Escape from the Ammut

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Flash Fiction Fun
"Escape from the Ammut" is a sci-fi short story set on a space ship about to collide with a planet. Inspired by the Ancient Egyptian afterlife myth, where a person's heart is weighed against a feather, the characters of “Escape from the Ammut” must face their past sins in order to solve the riddle that has them on a collision course with annihilation. It is a fast-paced flash fiction about revenge and redemption.

Created: September 12,2019

Submitted: May 22, 2019

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Submitted: May 22, 2019

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Geneviève awoke in the upright sleep-pod. She was still on the ship. She could smell the familiar grease and ilirium that fuelled most starships – but she wasn’t in her cabin. Two men were in sleep-pods on either side of her. Captain Amir, and Doctor Ulrich. She barely knew them, having only become the Ammut’s engineer a week ago. The three of them made up the tiny crew of the star-freighter Ammut.

Doctor Ulrich was banging on the plexiglass door. It wouldn’t open. Geneviève tried hers, but a rudimentary lock with an old-timey scale attached, kept all three crewmates locked in.

A light began to flash. A monotone female voice spoke: “Interior airlock doors closing in one minute. All crew evacuate the airlock.”

Their sleep-pods had been put in the airlock. Someone was trying to kill them. Geneviève banged on the door, but the makeshift lock would not give. She screamed, and wondered who would do this to them. She looked closer at the scales. One of the scales was depressed by a heavy lead feather, and a sentence was written on the central bar:

When the lie outweighs the sin,

It was the first line of a poem, or so she assumed. Next to the scale were two metal plaques with crude drawings. She knew the drawings were of her by the hair, a messy bun with a pencil sticking out of it. The first was of her with her hands in a large bucket. The second was of her laughing with a teenaged girl. Her breathing stopped. She knew who had done this.

“Interior airlock doors closing in thirty seconds. All crew evacuate the airlock.”

Her ex-husband had always loved puzzles. She wasn’t surprised he was using a puzzle to murder her. She grabbed the plaque of her hands in a bucket. She looked like a washing woman. She placed it on the scale. It evened out with the feather, the gears on the mechanism began to whirr and click – and the door swung open.

“It’s a riddle!” she screamed as she ran through the closing airlock door. “The false image is overweight. Choose the real one!”

“10… 9… 8…”

“I got it!” Another whir and a click and Amir was at her side.

“6… 5…”

“I don’t understand!” the doctor was crying. The pathetic man had probably been hungover or still drunk. She had recognized his name when she arrived on the Ammut. She’d thought it’d been a coincidence.

“3… 2… 1.”

The inner airlock door closed, and the outer door opened. The three sleep-pods were ejected into space.

“Damn!” Amir punched the bulkhead.

“Don’t mourn him too long,” Geneviève felt too angry to feel the loss. “Didn’t you ever wonder what such a hot-shot doctor was doing working on this old freighter? He lost his job and reputation after being caught drinking before operating. My ex-husband’s mother was one of the patients he lost.”

“What do you know about this?” Amir grabbed her.

“Val, my ex! He hated me and the doctor enough to kill us. And if you’re here you must have done something terrible enough to want you dead too.”

“Val?” Amir looked confused. “I never hurt him.”

“But you do know him,” she narrowed her eyes at the captain.

“Collision imminent. Please proceed to escape-pods.”

“Val must have changed the ship’s course. Come on!” He started running down the narrow hall towards the escape-pod bay.

The ship was small and dingy, the alarm light flashing down every corridor. They reached the doors to the bay, but they didn’t open. The keypad flashed red and refused to open when Amir punched in the code. Next to the keypad Geneviève read the next line in Val’s poem:

When the victims are acknowledged,

“It wants three different passwords,” Amir said after struggling with the keypad.

“Three accused. Three victims. Three passwords.”

“What passwords?”

“Their names!”

“So it isn’t Val we hurt…”

The ship began to shake violently.

“His mother’s name was Martha.”

“And the other name?”

Geneviève hesitated, and the ship groaned.

“The other name!” Amir yelled.

“Ella.”

Amir type Ella in, and then punched in a third name – Hitomi. The doors to the pod bay opened. They ran through, barely able to stay standing as the shaking of the ship increased.

“Collision imminent. Please proceed to escape-pods,” the computer repeated, but the escape-pods were all gone. They’d been ejected, and scrawled on the wall above a porthole showing a fast-approaching gas-giant, was the final verse of the poem:

Even then, I’ll never forgive you.

Geneviève slumped to the cold metal floor. “He never meant to let us live…” she sobbed.

“He was always sick,” Amir muttered, looking out the window at the planet about to swallow them. “Hitomi thought so too.”

“Who was she?”

“Val was in love with her, but she only had eyes for me. She… she got pregnant. I was young, stupid. I abandoned her… I only later found out she’d killed herself. Val’s right to hate me for what I did to her,” Amir joined her on the floor. The ship squealed and jolted. “Who’s Ella?”

“She was our… She’s my daughter. It was difficult, you know? Val was never home, she was always crying,” Geneviève was crying too. Amir put his arm around her shoulders. “She was so tiny I would wash her in a little plastic tub. I was so tired–”

“It’s okay,” Amir squeezed her in comfort, tears running down his own face. The light coming through the window intensified. He had never allowed himself to forget Hitomi, to let go of the guilt. It’s why his military career had suffered, why he had taken this job. Had he known Val was going to set all of this up, he might have still taken the bait. It was time.

“I miss her every day,” she squeezed him back as hard as she could.

“Yeah, me too.”

The ship was rent in half, pulled apart by gravity. The debris burned as they entered the atmosphere. Val watched on from the escape-pod, waiting for his ship to pick up on the signal and pick him up. He floated in space, surrounded by a deep resounding emptiness, and forced himself to smile.


© Copyright 2019 Guenevere Lee. All rights reserved.

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