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Chapter 61

My shoulder slammed into the door for the fifteenth time, the blow shaking me to the bone as the metal refused to budge. I stepped back for another charge, feeling the growing bruise on my upper arm groaning in protest, my neck already twisted from nights of improper sleep.

“Help us!” shouted Hannah. “We’re so hungry! We need food! And water!” In one hand, she clutched the makeshift weapons, and the other, she clenched into a fist to pound against the wall.

But no help came. And likely, their voices were unheard compared to the uproar outside in the corridor.

“What in the Hand of God,” I panted as Hannah drew in another sharp breath, her face blue from the shouting, “is going on out there?”

“No clue,” she responded, “but damn I hope Elliott is behind this.”

From our position, waves of noise washed over us – shouts combined with falling objects, jeers sloshing back and forth, slews of words completely incomprehensible by the time they were mangled with the other stimuli. Every so often, we would catch a familiar voice or sound – a word from Elliott, a screech from Nean, or the scraping of shovels against the walls.

“What else can we do, what else can we do?” I muttered, racking my brain and coming up with no solution.

“It’ll come down to a fight,” said Hannah. “Elliott won’t leave without me. I know he won’t.”

“But what good will that do?” I said. “If he loses, that just means none of us escape.”

For the fiftieth time, I inspected the walls and doors for weaknesses, and for the fiftieth time, I found none.

“All this way and all this time,” I said, staring out the window at the planet. “All to go to waste, from ignorance. Sheer ignorance that will be regretted in a matter of days. But though we may fail, we shall not be forgotten.”

Taking the broken metal shard, I walked to the wall and paused. Then I jammed the end in as hard as I possibly could, the tip making a faintly visible scratch on the surface. It screeched as it dragged, and Hannah held up her hands to her ears but uttered no protest.

One by one, the lines and letters came together, forming words. Our own story on the wall, for future generations to see, if there were future generations. A monument to our shortcomings.

A story of too few words, a story cut short. Entire lives encapsulated in sentences that could never do them justice.

Horatius and Hannah. Their home turned to prison, their voices silenced. May others survive where they cannot reach.

I swallowed, biting my lip as I finished. My heart knowing that this self-proclaimed prophecy contained what might be our last few hours. That this faint marking might be the extent of the story I would leave behind.

“Oh God,” whispered Hannah next to me as a buzzing erupted from nearby, one that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. “Is it starting? Is this it, Horatius, is that the ship preparing to leave?”

She clutched my arm as the buzzing grew louder, her eyes shut tight. Mine were wide as my ears were on full alert, trying to determine the source of the sound. To know if the electrical systems were going offline, or if we would soon be losing pressure, or if something worse than I could predict was about to happen.

And there, just below where my shiv etched its last mark on the wall surface in front of me, a bright white light exploded outwards to fill the room.



Chapter 62

The wall bent inwards under Airomem’s wrists like a blade of grass dipping under a wind, the suit stiffening from her fingertips to her ankles to apply the load. Her breath fogged on the metal in front of her as she pushed again, the end of her nose brushing against a shelf protruding from the wall, causing her neck to pull away backwards away from the surface at an odd angle. It was an uncomfortable motion, but a necessary one. The cut had to be made here.

The incision itself was like the others she had made, but this time, she had left the bottom of the cutaway intact, such that she could fold the metal upon itself. And as it yielded, the edges grated together like gnashing teeth, releasing a shriek that sent shivers up Airomem’s spine and a flinch to flutter across her face.

“Tom thought you wanted quiet,” came a voice from behind her, and she grimaced.

“I did,” she said and shuffled to her left. “New plan. Help me push!”

Tom’s hands appeared alongside her own and the shriek doubled in volume, his grunting doing little to drown it out until a two-foot-wide gap appeared and a head emerged from within.

“Ruth!?” shouted Hannah, reaching a hand through to grasp Airomem’s forearm. “Ruth and Elliott, are they safe?”

“They are,” Airomem reassured, the words tumbling out of her mouth as fast as possible, “but you are not. Hurry, come through; we’re getting you out of here.”

“It seems every time I turn around,” I mumbled from within, my head shaking as my eyes traced along the incision, “that another impossibility becomes reality. Airomem, how did you do this?”

“Details later, details later,” she said, waving her arms forward as Hannah started to step through the hole, her movements slowed due to the constricted space. “Move!”

Airomem’s head was turned sideways, her ear cocked through the hole, listening as she held her breath. And there, muted but approaching, was Nean, just as Hannah tumbled into the room.

Then it was my turn to jump through the hole, and our turn to flee.


Next Chapter

Don’t forget to vote for  The Bridge!  It takes 2 clicks.

I’ll be providing the entire story here for free for a limited time.  In return, I ask that you tell a friend about Chapter 1!  The only way others find out about my work is through word of mouth.