Sunset and Evening Star

In the thick of the fight, he had ignored the screaming alarm that he now knew signaled a malfunction in his yaw sensor. His only worry was avoiding the nearest enemy’s cannons, weaving and dodging until he was no beyond pursuit. But with the sensor broken, his guidance systems were worthless; he couldn’t be sure in which direction he had fled, or more importantly, how to get back to the fleet. He’d tried to raise them on comlink but either he or they were too far to receive the transmission.

A few times during his training period, when the station’s lights dimmed for the mandatory sleep cycle, he’d had nightmares of being stuck out in space like this, his short-range ship parsecs from any inhabited world. But this wasn’t a bad dream. At first, he sat in shock, staring at the stars that flickered light-years away. Then as the hours passed, he screamed and cried, made deals with deities that turned a deaf ear. Finally, he settled into a sort of calm and reached for the pain-numbing pills in the first aid kit.

He set the ship turning so he could see what was around him. There, in the distance, was what he had hoped to see: the solar system’s star, a red giant slowly collapsing into a white dwarf. He studied its beautiful, bright corona and smiled.

“Twilight and evening bell,” he whispered. “And after that, the dark.”

He set his ship on a collision course and disabled the self-preservation overrides, then swallowed all his pills at once. He knew he would be long gone before they ever reached the star, far away as it was, but he’d make it someday. At least this way, his passing in the empty blackness would end with blazing light.

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8 Responses to “Sunset and Evening Star”

  1. @lil_monmon says:

    Ooh! Ah! You capture that hopeless sense of airless claustrophobia very nicely. Now I have to stand outside and breathe deeply. Well written.

  2. Valerie says:

    Glad you liked it, Mon. I kind of had to take a few deep breaths myself. I think I wanted to really get into his emotions but the depth of that particular pond scared me. Hope I managed okay despite that.

  3. John Wiswell says:

    Hard to turn down that sort of invitation. The ending is, literally and punfully, brilliant. Go quietly into that good night, then several light years later, blam!

    (Possible change: “A few times during training, he’d had nightmares” – maybe “A few times during the training month, he’d had nightmares” unless he fell asleep mid-lesson.)

  4. Valerie says:

    Good point, John, thanks. Will tweak that post-haste.

  5. Been watching the new Doctor Who? Space Opera-ey.

  6. Valerie says:

    Actually, Farscape. Doctor Who is so last month (only because I ran out of episodes to watch on Netflix Instant). Haven’t done much in space yet, figured I’d give it a go and aim for that serious ending you’ve admonished me to seek.

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