From the author: The Forgetting Navigations is a serialised novella being released on Patreon. This story gnawed at me until I wrote it, the way that every trauma adds to that thing inside you that holds them, and gnaws at you too. The way you gnaw at yourself. It's a love letter, or a bow to every older woman who can teach you how to live without gnawing, 'cause she's fought a hard-won battle to learn how. It's a song to friendship and how it can give you something to tie yourself to. To stay tethered to life.
He bursts through the bridge lock as I slam the big red EVAC button and in the second before the door comes down, I see his eyes. They're black and void as the space I’m about to eject into. My chances in here are fifty-fifty, but those are the best odds I've got. Acceleration slams me back against the launch sling, making the straps feel loose, too loose. My skin shudders, the sudden awareness of speed shaking it looser from my muscles. I clench my teeth as I pop out the belly of the ship, the sudden smoothness making my stomach lurch.
I hold my breath, watching the blips on the info panel as the distance between them widens. Then his ship disappears, dropping off my sensor and into warp again. My relief floods all my insides like a drug.
I’m safe. I’m free.
In a way.
So, I wait, weightless. The pod doesn’t have a grav panel, so I watch my hair float around for a while. Blood lifts from the graze on my knee and takes to float, spherical. The only sound is my breath that shortens, shortens until I give way and sob sob sob. There’s no one to see or hear or punish me for these tears so I let go for just a second, just one moment to feel and cry. The tears surge into spheres too, joining the blood to float around in the small space of the pod.
It’s a standard shipping route, so I think I’ll bounce around in here for a day or two, at most, then some passenger liner or cargo run will come along and lock a beam on me, easy. It can't take that long.
But time gets stretchy here. White walls, no view out. The list of things I’d do for a porthole expands exponentially as time passes. I could see something approach. I could count stars. I could lose myself in the black. After a while, I beg who or whatever just for a light switch, just to ease the vision of everything so close.
Just so I can fucking sleep.
But when I do finally sleep, I wake in bright light, having slipped the straps, and I hang mid-pod in such deep silence that I think I can hear the glug of blood moving through my veins. I wake, mid-pod, mid-dream of home and my heart hurts. I wake, screaming, to visions of my hatch opening to him and his void-black eyes, and take a while to assure myself that he’s not just on the other side of that steel door, that there’s nothing outside but gentle vacuum.
My own heartbeat, palpitating, wakes me.
Time passes and my thoughts are big enough to fill the space.
Frantic, slow, frantic again.
A pod has a week of air, water, and starvation rations. The info panel shows the remnants of my air, my water and I mentally divide the gauge into sevens, work out the passing days by how much I have left. I watch the levels dip and dip, the days dropping away with every sip and breath.
My waste receptacle malfunctions and contams my water supply. Contams the whole fucking pod. I hyperventilate, streaked in filth, and wonder what state they’ll find me in, if anyone finds me.
Dying isn’t hard.
After six days in a one-by-two lifepod drifting further into nothing, and a day floating around in my own shit, death seems like it might be a relief.
I wait, weightless. I watch the gauges.
I wait to breathe my last.
When the blips start to sound, I think I’m delirious. Whacked out from lack of oxygen, or lack of everything. I’m filthy, floating and wide-eyed, hovering somewhere between asleep and awake, dead and alive.
You’re hearing things, Evey.
I’ve been hearing things for a while. Voices, chanting like songs, prayers. Slow deep rhythms coming from all sides. My mother. My little sister, wailing, don’t leave me, Evey. The gruff grunts of pilots, quiet instructions, don’t move, don’t make a sound. The endless shick of knives unsheathing. There’s nowhere to escape the noise.
Now my brain is making up blips and I refuse to listen, turn mid-pod away from the sound and try to shake it out of my head, my ears.
NO, EVEY, DO YOU HEAR THAT?
It’s not real.
IT IS EVEY, DO YOU HEAR IT?
Whoever she is, she’s right. Something has dropped out of warp, right by me. It picked up my distress sig and didn't ignore it, hasn’t just ho-hummed past. Hot, fast hope races through my bloodstream like a kid bouncing off the walls of a ship corridor. I make my eyes focus, up until now there hadn’t been a point, so I’d let them go lazy. I wipe piss and shit off the info panel.
There, a shape. A ship. A big one. Passenger ship? Cargo haul? Is it the Force? Is it him? Has he come back for me? I bump into the wall as they lock on me and start to reel me in. My gauges are at one-half of one-seventh. I hadn’t bothered looking at them for a while.
There’s a noise, a real noise, as my pod locks to their dock. The fear cuts through everything else. My mind flickers possibilities, hundreds in seconds.
The lock opening to friendly eyes of an old couple, wrinkled and wizened, ready to nurse me back to myself.
The lock opening to a line of Force, guns drawn and screaming to GET DOWN, GET DOWN.
The lock opening to the worried staff of a passenger liner, a bus in the black, with a neat, warm infirmary in which to care for me.
The lock opening to him, void-eyed and knife drawn.
I can’t know. It could be anything, but anything’s better than this.
I float up straight, summoning as much dignity as I can, even while globes of my own waste orbit me. The crump of a seal splits the air. I wait. The hatch flies up without ceremony, a new world.
I need to see.