There is a misconception about what space looks like. From Earth, space looks fantastically bright. It’s filled with little pinpoints of light that cluster together and coalesce into what we know as the Milky Way. We’ve all seen the pictures of the galaxies and the brightly colored nebulae in amazing, bright detail.
What most people don’t realize is that space is fucking dark. All those twinkling stars you see when you look up longingly, hoping to see a shooting star so you can wish upon it? Yeah, that’s due to the way the light bends and distorts in our atmosphere once it reaches our planet. Those rainbow colored images we get from deep space telescopes? All lies. At least, from the perspective of human eyesight. The images are actually color enhanced to show elements that emit light wavelengths beyond our capabilities to see.
So when I found myself floating outside my ship trying to fix a panel that got busted by a rogue asteroid, I found myself in complete darkness. There were no stars to light up the void around me, at least that I could see with my limited dark vision. If I closed my eyes long enough to allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness and I avoided all light coming from my ship, I could begin to make out specks here and there, but really, humans were not really meant to enjoy the view of space from space.
It didn’t really matter to me, though. I wasn’t here for the beauty or mystifying nature of the unknown depths of the universe. I was here to make deliveries and my damn ship was falling apart around me.
I sighed and laid my helmeted head against the hull, closing my eyes for a moment to consider my position. I was light years away from the nearest hub. Despite being on a main thruway, this was still space, and most ships would be moving in wormhole space. There would be no way they would notice a small, broken down delivery ship on the outskirts of nowhere.
I smacked my wrench against the broken panel in frustration, chipping off bits of paint that began to float away. I glared at the new dents and scrapes on the panel. Stupid.
It only took me another minute to pry the panel back to look at the damage underneath. The asteroid that hit me wasn’t particularly large, but those things could move. Frankly, I was lucky the thing didn’t cut right through the hull. It might have had it hit me right on. As it was, it had been nearly parallel with me and had just scraped, then bounced away, but not before knocking my power out completely.
“I knew I should have splurged on that backup generator,” I glowered to myself as I moved the large panel aside and let it float next to me. I had poured everything I had into this ship, which wasn’t much. She was old and worn down, but she was a good ship. “Let’s see what we can do to fix you, darling.”
I grabbed my light and shown it into the hole I had just opened up. I found crushed and frayed wires, and several pipes had been completely busted. I sifted through the debris, trying to clean up the mess to see what I needed to replace to restore power to my hunk of metal. I found a bundle of wires that had been cut clean through by a piece of the bent panel. There was my problem. It should be a relatively simple fix, but it was going to take me the better part of six hours to get it done.
I looked down at the HUD on the bottom of my helmet that gave me details such as my heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and other important vitals, then found where it stated how much oxygen I had left in my tanks. It was going to be a tight job.
With no time to waste, I pulled myself across the ship back to the hatch. I was going to need supplies. Once inside, I grabbed a bag and started stuffing everything I was going to need into it before heading back out the airlock.
When I got back to the damaged area, I stopped. The panel I had left floating next to the ship had been put back. Had I done that and forgotten? I reached forward and tapped it. It hadn’t just floated back to the ship and magically been in the right position to appear as if it had been put back on. No, it was reattached.
I looked around as if I would possibly find someone else. It’s not like there were trees here to hide behind before jumping out and laughing at the stupid look I knew must be on my face. There was no one here. There was only me and my ship. I must have just put the panel back so it wouldn’t float too far and forgot I had done so.
Pulling the wrench back out from a side pocket, I began to work the panel loose again. I pulled it away once more and grabbed my light to hook it onto the side so it would shine onto the area where I needed to work. I froze.
Where the broken cables and pipes had been, everything had been restored. There were no frayed cables. There was no debris. Just a clean, well functioning part of the ship.
“What the fuck?” I whispered to myself. The vitals at the bottom of my helmet began to spike as my breathing picked up. I looked around again, but all I saw was the blackness of space with its pinpoint or two of stars here and there. My eyes were not well adjusted after looking at the bright light of the flashlight reflecting against the metal of the ship. Even if they had been, it’s not like there was anything there to see.
Was I losing my mind? I grabbed the panel and looked at it. There were the dents and scrapes from where I had hit it with my wrench, but the rest of the damage was gone. How had I not noticed this when I returned with the supplies? I began to hyperventilate. Something was wrong.
I replaced the panel, grabbed the supply bag, and rushed back to the hatch. I clambered back into the ship, sealing the air lock behind me. Everything was dark. I still had no power. What was going on? I removed my helmet and left it floating next to the airlock as I made my way back to the head of the ship where the computers were.
There were no lights. No hum of electricity. I tapped my finger against the main screen, but nothing happened. At this point, I was at a loss. I must have hit my head against something and passed out. This is just all a dream and I will wake up and find myself still in warp on my way to Delta 6B8. I just need to will myself awake.
I shut my eyes and held my breath, trying to do just that, but like tapping the computer, nothing happened. I opened my eyes and found myself on the same dark bridge.
It was so quiet. It was the sort of quiet you might experience in a deprivation tank. Even the sound of my breathing felt muted as I looked around at the ship, unsure what to do. Then I heard it, a faint tapping. I almost missed it over the sound of my own heart beating. Where was it coming from?
I pulled myself through the cabin, following the sound. I had to push things aside. Normally, I had artificial gravity, but that only worked if I had power. Now everything that wasn’t nailed down was slowly finding its way up into the air. Maybe the tapping was just some debris hitting a wall.
Continuing to follow the sound, I found myself in the delivery bay. The tapping was louder now, and I could hear something… chittering? Fuck. I hope I didn’t pick up rats at the last port and they chewed through some cable or other causing the power outage. Now that would be my luck. It didn’t explain what happened out on my space walk, but my mind didn’t care. It latched onto what could be explained and my anger began to grow towards the rats for wasting my time.
“Here ratty rat, rat.” I poked my head behind boxes, looking for the source of the sound. “Come out, come out, wherever you are. I only want to toss you in the airlock and float you, you little bastard.” The tapping and chittering paused, and I waited for it to start again so I could locate it. I shone my light around the bay, but all I saw were boxes and crates strapped down to the floor.
Loud tapping came from behind me and I spun in mid-air, hoping to catch the varmint in my light. There was nothing there. I grabbed a box and used it to leverage myself and push myself back into the hallway. The tapping had moved out in the direction of my sleeping quarters.
I peered in. My blankets were all up in the air along with everything else that had been strewn across the floor. I made a promise to myself to clean up when all this got sorted out. Just because I lived alone in my ship didn’t mean I needed to be a slob. A shadow caught my eye as I moved the light.
My breath hitched as I tried to focus the flashlight on the movement, but by the time I had, it was gone. There was silence again.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The sound had moved again. It was near the airlock.
“How the fuck?” I peered down the hallway. “How did you get past me?” I floated back down the hallway, finding my helmet where I’d left it next to the airlock doors. However, the inner doors were open.
I floated there, staring. I know I closed those doors. This wasn’t like the panel magically reattaching or convincing myself I imagined the damage. No. It was a muscle-memory, ingrained habit to close those doors every time I came through them. I would not have left them open. Without power, the only way to operate them was by forcefully grabbing a long handle and twisting it, locking it into place. A rat was not going to be able to open those doors.
My breath came quick and my blood pounded in my ears as I began to look around, my light shining over the walls and floating mess. I reached for my helmet and slid it back over my head, latching it. My vitals popped back up on the bottom and I tried to breath deeply. I needed to calm myself or I would use my oxygen too quickly. Until I could figure out how to get the power back on, this oxygen was all I had.
With the helmet on, I had no way of hearing the “rat” anymore, but I didn’t care. I needed power, and I needed it now. I pushed myself back to the bridge and opened the panel under the computer to see if I could find someway to restore power from there.
Cold sweat dripped down my face as I worked my way into the cable bundles, pushing them aside. I didn’t get far before a new noise made me stop. A muffled thump came from behind me.
I pulled my hands out of the panel and slowly began to turn. Ambient light from my flashlight bounced around the room. However, in the doorway stood something large and dark. It looked like a shadow, but when I shone my light at it, the light did not pierce it nor did it reflect back.
I began to shiver as I pointed my light up towards where I thought a head would be on any other creature, but there was nothing there, just more darkness. As I watched, a tendril of that darkness began to reach out towards me. I couldn’t move.
I am not ashamed to say I relieved myself in my suit. I’m sure even the most hardened marine would have pissed himself if he had been standing in my position.
As the tendril got closer, I tore my eyes from the thing in the doorway to look down at this tentacle of darkness. It seemed to be aimed at my flashlight. I don’t think anyone would believe me until they had seen it for themselves, but I swear the light started to bend towards that dark tendril. It seemed to be sucked up into it and absorbed by it. My light flickered and died, and I watched as the last of those photons disappeared.
I was plunged into darkness. The tapping started again, loud enough to be heard through my helmet, and I cried as I felt pressure enveloping my suit. The thing was wrapping its tentacles around me, crushing me. Chittering filled my ears as the thing enveloped my frozen form. Over the chittering, I could hear the sound of the tempered glass of my helmet crack, then felt it burst into a million pieces against my skin.
I had shut my eyes tightly against the darkness and the glass, but it didn’t really matter. The cuts were the least of my worries right now. I felt my energy beginning to drain, and something in that feeling snapped me out of my frozen fear.
I began to fight back, pushing and straining against the dark creature, trying to gasp for breath. The more I pushed, the tighter it held. It was no use, though. My strength was draining fast.
A tendril found it’s way through my open helmet and slid across my face and down into my suit. I gasped, losing more of my precious breath. It was so cold! I imagine space itself was as cold as this creature! My skin felt frozen where it touched.
I cried out, trying to punch myself free now, but my movement had become slow and unsteady. My body began to convulse from the cold and lack of oxygen, and I felt myself losing consciousness. The creature hugged me tighter, and I found irony in the flashes of light behind my eyelids from the pressure. That too, seemed to be sucked away by this creature as a more permanent darkness began to descend.
With a final gasp, the last of my breath escaped me, and I hung limp, my body broken.
The creature let go of the body, which was now drained of all electromagnetic radiation. Satisfied, it moved back to the airlock and with practiced movements, shut the inner doors and opened the outer ones. It floated out, propelled by its tendrils back into the void of space where it began to look for its next meal.