctor’s offices were. I knew that because they took me down there once a week to talk to the doctors. If you could call it talking. Most of them spoke gibberish. They tried to speak English, but they weren’t any smarter than the gray-green horrors who tortured us every day.

It was against the rules to go down that hall without an escort. That’s because that was also the way out. I eyed the end of the hall. The security door was closed but through the window I could see the guard on-duty. It was talking to another one of the aliens. Good. It was busy and not looking in this direction. As fast as I could, I hurried to my room. It was down this hall, left into another corridor, and eight doors down on the left.

In some demented show of care, they made us create a picture that had our name on it to hang on the door. I smirked when I reached my door and saw it. I’d drawn myself, right middle finger up and a scowl on my face. Maybe the jailers knew what it meant, maybe not. I didn’t care.

Room. Hah. More like a cell. The single bed was hard and the blanket, thin. I hurried to my dresser. On top were my pictures. I picked up the one of me and my husband—yes, us at the beach, and gave a sigh of relief. I’d remembered correctly. Placing it back where it belonged, I looked at the other pictures of my son, his family. They were real. I wasn’t crazy.

The cell door opened. One of the guards stood there making disapproving noises. It grabbed me and strong-armed me back to the day room. After popping me into my chair, it went over to the room guard. Even though it was their language, I could tell it was getting chewed out.

“Oh, Laurie! That monster is going to have it out for you now.” Edna patted my arm. “What did you do?”

“It was worth it. I went to see the pictures on my dresser.”

Edna looked at me, her eyes wide. “What for?”

“To make sure I remembered them correctly.” I grinned. “I did. The monsters haven’t broken me yet.”

Edna shook her head. “What made you think that?”

“Ralph’s comments at lunch. You know. How did we get here? I was starting to think I was imagining my life before this hell hole.”

Edna patted my arm again. “I know. Some days I wonder if this had been my whole life.” She sighed. “Those are the bad days.”

I clasped her hand. “Tell me when you get those days. We’ll tell each other our stories.”

A tear glistened in her eye. “Thank you, Laurie. You’re a good friend.”

Two boring hours passed, the damn screen blaring inanities, when a guard appeared in front of me. “Doctor Jenkins wants to see you,” it said, nearly clearly.

“Fine.” I got out of the chair.

“Good luck,” Edna called out as I walked away.

The Home, Part 3 will appear next week.

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The Home, Part 1: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts.jpg from Deposit Photos

I wrote this for a project that fell through and I just felt that it shouldn’t go to waste. So here it is.

Part 1

“Let me go!” I yelled as the four-armed witch grabbed me up out of my chair. Anyway, I think it was a she, who could really tell? Its gray-green skin was paler than some of the others. She shoved me into today’s first torture of the day—the showers.

Today it was too hot. It was always blasting my skin. Tenderizing it I guess for the next step—squirting foul-smelling slime all over me, then sand-papering my whole body before re-blasting me with hot water.

The witch shoved me into a new prisoner’s smock and forced me back to my chair. My hair dripped water onto the smock. An unintentional torture, I think. They’d cut my hair nearly to the scalp when I’d first arrived. It still had enough length to hold water though. Now I could sit, shivering in this cold day-room until it dried.

At first I’d tried to ask for a blanket but I’d given up after several days. They chittered something that sounded like, “soon”, but it never happened. So now I just wrapped my arms around myself and shivered.

Next to me, Edna, who’d gone through her turn before me, leaned over. “Cold or hot?”

“Hot.”

“The witch used a brush on me.” Edna shook her head. “I’m surprised I have any skin left.”

I nodded. Like I said, a new torture every day. The current one was in front of us. A large screen showed pictures of death and destruction. The sound was too loud, and I couldn’t understand it. I think it was meant to demoralize us with the horrible pictures and the sound. It kept us from talking to each other—we couldn’t hear.

A new alien came by, one I hadn’t seen before, and wrapped a wide rope around my arm. I hated this. It began to swell up, tighter and tighter until I wanted to scream. I wouldn’t give these monsters the satisfaction. It chirped something at me—who could tell with the screen blasting—and took the rope away. It was Edna’s turn and like me, she wouldn’t give it the satisfaction. She rubbed her arm when it left.

“I don’t know what the purpose of that is. I mean, if they want to take off my arm, why don’t they just do it?” She sniffed and craned her head around to see her arm. “Look.” She pointed at her arm. “A big red spot. Like it started then changed its mind.”

“Monsters,” I said. I’d had those same spots on my arm.

We stared at the big screen in shared misery. Ralph, sitting beside Edna, was weeping while he mumbled to himself. He was here when I arrived. He sat with me and Edna at feeding time. Past Ralph was Michael. Mike didn’t ever say much. He was an old-timer here too. A few weeks ago, he’d started a riot in here. He struggled out of his chair and began yelling and throwing things.

It took three of the gray-skinned monsters to subdue him. Then they gave him a shot of something that knocked him out till the next morning. Now they gave him a pill that made him stare into space, drooling and glassy-eyed.

At feeding time the monsters walked us to what passed for a dining room. They slapped paper plates on the table in front of us. I sighed as I eyed the pasty-looking gray mass on the plate. Another torture.

I didn’t think these aliens were very smart. The slime on the plate looked something like real food but it tasted as bad as it looked, if it tasted like anything at all. I sighed and picked up my spoon. They didn’t provide forks or knives.

“I don’t know why I’m here,” Ralph said.

Edna and I stared. Even Mike turned to look.

“I mean, how did this happen?” His face was so sad, his eyes confused. “This isn’t what I expected.”

I nodded. “None of us did, Ralph.”

Even Michael nodded.

I ate a spoonful of the slop. Today it was tasteless. At the end of our dining experience, supposed pudding cups were passed around. When I opened it, it was brown. Supposed chocolate. About all I could say for it was that it was smooth. I remembered chocolate pudding from my childhood. Whole milk, hot, with real chocolate and cornstarch whisked into it. Then a dollop of real butter at the end with that rich smelling vanilla. I could have eaten the whole panful if momma would have let me. She always put plastic wrap over the top, right on the pudding, so it wouldn’t develop that thick skin.

I realized tears were running down my face and I wiped them away before the others saw. Especially the monsters. Never let them see you in pain, is what I always said.

Part 2 next week.

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Letters Home: Flash Fiction Friday

“Time to eat, Marie.”

“Be right there.” I hit the record button. “I just want to tell you how much I love you and miss you, Vera. I know your Aunt Lucy is taking good care of you. Your mom, out.” I hit the stop button and lightly stroked the data cube with the picture of my daughter. With a sigh, I got up and went into the ship’s small dining space.

“Sorry,” I slid into the chair. I was the last one at the table.

“You know she’s grown, dead and gone, right?”

I stared at Burt Aston, navigator for our research vessel, The Albatross. “I know, Burt. Telling me every meal isn’t helpful.” The man was on my last nerve. What was it to him if I wanted to send messages to my long dead daughter? To me, it had only been two years. I saw her as a smiling ten-year-old, hair in pigtails and knees skinned. I clenched my teeth together and turned to the Captain, John Marsh. The ship’s pilot, John was the picture of the laconic, southern pilot from the twentieth century.

John raised an eyebrow at Burt but gave me a tiny nod of understanding. I was good. I wouldn’t try to kill Burt today, at any rate. Arabella brought the food to the table. As our biologist, Arabella had set up a hydroponics garden in half of a storage bay. The casserole smelled wonderful and my mouth began to water as my stomach growled.

Wendy Fernald, astrophysicist and her husband Roy, leaned forward to enjoy the aroma. “I think you’ve outdone yourself again, Ary.” Roy grinned at her as she sat down. Plates and spoons were already on the table. John nodded to Ary and picked up the serving spoon. With the precision of an engineer, John scooped the casserole in six identically sized servings onto the six plates. Burt eyed everyone else’s food.

I had to bite my tongue. We were all hungry. His overt checking of portion sizes ticked me off. “Wendy, have you found anything today?” John sipped some water then took a tiny bite of food.

That was the way to do it. Eat slowly, give your stomach a chance to feel full. Not the way Burt shoveled it in. Then he sat, watching every bite each of us took. I took a breath and sipped some water. I needed to calm down and enjoy my only meal of the day. Stressing over Burt Aston wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

“Burt and I have been studying the debris field. We can see the eddies where some debris is sucked into our black hole neighbor faster than in other spots. The Albatross seems to be in a dead spot. We’re not drifting into the hole but we still can’t seem to get out, either. If I had to guess, I’d say a tiny bit of anti-matter is holding us.”

The Captain nodded. How about you, Roy, any good samples today?” He took another tiny bite of food.

Roy wiped his mouth with his napkin and nodded. “Sucked in some manganese, phosphorous and the usual amount of iron. I gave the first two to Arabella for the hydroponics. I’m storing the iron for future use.”

“What future use?” Burt snarled. He threw his napkin on his plate. Arabella can keep on stretching our rations with the Swiss Chard and tomatoes, you can keep on storing iron but we’re stuck here and never getting out. We should face facts. All of this studying and planting is getting us nowhere. We’ve been here a year and food is running out. We’re going to die here.”

Arabella cocked an eyebrow. “Well. Aren’t you Mister Rainbows and Unicorns today?” She stared over the rim of her water glass at him.

The two of them had been sniping at each other for the last month. They’d been lovers up until then but my personal opinion was that she was as sick of his attitude as I was.

“Let’s keep it civil, everyone,” John said in a low voice. “We keep looking for a way out.” He looked around the table, catching each person’s eye. “We stay busy. We use what we find, find new uses for old stuff and keep doing our best to save ourselves.” He looked at Arabella. “Nice dinner. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Ary picked up her fork and stared at Burt as she deliberately ate a tiny bit of food.

“Marie? Anything?”

I brought my attention back to John. “I’ve been giving a lot of thought to Wendy’s eddies. If we think of those eddies like currents in the ocean, maybe we can push the ship into one that’s heading away from the black hole.”

“We’ve tried moving the ship before, Marie.” Burt slapped his hand on the table. “All we did was stir up the debris field.”

“Maybe. That was a year ago before we knew about the eddies.”

“We don’t know what’s holding us in place.” The Captain leaned forward. “You have a plan?”

“I think we can deploy one of the shuttles on an arm, look around and see what’s actually around the ship. Then develop a plan to release ourselves.”

John nodded. “I like it. First thing in the morning.”

The Captain insisted on sitting in the shuttle’s pilot seat while Wendy and I were glued to the window and the monitors. Wendy pointed to the shuttle’s right. “That’s a black hole, right there.” I pointed at the monitors. “See the waves? Electro-magnetic.” I grinned.

“What?” John said.

“We make the ship the opposite magnetic charge. We’ll get shoved out of here so fast we won’t know what happened.”

John and Wendy started laughing. Tears ran down our faces. We were going home.

 

Thank You!

966 Words

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