Her breath was steady, rhythmic. Deep in REM sleep, her eyes raced back and forth under closed lids as vital readings from her heads-up-display cast a faint, seafoam-green glow on her face.
She continued like this for a few quiet moments. It was a welcome reprieve from the horrors she had just seen.
Suddenly, her breathing increased in pace. It quickened faster and faster with each inhale, rising like smoke from a growing fire.
Her suit’s onboard monitoring system sounded a repetitive warning beep as the robotic user interface system told her in polite, female-intoned British English, “Warning. Oxygen level at 3%. Estimated time until oxygen depletion: 3 minutes.”
Still, she slept, but whatever rest she felt was over now.
Her breathing was frantic. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead, but the droplets refused to fall. She started to hyperventilate.
“Warning. Oxygen level at 1%. Estimated time until oxygen depletion: 60 seconds.”
Her eyes burst open and continued their frenzied scan as she took in her surroundings. Whatever terror gripped her in her dreams was equaled by what she saw before her:
She was completely alone, drifting silently in the vast emptiness that makes up the majority of outer space. Her only company were the millions of visible stars whose comforting heat was trillions of miles away.
All she could see in her immediate vicinity was the blood. The same vital fluid that she watched erupt from the bodies of her crew before it boiled and turned into clouds of fine crystals. There was so much she was almost swimming in it.
Where are their bodies?! Where is the station!? Where did that fucking thing go?!
She understood calling it a “thing” didn’t make sense because she hadn’t actually seen it, but she didn’t know what else to think. None of them had seen anything. All they knew was that something was there. They could all feel it. To her it felt like caving in, like a tunnel vision of the soul that soon would be reduced to nothing. But she didn’t feel it now. And that terrified her.
Panicked, she spun around wildly, searching both for salvation and for the creature, that presence, whatever it was that somehow wrenched apart the bodies of her crewmates without so much as touching them. Her heart beat in overdrive.
She never thought she’d go out like this. Flailing into the night and shitfaced on a cocktail of pitiful desperation and throat-clenching fear.
Jesus Christ I don’t want to fucking die. I don’t want to fucking die. Not like this.
She was always stoic about death, always compartmentalized the passing of every loved one. Stored all her thoughts and emotions in a locked box that was purposefully placed on the highest shelf of her memory to ensure she could never reach it again.
After two decades of travelling tens of lightyears throughout the universe, she had accumulated a lot of boxes up on that dusty rack. And for a brief second she considered how, if she managed to live, she’d have to add six more.
That thought killed her. 33 seconds.
Tears formed at the corners of her eyes and welled up. Tears she couldn’t wipe away.
Oh my god I’m really going to di–
“–Do you want me to save youuu?”
The voice sounded like someone had just whispered directly into her ear, their hot breath that stank of rot brushing her cheek as the words rattled around in her skull. She reflexively checked her comms system even though she knew she was the last one left alive.
“Just saaay the worrrd,” the voice gurgled and sizzled.
Don’t reply, don’t reply. It’s that fucking thing. It’s fucking with you. It wants you to give in.
“I’m reeeal, Commander Morgaaan. I’m hereee to heeelp. Youuu just have to say iiiiiit.”
“Warning. Oxygen level at 0%. Refill oxygen tanks immediately.”
She gasped for air that wasn’t there. It was agony.
The absence of oxygen scorched her lungs like lava, burning a hole in her chest.
Don’t fucking say it. DON’T FUCKING SAY ANYTHING. IT WANTS YOU TO BEG.
Her vision blurred as her body combusted. It was the worst physical pain she had ever felt in her entire life. Images of her crew, her friends, and her daughter being shredded, their final screeches of pain ripping through her radio, begging for someone to save them, begging for death, begging for mercy until she turned them off and closed her eyes because she couldn’t bear to hear and watch them die.
She was about to pass out.
Save me…please. Just make it...stop. Make...it...stop. Make...
She closed her eyes.
“Oxygen level 100%.”
She inhaled deeply as air flowed through her lungs like a raging river, washing away the pain. She took dozens more. The fire was put out, but her lungs felt charred.
She blinked slowly, her vision still cloudy from the hypoxia, her head throbbing.
She felt a gentle tug on her right hand, the way a small child would sweetly pull at you, give you puppy dog eyes, and ask if they could have some ice cream, pretty please?
Her eyes finally adjusted and as she dizzily turned to look, her arm was shorn off. She screamed as blood burst from her socket and boiled then froze just like before.
Adrenaline coursed through her body as she yanked her head away from the gore to look directly in front of her.
It felt like her soul was being choked out, but there was nothing there.
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