A real scream this time


I breathe deep, but it is not enough.

Butlerís out-of-breath voice yelling at me to launch before the purple plants grip our ship so hard we canít.

Why we landed here, I still donít know.

One of Butlerís schemes to find which planet Captain Rake left his treasure on, but if he ever came here, he would have hated the place as much as we do.

Purple vines streaming around us like water, attaching to the metal with purple claws, digging in with every intention of getting at us inside.

Take off! Take off! Butler screams.

But the air is so thick I canít think.

An overdose of carbon dioxide even the best adapters could not overcome, and our adapters are not good nor new.

Take off!

It takes me a moment to figure out the sequence, which series of protocols I need to put into place so that we simply lift off the planetís surface and not blasted into hyper space.

Ever since I came to space at 16, Iíve been fearful of getting lost Ė finding myself some place where the stars are so unfamiliar I have no hope of ever returning.

For this reason, I am always extra careful about what I do when I am assigned to launch or activate the hyper drive.

I have heard too many tales of too many sailors who vanished into deep space, mourned and remembered by widows back home who know they are not dead, but as good as.

I donít intend to be one.

Take off! Take off!

Butlerís voice is so strained, I think he must be dying for lack of air. But I am very deliberate. I push one button then the next, comparing each to the chart that says this is what I should do.

Outside, the purple plants scrape at the hull like fingernails on a chalk board, digging always to get at us inside.

The heat rises, too, so that I sweat so hard that even my fingers drip, leaving an imprint on everything I do, as if one more check against the check list of things I should push and pull.

Finally, the countdown commences and I move off to my seat, strap myself in for the blast off, then closed my eyes, praying that we do not explode on launch and that I have done everything necessary to get us where we intend to go.

I close my eyes.

The pressure builds on my chest as we rise, but strangely I begin to breathe better, as the adaptors once more begin to work with lesser plant life to infect us.

When I open my eyes again, I can breathe, and outside the porthole I see only stars, and the remnants of purple weed.

I hear Butlerís voice calling me, and not with the cheerfulness I would expect from our narrow escape. He keeps asking where we are. I keep saying weíre in orbit, but when I look at the instruments, I see we are not. He insists I did something wrong, but I check the check list again and see each thing I did, then look at the still moist switches left from my wet fingers as if proving my carefulness, until, of course, I see one switch still dry, the switch that set the gyros, which of course tells us where we are, where we have been and where we are going, and worse, I see the switch beside it for the automatic launch of the hyper drive.

This is dry, too.

What makes a man do such things, make mistakes like this, even being careful?

Is there some thing in fear itself that drives people to do exactly opposite of what we want?

Butlerís scream resounds through the ship when I tell him.

It is the scream I have dreamed every night since coming into space, only now, it is real.



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