Silence. Absolute silence. The sort of silence a deaf man would hear.
Cold. Intense, bitter cold, gripping my entire body in an icy embrace.
Pain. Prickling, throbbing pain all over me as blood vessels broke the surface of my skin.
I squinted at the asteroid in front of me, my eyes screaming with pressure they were never meant to be under. It seemed so close, yet was several miles away from me, and between us yawned an infinite chasm of twinkling blackness.
Deja Vu. I’d done this a couple times before. Never voluntarily of course. You don’t know agoraphobia until you spend a conscious moment exposed in the void. I might have liked to hyperventilate, but of course I couldn’t. You can flap your diaphragm all you want in space, but you won’t be doing anything other than burning what little oxygen you have in your blood, and reminding yourself of just how fast you’re going to suffocate.
I awakened, gasping, sitting straight up on a cloud. Ok, not exactly a cloud, but everything was white enough to be a cloud. The bed I was on, the clothes I was in, the blankets, the walls, the floor, the overhead lights, everything. For a second, I thought heaven was real and they had made a mistake in letting me in.
Thank God, it was just a dream. I felt my throat and breathed deeply, reveling in the air moving in an out of my lungs. Then I looked around frantically. Where the hell was I?
There was a door to my left. It looked heavily armored, and there were several bolt-lock security systems on it. I couldn’t be sure, but I suspected that I was a prisoner here. Also to my left, but much closer to me, there was a table at arms-length, upon which rested my lighter, what remained of my pack of cigs, and the envelope with Amilan Severs written on it. Everything that had been on my person when I had been in my ship. Well, at least they didn’t seem to be treating me too badly for a prisoner. I wasn’t restrained, and they were letting me keep my personal affects.
Was this the Outpost? I didn’t even remember docking.
There was a high pitched whine of grinding gears, and the door hissed open, admitting a tall, twenty-something year old man in a crisp, steel-gray uniform. At least I assumed it was a uniform. He certainly wore it like a military man, and I was pretty confident that this was a military outpost, so it would seem to fit. He walked up to my bed with a brisk, disciplined stride. “You are Thomas Jeck, correct?”
His manner was formal, but his dark eyes held an unaccountable look of hatred that I didn’t understand. “Yes.”
“What is your purpose here in the forty-third district?”
I inclined my head toward the envelope on the table. “I’ve been charged with taking that envelope to a General Amilan Severs.”
His eyes widened slightly with fury. “So then you are in the pay of the Solar Empire!” he whispered intensely, his lips tightening to reveal his teeth.
I snorted. “No of course not. Do I look like military to you? I’m just an adventurous guy with a cargo ship. I carry stuff for people. This time I’m carrying a letter.”
“And who sent that letter?”
“Be damned if I know. His first name was George but I don’t know his surname or anything about him.”
“George,” The man in gray repeated thoughtfully. “Like George Temris?”
I hesitated. George Temris was a pretty well known man in the political spheres. He was one of the members of congress. The coincidence hadn’t dawned on me before, but a coincidence it must be. Certainly they would have not risked the safety or even the inconvenience of someone of Temris’s import in order to deliver a simple document, especially to the hand of a mere criminal. But then, politics had never been my strong suit. “Pfft, I don’t know. Maybe.” I reached for the pack of cigs, pulling one out. “How did I get here? I don’t remember anything.”
“You can’t smoke in here,” The man said sharply. “And you were unconscious when you arrived. Your guidance system docked for you, and we found you knocked out. That was fortunate for you, because we were prepared to kill you when you stepped off that craft. But you never did. We had to carry you out.”
Oh yeah, the nausea. I remembered vomiting until I thought I would turn myself inside out. At some point over that thirteen hour deceleration I must have just passed out cold. I shuddered remembering it, and jabbed the cig reluctantly back into the box. “So now what?”
The hatred glinted in his eyes again. “Now you stay here until General Severs arrives. And then you can thank him for keeping you alive so long. When we saw the envelope we contacted him, and he said to preserve you until he comes. If it weren’t for that, you’d be drifting in the void by now.” He smiled horribly under a cold, dark stare of disgust. “But don’t get too comfortable. As soon as Severs is through with you, we will kill you anyway, outsider.” He turned on his heel and exited the room.
Outsider, eh? Interesting. Coming from an Oort Cloud barbarian, that seemed a little strange. It was they who were “outside” the solar system, and the generally accepted civilization of men. Not that I gave a damn. As far as I was concerned, both the empire and the coalition could disappear and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings.
Well, crap. I had known that entry to the outpost would be difficult. I had expected them to be suspicious and paranoid, but I hadn’t expected outright xenophobia. It might be tougher than I thought to extricate myself from this position.
I wondered how long I had before Severs arrived.
My entry for the prompt “Chasm” on Rachael Ritchey’s #blogbattle.
Quick question for all of you… Do you think I should have used the word “suddenly” when Thomas wakes up from the dream? I’ve read that you should never use the word “suddenly” but it seemed more confusing to me without it… what are your thoughts? Did you feel confused? Or was it just right?
Copyright 2016 Grace Petrelli