Since I will be reading several short stories, including “Airlock,” at a beer & reading event next week, I figured it was good timing to post an excerpt. This Sci Fi / ghost story mashup was initially written as a 600 word entry into NPR’s Three Minute Fiction contest. Didn’t win, not even close, but I liked the concept enough to rework it into a 900 word flash piece.
The story violates one of those unwritten rules of fiction writing–having an unnamed protagonist–which I worried about quite a bit, going even so far as to name both characters in one draft. But I like the mystery of the nameless characters and quickly reverted to just him and her (he’s the ghost, she’s the captain and sole survivor of a lunar mission gone bad). Maybe they were lovers too, one of the nice things about a short is that it allows the imagination of the reader much more room.
And despite the rule breakage, “Airlock,” was picked up by a Science Fiction eZine, Perihelion Science Fiction, where it was recently published.
The captain sat in her usual chair, reading. Her breathing was laborious, the air so rancid even I could taste it. She struggled to her feet and stumbled toward the inner airlock, the book under her arm. I followed.
The emergency claxon blared, as it had been doing every ten minutes since the explosion. An electronic voice, devoid of emotion, declared: “Please repair the oxygen reclamation system.” The oxygen reclamation system was beyond repair, submerged in a newly formed lake of molten lava. We had less than two days of marginally breathable air left, even with only one survivor.
Her pressure suit hung on its hook by the hatch. She allowed her fingers to glide across the silvered fabric. My suit should have hung next to hers, but it was buried a kilometer below the lunar surface, still on my corpse. The rest of the hooks were barren as well. As the inner lock hissed open, she reached for her helmet. Instead of placing it on her head, however, she merely rotated it slightly, squaring it off in its cubby. “They’re en route,” I shouted, “less than twenty-four hours out.” She knew this, even though my words went unheard.