“Okay, I’ll go first,” he said, leaning back and clasping his hands behind his head. He took a deep breath and looked at the two other men in the small escape pod.
“It’s not like I have anything to hide. I mean I haven’t done anything wrong. Well, anyway nothing illegal that is.” The eyes of the two others were all on him now. Him, the lover. He cleared his throat and stretched his chest awkwardly. In deep space, the other two listened.
“I came here to get away like so many others, but for me it was more than that. The three thousand units on my card were not travel money like they were for everybody else. They were my last. And hard earned! Damn it if I didn’t work my ass off for them. I managed to scrape enough together for a ticket and a room and a little spending cash, and I intended to make good use of every last penny. You see this trip for me was more than an escape for a week or two. This was my last shot. If I didn’t find a woman to bed up with and mooch off of; or if I didn’t score a job or a flight off the station within a week or so, I would be screwed big time. I don’t know what they do with stowaways here, but god knows earthside I’d be locked up for it.”
“Anyway, I arrived and got a cheap room. Then I went down to the cafe to get started. I grabbed a cold one, settled on a sofa, and within an hour I was back in the crew quarters with an eighteen year old waitress from the dining district. She had a rinkydink bunk bed and her fucking roommate was watching for christ’s sake.” He shook his head wistfully.
“But that’s the thing! Against all odds, that may have been the last cheap lay I’ll ever have. Even if we somehow, by some miracle of the universe escape from this; even if! It’ll never be the same for me, after her.” Once again the lover’s eyes glazed over with that look. The other two could see that he was somehow looking straight through the windowless alloys of the pod’s shell into space; wistfully boring his thoughts into the unknown.
“I’ll never love a woman like I did her,” he said. Then the tallest of the other two laughed.
“Come on, man, you met this chick less than a week ago. You barely know her!” the tall man said. The third man looked at him and then back to the lover as if to say that he shared the same sentiment. The talker shrugged it off. He was confident!
“Doesn’t matter. Jane was different. From the minute I saw her getting off of the shuttle from Earthside, I knew it. I could just tell from the look in her eyes that she was incredibly smart. Nothing got past her. I pursued her for several days. She was there with another guy. Boyfriend from planetside, I think. His name was Art. Nice guy. I felt bad for him, but I could not pass this up. The first time I fucked her was in the pool that third night, after everyone else had gone back to their rooms, and it was just so much better than anything I’d ever experienced. Her energy was electric. We both came at the same time, and then we did it again! Right there in the deep end. Her with her lags wrapped around me, and me barely holding onto the edge of the pool. She let me come inside her without even knowing me. Can you believe that?!” He shook his head.
“Later I found out she wasn’t even on the pill, the crazy bitch! But she was smart about other things. She just really liked sex.” He shrugged. He had the other two’s attention now, that was for sure. But he had to keep it up, so he did.
“Anyway we hooked up for a few nights. I’d go down to meet her after she got done fooling her ex. Ha! That’s what I call him. Ex. Because he seemed that way to me already. We were close I tell you! And yeah, we’d only known each other for a few days, but we just clicked, you know? We would talk for hours. She made me feel young again. More than that even. She made me feel like I was worth something again. We walked and talked for hours at a time after making love. It was like, when I was done with her body, I wasn’t done with her. You know what I mean? She was from California. She had gotten some time of work and convinced her boyfriend to go on this trip to …”
“And! Continue!” the tall man snarled.
“Alright, alright. So we were spending so much time together by that third or fourth night that the guy, Art, he got jealous. He ended up buzzing my door, for christ’s sake! Scared the hell out of me. I had just finished with her in fact. I was covered in sweat. And she was sitting there on her hands and knees on my carpet in front of me, and the buzzer goes off, and scares the hell out of both of us. Makes me feel guilty, and i’m sure she did too. And then she checks the screen and it’s him! And we both get all quiet, even though of course he can’t hear us. And so then of course we come to our senses and just ignore him, and he goes away. And then when she had to leave later I was concerned, even though she said he’d never been violent. I still don’t know how he found us….”
“Alright already! What happened next?!” the tall man insisted.
“Is that the last you saw her?” the third man interjected.
“No. In fact, after that, she came back an hour or so later, this was around midnight or one in the morning by that time, and she said she was done with him.”
“Just like that?”
“Yeah, just like that.”
“Yeah, and the guy just disappeared after that.”
“What? He didn’t come back pissed off as hell?!”
“No, he just disappeared.”
“Hmm. I would have been pissed as hell.”
“Me too,” the third man agreed.
“Yeah, so anyway, we kept it up all day and night friday and saturday. It was like the best vacation I ever had. We spent time on the loading docks makin’ fun of people, and she even told me that she would pay for my return trip with her.”
“She wanted you to move in with her?” asked the tall man.
“Yeah! Can you believe that?” All three of the men shook their heads in astonishment. He had them hooked. But then he inevitably sighed deeply, losing the look of happiness that the three of them had been sharing over the past few minutes. It had seemed to make the time pass by, distracting them from their uncertain fate. But now the gloom began to settle back in on them again in their small, cold metal chamber, hurtling through the stars. When he spoke again, it was horrifying.
“That’s when the first shakes started, and the alarms went off.” The tall man sat back and put his hands behind his head, looking off into nothing, and sighed uncomfortably. The third man closed his eyes and rested his head in his hands. He continued. The talker; the lover.
“At first we thought it was a drill like everyone else.” He said, swallowing nervously and shaking his head in little jerks, as if to shake off the truth of what had happened.
“Then the first jerk happened,” the third man said, coldly, lifting his head out of his hands and gazing straight into the lover’s eyes with a look on his face that implied he knew all too well what came next. They all did.
“Yeah,” the lover continued. He sighed painfully as he slid back into his own world of deep thought and despair. The air in the chamber quieted to one of sadness and pain, as the three middle-aged men shivered like kids at a memory they wished desperately they could forget, but knew they could not.
“So we were in the dock when it started, and we were scared as everyone else, but she was really calm.” He spoke slowly, lost in thought.
“She was an amazing woman. She grabbed my hand and said that we needed to get to an escape pod, and she knew where they were. I had no clue. I guess she’d been out here a few times before. Anyway she didn’t even think about going back for Art. I felt terrible about it, but I didn’t say anything. I wanted to live like everybody else.” He shook his head. His hands were shaking now. He wrung them to gain composure.
“That’s when the first explosion happened. It was so loud. And everybody getting thrown everywhere. The woman in front of us freaked out, and turned around real quick and slammed into us, knocking me down. Jane picked me up for christ’s sake, and practically carried me to the hypertracks. That was when the hypertracks were still working. We got to the other side before there were too many people. We heard one of the ships start to leave, and then there was another explosion. That’s when we saw it. Through the observation deck. God….” The tall man shrunk back in fear, gritting his teeth and blowing air between them as to fend off some unbearable memory.
“God I can’t handle this! I’m freaking out. Ah! Fuck!” The third man had stood up too quickly, slamming his head into the ceiling of the pod. He winced, ducking and rubbing his head. He was sweating profusely, clearly in a state of distress.
“Come on, you’ll be alright. Take deep breaths,” the tall man said, leaning up and putting his hand on the third man’s shoulder, guiding him back into his seat. The three of them sat in silence listening to the breathing of the third man quiet down as he regained his composure. Then the lover continued.
“Then we froze up like everyone else. That was when people started screaming. But we were lucky enough to make it to the top deck before the lift shut down.” He sighed, barely able to continue.
“We were running then. We heard the screaming from the end of the sector, and we heard the breaking glass. We knew … god we could tell from the screaming and the stillness that something was happening. And we just couldn’t shake the image of that thing.” He shook his head and stretched backward, popping his chest. The tall man exhaled deeply.
“Fuck!” exclaimed the third man, tears beginning to stream from his eyes.
“We forced ourselves to move on. We were both scared shitless. God that fear, it was unlike anything I’ve ever … but I forced myself to move on. The pods were filling up fast. People were starting to accumulate. ‘Don’t look back!’ I yelled at her, grabbing her arm and practically dragging her.”
“Jesus,” the tall man said, putting his hand over his mouth. “I don’t know if I even want to hear this.” The third man was lost in his own world, hands covering his ears, mumbling to himself.
“It was crazy by then. We were only about twenty or so meters away from the pods. There were a few left. We couldn’t hear much, over the beating of our hearts in our ears, and the sirens, and the people, but god….” He shook his head as if to try to turn back time. His whole body was shaking.
“We could hear it, man. We could fuckin’ hear it.”
“Goddamn,” the tall man said, his hand shaking over his mouth. The lover could barely continue, shaking in fear. He trembled as he spoke, tears running down his cheeks. He choked back a sob, forcing himself to go on.
“Those last few moments feel like an eternity. God, I don’t know if I’ll ever forget the image of that thing … lurching across the floor, covering so much ground so fast.”
“Fuckin’ christ, man,” the tall man said, his hand over his mouth.
“I thought it wouldn’t get there in time. Oh god, I thought it wouldn’t get there! Aahh … ha … hug!” He couldn’t help it anymore, he leaned forward, breaking down in gurgled sobs and rocking forward with his hands on his knees. The two men sobbed for a time, together in their misery, while the third man shook, out of it, his eyes glazed over in a kind of mad hysteria. After a time, the two of them having gained a bit of their composure, the tall man finally spoke.
“What fucking happened man?” Then the lover, the talker, sighed and looked directly into the tall man’s eyes. It was a look of a kind of detached madness; the look of a man who has gone too far and will never be coming back.
“Ha!” He started to shake uncontrollably, his eyes going wide with madness and his nostrils flaring uncontrollably. “I left her.” He said with a detached calm, nodding his head rhythmically in an effort to avoid going berserk. “I threw her to that thing to save myself.”