“You was waiting for a friend, ‘till you turned and saw the end, watched her lips turn bright and blue, and in that moment knew, that she was me and I was you.” The words feel raw in my throat, scraping callously against my tongue and teeth.
My hands shake as I flip through the notebook for the umpteenth time. No more entries. No more scrawled words. Why had I written this? When had I written this? Why couldn’t I remember?
To the surface of my foggy mind bobs the soothing voice of Thomas, our resident doctor. “Hypoxia can cause memory loss, amnesia. You’re not alone. Several of the crew were affected by the last outage. Not to worry—I’ve recommended they be pulled from rotation until they can recover.”
His winning grin had almost convinced me that everything would be okay. But I hadn’t been able to shake the shivering notes in his words, or the way he hid his hands in those oversized lab coat pockets. The next outage was longer. I was ashamed to admit that when I found him, my first thought wasn’t grief, but seething anger. How dare he leave us? Didn’t he know how screwed we were without him?
I press my hands against my head and fight back tears. How had everything gone so wrong? Commercial flights to the moon had been operating seamlessly for years. I’d wanted to get tickets on her maiden voyage, but Sam had cautioned against it.
“Let them take a few trips, work out the kinks. The moon will still be there a year from now.” He couldn’t have known that the crash of 2095 would hit us so hard. All of our savings for the moon disappeared in a frighteningly short amount of time as we struggled to stay on top of car payments, rent, groceries, medical bills.
Sam and I eventually found work again, and once a semblance of normal was restored, we started saving again. Every now and then I would come home brimming with excitement, a sizable tip straining against the tired seams of my jeans pocket, and Sam would catch my expression and say, “I can see those stars in your eyes. Wait for me, won’t you?”
“You was waiting for a friend, ‘till you turned and saw the end, watched her lips turn bright and blue, and in that moment knew, that she was me and I was you.” The squiggly black lines bounce and collide and reform into more nonsense. I throw the notebook against the wall. Sam would have known what I meant. He always understood.
I fall asleep despite myself, and wake disoriented and ashamed. I had promised myself I wouldn’t sleep again until I could find a way into the supply room. The frequent power outages caused compounding failures to the ship’s electrolysis system, but I know there’s one more source of air in this expensive piece of junk—the suits.
Forsaking all sense of boundaries and privacy, I dig with increasing desperation into every suitcase I can find. I stash every candy bar, every mint, every tiny bottle of water into my bag. I silently rejoice when I find a tiny flashlight with working batteries. When the next outage comes, at least I won’t be plunged into the darkness.
My stomach clenches and threatens to empty itself when I spot a Dora the Explorer bag in the corner. I steel myself and unzip it slowly. I rifle mechanically through spare clothes, toys, plushies, a blanket. Nothing useful. But I can’t seem to leave its contents unattended. I pull the blanket out of the backpack, careful not to let it snag on the bright orange teeth of the zipper. The blanket is soft, baby blue, with little yellow ducklings embroidered in each corner. Tears spring to my eyes, needles of shame burrowing deeper into my heart. It’s pure, dumb luck that I’m the one crouching here holding this blanket instead of its owner.
When the malfunctions started, everything was affected. The doors would lock automatically, and random rooms would be deprived of oxygen for the duration of the outage. This caused only mild worry when the outages lasted less than a minute, and crew members were quick to assure us that they would be resolved shortly. The worry morphed into full on panic as the duration and frequency of the outages climbed, lasting upwards of ten minutes.
Pure, dumb, stupid, evil luck. Sam had gone to get us more food from the dining hall just a week ago. They told me the outage lasted twelve minutes. It felt like an eternity. I wrap the blanket around me and rock back and forth on the cold floor. Its warmth helps me pretend it’s Sam holding me in his arms. I don’t feel so guilty when I fall asleep this time.
The encroaching darkness needles its way into my consciousness. My breath quickens as I open my eyes and see nothing. I grope in the darkness for my newly discovered flashlight. A tiny beam of light illuminates a sliver of the hall. My confusion doubles. Why haven’t the doors locked?
“You was waiting for a friend, ‘till you turned and saw the end, watched her lips turn bright and blue, and in that moment knew, that she was me and I was you.” I chant to myself, hoping to beat back the darkness with words, a shoddy makeshift normalcy. I walk past several open rooms. I don’t need the flashlight to sense the lifeless forms occupying each one.
The air has already begun to thin. Thoughts slip from my grasp and disassemble. Sam, blanket, notebook, suits. Suits! I send the beam of light spinning around the room, attempting to orient myself. Where am I? Where’s the supply room?
I stumble past identical corridors until I find the impenetrable door marked SUPPLY ROOM. The door opens without protest, and I kick it viciously.
“You was waiting for a friend, ‘till you turned and saw the end, watched her lips turn bright and blue, and in that moment knew, that she was me and I was you.” A nagging voice in the back of my head warns me that I’m wasting oxygen. It makes me want to giggle. There is no secured room this time. Lady Luck’s precious hospitality has worn out. I wonder when they’ll find our ship. Will our families hold out hope for a miracle? How long will they wait in suspended disbelief until they can mourn?
A sharp, persistent pain creeps into my chest. “You was waiting for a friend…” I stagger forward with sudden, brief clarity. Get inside a suit. Get inside a suit.
I take in a ragged breath as I peer into the glass dome. The suit is occupied. Panicked despair bursts and dissipates, consumed by the void of my confused, foggy mind. A deep sadness disperses into the fog and lingers, though its origin remains out of reach.
I stagger down the row of suits; pale, immobile faces greeting me at every turn. The last suit appears empty, until I look further down. “‘Till you turned and saw the end…” A crumpled young girl, unable to see out the glass bubble, stares lifelessly at the interior of her suit. The oxygen dial hovers at zero. “Watched her lips turn bright and blue…”
The pain in my chest intensifies with each quick, insufficient breath. My mind flashes to the notebook. Have I been here before? “And in that moment knew…”
I press a palm against the clear dome and rest my tired head against the cold surface.
I pick up the blanket that had slipped from my weak fingers, and stretch it over the both of us in an attempt to warm us up. “That she was me and I was you.”