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Millennium Burning Pt. I

By Jessica Bowman
On March 1, 2019

The acrid smell of sulfur permeated the air. There was a steady beeping sound coming from the oxygen monitor. Calc couldn’t see anything farther than his own stretched-out hand, but the lights of the machines glowed red and green eyes in the shadows. It was the only thing that let him know he was still alive.

Not for long. Any moment Calc knew his oxygen could cut out for no other reason than faulty wiring. Any moment Calc knew the Sardax could come back and finish the job they started. It was bad enough they thought they owned the galaxy, they showed their true colors when they obliterated Calc’s crew members. He wasn’t even their captain, yet he still felt responsible. Truth be told, Calc was only the engineer. The only reason he survived was because the boiler room held a lot of hiding holes.

Calc squeezed his hairy knuckles into a fist. No man left alone. Fight until you win, or you die. These were the principles Calc’s crew, his entire race, held themselves to when savaging the galaxy for a new world. They never wanted this. But efficient energy had to run out sometime. The world they inhabited had to face overpopulation, and nuclear war eventually, right?

That was fifty years ago. Calc reminded himself. That won’t help me now. Their people had failed. He had failed. He was one of those chosen to lead an expedition to find his people a new home, not the space junk they were currently floating in with no direction.

Calc leaned his head back against the glass and it made a slight clunk as his weight collided with it. He looked out at the universe beyond him. It was dark, impossibly dark. He thought he had seen nighttime back on his home planet, but this was entirely different. This wasn’t just night, this was infinity. Twinkles of stars layered on top of each other like child’s glitter glue, occasionally one of them would flare up a smidgen brighter than before, then dimmer again.

This was his home. His native galaxy, which, much to Calc’s surprise, felt extremely alien. Calc checked the meter on his oxygen tank again, one of the only things still working in this ransacked spacecraft. It was still on low. He resisted the urge to breathe in and sigh out deeply. Keeping his breath maintained was a part of conserving oxygen. Not that it mattered much anymore. Calc couldn’t even find a communicator he could reconfigure to broadcast a distress signal.

The Dawn, the ship to which two hundred thousand people had pledged their compliance, had sent out a long distress call upon the first ambush. It lasted for about twenty minutes before the Sardax destroyed their radio transmissions. From looking out the window Calc could almost see the giant red lettering which adorned the side of the ship. “The Dawn”. She was supposed to be a new hope; a new horizon for the trans-prime ape race to set their sights on. So much for that.

Calc looked a little too far to the side and he found he could see the faintest shadow of his reflection in the window. Protruded jaw, hairy over brow, disheveled appearance like he hadn’t been groomed in weeks. Calc could still remember when his partner had last combed through the thick hair on his head and pushed it down into the nape of his neck. He had felt new then, like a good appearance could solve all their problems. That was weeks ago in fact, before Calc had been sent off as a member of this expedition.

Calc saw himself now and noticed the side of his partner that was so similar to Calc it was the reason they were often mistaken for brothers. His large brow scrunched over his features, worrying to high heaven. Calc remembered seeing those same worried eyes and brow line on his partner as their daughter climbed his back and they waved from the docking station. Calc hadn’t allowed himself to look away until the metal doors to The Dawn whooshed shut. He wanted to remember everything he could.

Nothing, not even that memory, had been enough to remember what their faces looked like until Calc viewed his own. He choked back on a sob and looked away from the window and its dark fantasy.

He was bound here, in this broken metal shell. Even if he could get his communicator to work, he would run out of oxygen. Even if he could transfer the last of the oxygen to an escape pod it would run out before he could get anywhere close to help. There was no escape, there was no getting back to his family.

He brought his long-fingered knuckles to the floor and fiddled with the curling copper wires, exposed from his tinkering trying to get a communicator working again. In the aftermath Calc had only found one communicator not smashed enough to be repaired, he found parts from the others to rebuild it slightly, but it never sparked with life and now sat unused, a failure just like him.

Absentmindedly Calc pressed the two copper wires together and watched them flicker with promise but wasted potential. The machines inside didn’t have enough juice to take the bait. Calc was thoroughly screwed.

The cabin in front of him had been musty for a long time, but now it was beginning to feel suffocating, and it swarm in front of his eyes as if he had too much to drink. Calc turned back to the meter and flicked it a few times. The red needle bounced then dropped all the way to the bottom. Life support systems weren’t functional enough to even tell him when he was going to die.

With what could be the last of his oxygen Calc opened his mouth and breathed in. On his breath he said, “I’ll come back to you, Hugh, Vanessa. Even if it kills me.”

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