Prime Inhabitants, Part II
Evek awoke with a sharp pain in her neck and ringing in her ears. Beyond the ringing, silence surrounded her. She had no idea how long she was unconscious or whether she was able to move, and was afraid to try. Sitting there, dead still, she took some deep breaths. Dull throbbing pain from the movement, that was good, at least she had feeling in her body. The shock foam had dissipated, although Evek could see almost nothing through the film it had left on her helmet faceplate.
“Adam, Aruck, Eda, radio check,” her own voice sounded hoarse and distant as she heard it through her helmet. Evek waited to hear the sound of the crew’s voices confirm they made it through impact. No response. This could not be happening!
“Adam, Aruck, Eda!” “Can you hear me?” Evek was shouting now and her voice assaulted her own ears through feedback. Still no response! She couldn’t stand it anymore. Evek unstrapped and slid out of her chair. Her feet slipped right from under her in the shock foam residue, and she went immediately to the floor. She lay there on the floor, her hands and arms flailing around for a hold on something, legs numb and useless inside the thick suit. Evek soon gave up the fight and lay still for a moment before reaching up and removing her helmet. Lying there on her back, her head nearly eye-level at the shoulders of her suit, Evek surveyed the cabin. She could barely move her head in the restrictive suit but saw light through the small port window. The cabin itself looked like it did not fare well on impact. Computer panels, radio boxes, and wiring were torn from their mounting structures and left hanging, as if perched to fall at the slightest movement. Evek saw she was lying at Adam’s feet, and he was not moving. So, this was it, Evek thought. She survived a hurried launch during a meteor storm, a spaceflight at blinding speed, entry into this crushing atmosphere, and impact, only to die alone and paralyzed on a planet she would never see. How many other crews survived impact? At least some of them should have made it. Maybe they would try to find one another. Maybe someone would find her before she died; Evek knew it was a false hope. There was almost no chance of ever seeing one of the other crews again. The capsules were launched in sequence, which meant that they would land on this planet just moments apart, but because of the planet’s rotation, the distance covered would be well beyond the horizon, and that had to be a huge distance on this planet at more than twice the size of home.
Evek heard something in the cabin, she saw movement, it was Adam removing his restraints and climbing out of his seat!
“Adam,” Evek tried to yell, but her voice was hoarse and cracking from the thick atmosphere – and recent trauma. Before Adam could respond, his feet must have hit the floor and slipped away bringing him forcefully down directly on top of Evek with all the crushing force of gravity times three. Evek was looking face-to-face with Adam, searing in crushing pain, and saw him looking at her with a faint smile. He was mouthing something through his faceplate but she could not hear him. He rolled off her and took off his helmet.
“Are you OK?” Adam sounded excited, and out of breath.
“I think my legs are paralyzed, but I’m not sure in this suit,” Evek said, realizing she had to struggle to speak in this dense air.
“What about you Adam, you OK?” Evek countered, trying to minimize her own problem.
“I’m OK.” “How long was I out?” Adam said, responding in his normally positive fashion. Yeah, he was going to be OK.
“Let’s get you out of your suit and take a look at those legs,” Adam said, after a longer-than-normal pause for his unanswered question.
Adam turned his back to Evek, and she unzipped his suit. He got his suit off, and rolled Evek over to unzip her suit and help her out. As Evek was rolling to her side, she felt her legs respond instinctively for balance. She had a tingling sensation in her legs – they must have gone numb from the impact and her restrictive suit.
“I can feel my legs!” she panted out to Adam.
“That’s great.” Adam shot Evek a thoughtful smile. “Now help me get you out of this suit.”
Once out their bulky suits and wearing only their anti-chaffing undergarments, Evek and Adam propped themselves up to a standing position, using their seats for balance on the slippery floor, Evek’s legs still tingling. The dissipating shock foam had left a thick, slippery slime on the floor of the cabin. Evek found that just standing up took great exertion in this gravity; they would have to move slowly. Evek and Adam slowly traversed the seats in the cabin through the slippery residue to Aruck’s seat. Aruck did not survive the crash. His seat had apparently broken loose during impact, and slammed right into the back of Evek’s seat with such force that it crushed him even through the shock foam. His body, still strapped to his seat, looked limp – almost deflated – and his head crushed, and bloodied behind the cracked faceplate of his helmet. They made their way to the electronics bay through a myriad of hanging wires and bent panels to find Eda’s broken body half-buried amongst a pile of rubble. She was missing an arm, which they later found still attached to a support structure next to the shock foam control panel. Evek and Adam went back to the cabin and sat in silence for a long time, catching their breath and looking at each other only occasionally, hiding feelings of despair and fear of the challenges ahead. The light coming through the small windows faded, replaced by a black so deep it reflected Evek’s face like a mirror. She looked older than she remembered with lines clearly forming around her mouth, eyes, and forehead, her bronze skin shiny from sweat, thick black hair mottled and uneven from the helmet.
“We better open the hatch before we suffocate in here,” Adam finally broke the long silence. She just looked at him for a moment without responding. He looked as disheveled as she did, except his hazel eyes unmoving, piercing into her soul in a knowing and familiar fashion – understanding and equally scared.
“OK Adam, Let’s see what we’ve gotten into,” Evek managed to say in one breath.
Adam and Evek made their way to the hatch at the rear of the cabin, simultaneously grabbed hold of the hatch levers, and while looking at each other one last time, turned the levers opening the hatch. A short whooshing sound was followed by cool wind as the hatch door opened, and slid down to one side. Adam helped Evek climb through the opening and onto the top of the craft, and then joined her outside. They sat there catching their breath and looking through the darkness at their new surroundings. Below them was only darkness, although it sounded alive with countless creatures chattering as if discussing the new arrival. The trees here were tall; their shadows silhouetted high into a clear night sky filled with clusters of bright stars, and vast darkness. Evek and Adam sat for a long time on top of their enormous craft, feeling crushed by their journey, and the gravity of the new world around them. The world must be habitable – its air breathable anyway – if they could just gain the strength to move around. Evek thought for a moment about venturing off the craft into the surrounding area in the darkness. The tall trees and nattering creatures made her change her mind about the idea.
“We better wait until the next light before we go out there,” Evek suggested to Adam.
“I agree, we need to rest – get our strength back,” Adam said slowly, breathy, nothing but eyes shining back at Evek.
They slowly, exhaustingly made their way back into the cabin amongst the mess of components, shock foam residue, and dead crewmates, to the tiny sleeping quarters, eventually finding sleep through sheer exhaustion.
In the morning, Adam and Evek found themselves nearly as exhausted as the night before. Their sleep was fitful at best with every breath, a difficult exercise even at rest. Using the capsule escape ladder, Evek and Adam slowly descended the craft and ventured out to explore the surrounding area. The place was dense with vegetation. Some of the plants had broad leaf structures, while others had many seedpods – all likely to be edible. Evek took samples of many of the plants she saw to bring back to the craft for testing. Adam and Evek found movement of any kind to be extremely difficult, and spent an entire day barely leaving sight of their craft. In the evening, they tried to drag Eda’s, and Aruck’s bodies from the capsule but they were too heavy to lift through the escape hatch. Evek and Adam finally decided that they would have to remove all the usable food and equipment from the craft and find another refuge. They moved the bodies of their crewmates into the waste processor of the craft, and built a small lift at the escape hatch to aid in removal of those items needed for survival.
Adam and Evek spent the next season removing usable items from the craft, sampling plants for food, and building a home in a cave they found near the craft. They slowly adapted to the increased gravity, although never completely, and built a large garden in the open from the best edible plants they sampled. Evek dedicated the garden to Eda for the sacrifice she made that saved them. Season after season, Adam and Evek tended the garden and improved upon their small territory, never seeing any other survivors from their home planet. Evek had several children that all grew too quickly, and ventured out to find other survivors. Life for Adam and Evek became settled, routine, and pleasant, except for the enormous craft decaying in their site as a constant reminder of their painful past. In their old age, Adam and Evek would occasionally make the exhaustive journey to the barren top of a nearby hill to spend the night looking for their home planet amongst the stars twinkling in the vast night sky, and one night, Evek found it.
“Look Adam, our home planet,” Evek pointed toward an object shining pink in the night sky.
“I see Evek, but this is our home now. It will be our home for many generations,” Adam countered, in his most calming tone.
Evek understood but felt she would always cherish the home of her birth. Someday, Evek thought, maybe thousands of generations from now, her offspring would find a way back to rebuild on her home planet. She had purposely instilled that venturous spirit in all her children. One day, she hoped her kind would break the weighty pull of this planet’s gravity and return to that glowing pink orb just one planet away, and settle in their true home on that fourth planet from the ever-burning sun.
Please, post your thoughts and comments. And, post here when you put your own "first writings" up for the world to see. Looking back at the old stuff can be a great educational tool.
I would post some of the dirty limerick and little single-scene stories, but I'd have to put an adult warning on my page, and it would only show my immaturity at the time, and my distorted psycho-sexual development.