Because all of life is stories.
This weeks entry in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction friday, in just under the wire. I hope you enjoy it.
Most mornings are the same. I awake, check my air levels, make sure the heat and pressure are stable, maybe eat a small protein bar.
I am a composer. Did I ever tell you that?
I spend time in the gym. Long trips in space are hard on the body, and in the artificial gravity I can dunk a basketball.
I avoid the lower decks. The ones where all of the doors have been welded shut.
I spend time tinkering with the radio equipment. The dish and receiver are gone, so I know it will do me no good. It just helps sometimes to be doing something with my hands.
When all the tasks are done, and I’ve grown bored with tinkering and pretending to be Michael Jordan, I spend most of my time here. In her library. I like to think of it as hers anyways. In truth I know that this room of books belonged to everyone on the ship. I guess now it would belong to me. I still like to think of it as hers.
If things were different, if the doors were not welded shut, I would play music. I am a composer and also a concert pianist. The doors are welded shut though. All of the musical instruments and the music library are locked beyond them. I look at them through the camera sometimes.
I never see It though.
I don’t know what it is. All the records talk about a thing that came to the ship. It killed. They locked it away and tried to leave, but not all of them made it. It never appeared on the camera feeds though. I do not know what it looks like or if it is still here. It keeps me awake sometimes, at night. The not knowing.
She wrote about it in the margins of books. I can only assume she lacked a proper notebook. She was afraid of it too. Not a mindless terror, not like some of the logs suggest. She was curious. She wanted to understand it I think. I hope she did. I hope she got away and wasn’t one of the ones I locked away. They are all in the airlock. I could not bear to send them into the void.
I am writing a song for her.
I lack paper and pen and the tablets that were left behind have no way to write music in bar format, but I have the heart of it in my head. It is mischievous and light, then it is dramatic and darker and slower. It is a song for someone that was made curious by a beast that killed her friends, wanted to kill her. It was a song for somebody that wrote in the margins or the backs of nearly every book in the small library the ship had. I know nobody will ever hear it except me, and possibly the monster. If it hears me. If it is still there. If you find this recording one day perhaps then the bits of tune I have sung to it will survive. Maybe someday somebody will play it. The last song of a lost composer for a lost girl. I doubt it though.
We’re a perfect pair really. My ship is out of life support systems. Well, not out of them really. They’re still there. They just don’t…life support. I’ve got food. Food enough for a few more weeks. Months if I give myself half rations. This ship is out of food. Everyone who got away took what they could with them. The rest is behind welded doors. I will not open the welded doors.
The song is coming along. I find myself humming it most of the time now. It follows me and echoes against the bulkheads. I found a pen. Now the books hold bits and pieces that escape from my mind, next to her signature, next to Nebula.
Last night the song played in my dreams. When I awoke, I still heard it playing. The rhythm banged gently against the walls. Here in my quarters, the ones I have claimed on the ship, I hear the echo of it. I jumped out of bed and ran down the cold hallways. The beat was unmistakeable. It was mine. And it was tapping it back to me on the other side of the welded doors.
“Hello?” I called out experimentally. Quietly, but louder as time went by. The tapping had stopped. I heard no sound of footsteps or of breath or of speaking. Terrified, I rushed to the bridge. All of the camera feeds were empty. The doors, the corridors, the rooms, all empty. Did I hear it? Was I even awake? I returned to my bed. I did not sleep.
The next morning I sang the song for most of the day. I tried to write more, but nothing came. The fiction I had been living in kept me sane. I had believed that whatever lurked behind the doors had left when the first passengers of the ship did. But it’s still there. I know it now. Behind a few inches of metal lies…something. My imagination is not my friend.
I do not sleep again the next night. The tapping returns. It is repeating the second movement. Uncannily accurate, it tapped away the rhythm. I stayed in the bed. I could not make myself move. The doors would keep me safe. At least, as long as I had food. I had food. I was safe. I hoped.
It’s back again tonight. More insistent. It’s come to the same door every night. Tonight I am waiting for it. I am covered in a blanket. I brought all of the books that have both my signature and Nebula’s. Her notes, her fears, her observations about the ship. And the thing behind the door. My music. My symphony. My song for a lost and, likely, dead girl. I waited.
It tapped. The rhythm was strong and sure. It learned well. Idly I wondered how it had been hearing me. I rarely ventured close to the welded doors. But it played. It tapped for several minutes. On the other side of the door I heard a quiet throaty hum. Nervous, I began to hum along with it. It was a poor thing, my symphony of brass and strings played out on the metal rivets of a near dead ship. It may be the only time I ever get to play it though. And to be honest, I am starved for company.
We played through the length of the song twice. It knew it as I did.
“Do you understand me?” I asked.
Tap. Tap. Tap tap tap. Tap.
I hummed a few more bars of song. It hummed them back to me. Something in me broke then. My courage, my nerve, something. I stood and I ran. I ran to the bridge and pulled up the camera feeds. Nothing. Not on any of the screens. I scrolled through the archives and found the one closest to the door we sat by just seconds ago. I am there. Tapping. Humming. It is not.
Am I going mad?
I wipe the tapes. All of them. From the time reports of the thing first started to just seconds ago, I erase all evidence of my madness. Maybe I am alone. Dying. Slowly and healthily, but surely as if I were stark in the void. Maybe there is no creature. What then drove the last residents of the ship mad? Did their impending doom lead them to create a monster? Did I scribble the notes in those books? I am sure that this is the true madness. The questioning. I heard what I heard. Even if I have not seen it. Nebula knew there was something.
I am writing a song for Nebula. It is as haunting as the walls of my tomb. As beautiful as the stars that surround it.
As dark and mysterious as a creature unseen, and bodies in the airlock.
I wander the ship until I find what I am looking for. Engineering is on my side of the doors. I find a torch.
I am opening the welded doors.