It was hopeless. Dorrie had been swimming around in the ocean for who-knows-how–long, trying to look for her lost robot. “Image…” she croaked feebly every so often, but, as she would expect, the only other sound she heard was the sea gulls squawking in the distance.
She felt like giving up. She wanted to give up. But, for the sake of her family, who was probably worried sick about her by this time, she kept on moving.
There was still no glimpse of land in any direction. Dorrie couldn’t understand how just one wave, even if it was twenty feet tall, could wash her away so far. She had been swimming north (or so she thought) for a couple hours, but nothing showed up.
“Maybe I should turn around,” she thought out loud. To her surprise, it took a tremendous amount of effort to simply turn her body in the opposite direction and adjust to the change. “The shore’s got to be somewhere,” she reassured herself. “That wave couldn’t have possibly thrown me to the middle of the ocean, no matter how big it was.”
Her muscles ached as her mind told them to begin laboring again. Her face was contorted into a permanently pained expression, and each move she made took more energy out of her than it usually would.
Dorrie knew she couldn’t last too much longer. Sharp, pained breaths forced their way through her clenched teeth. A long while ago, she had wriggled out of the astronaut’s suit; it was weighing her down. Mingled with the salt water, sweat was beading on her forehead. All she wanted to do was sit down and rest, even if it was just for a minute.
“Keep on going,” she told herself. “Image is going to find you. You’ll be alright.”
“C’mon…” Image murmured to herself, her robotic fingers digging into the gaping hole in her forearm. She had pried off the button plate and was trying to find a red button deep inside her arm.
Although she couldn’t feel any pain, she still wore a repulsed expression. Just the sight of her own arm being torn open made her stomach feel uneasy.
“Where’s that stupid button…”
Suddenly, her oil-covered fingers brushed against a rubbery orb. Image froze, then pushed it in with her thumb. A buzz of electricity ran through her body. Image excitedly grabbed her button plate, blew the few sand grains that had stuck to it off, and clicked it back in place. Like magic, the skin on her forearm stitched itself to the button plate, making it a part of her arm again.
After a few seconds, the buttons lit up. A delighted smile spread across Image’s face as she pressed the fourth blue button in the second row.
A mechanical voice droned out, “Location of Anderson, Dorrie.” Then a holographic map materialized in front of her, showing a live video of Dorrie.
Image’s jaw dropped. Dorrie was floating on her back, twitching. “Image…” she breathed, her eyes looking up but seeing nothing. “She’ll find me…she’ll be okay…I’ll be okay…”
Image closed the hologram. The built in GPS told her exactly where Dorrie was at that precise moment, and Image clawed at her shoes until the rocket caps were off. With a whoosh, she soared into the air.
Dorrie was lying on her back. She had given up swimming a while ago, and now she was just floating around, waiting to die. “Image…come and find me already…or else…I might die out here,” she croaked, half delusional. Her mouth was dry and cracked. So thirsty, she thought. I don’t think I’ve ever been this thirsty in my life.
She heard a plane in the distance. Instantly perking up, she raised her head and turned over again. Excitedly, she thought, Maybe they can take me back home…maybe I won’t have to find my stupid Key to Life! Maybe I’ll get away with it!
She began waving her arms wildly. “Over here!” she cried, her voice cracking. “Save me! Get me out of here!”
The sound of the plane was getting closer. Dorrie could hear a faint squealing, and she squinted into the sun. She saw the outline of a person, jetting closer and closer to her…
“Ow!” Dorrie was lifted violently out of the water. “Stop!” she cried, her arms and legs flailing. “Calm down, Dorrie!” a familiar voice scolded. Dorrie looked up incredulously. No…it couldn’t be…
“Image!” she breathed, a wave of relief sweeping over her. “Yeah, it’s me,” she said through her teeth. Dorrie realized that it was quite a challenge for Image to lift her through the air. “How did you find me?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you in a second,” Image choked out, her speed increasing. Dorrie was silent, but couldn’t stop beaming. I’m going to live! she thought, her face glowing.
The flight lasted about four more minutes until Image whimpered, “I can’t do this anymore! It’s too hard! God…I’m—I’m going down! Dorrie, I’m going down!”
“What? What do you mean you can’t do this anymore? What’s going on, Image?”
“I just told you, numbskull! We’re plummeting toward the ocean!”
“I don’t know—I’m low on energy!”
Horrified, Dorrie looked down. It was true; they were declining, the ocean growing closer each second.
“Can’t you do something?” she screamed, her hair whipping in the wind.
“No, I can’t! I just told you, I’m low on energy!” Image spat.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“It means that I can’t do what I normally do! Hold your breath!”
Dorrie sucked a gulp of air and they both plunged into the icy water. Image wrapped her strong fingers around her wrist, not letting go. A lively swarm of bubbles squirmed restlessly beneath them, brushing against Dorrie’s skin in their haste to rise to the surface.
Water shot up her nose and filled her mouth. She began coughing uncontrollably underwater, unable to move. She felt Image pull her to the surface, and soon her face broke through the skin of the water.
Dorrie was hunched over, coughing. Image was holding onto her with one hand, and raising her other high above her head. When Dorrie finally was able to speak, she choked out, “Why are you holding your arm up like that?”
Image shook her head. “I can’t get water on the buttons, or else they will stop working. And if that happened, we’d be screwed.”
Dorrie nodded and let out a final cough. “So…what do we do now?” she asked weakly, not sure if she wanted to know the answer yet.
Image brought down her arm to her eye level and showed Dorrie her wrist. A very small bar was implanted in her skin. “What’s that?” Dorrie asked, scrutinizing it. “It’s my energy bar,” Image replied. “It shows me how much energy I have left. I only have a tiny sliver here, see? That little bit of green represents how much I have.”
Dorrie nodded. “I get it,” she said. “It’s kind of like battery life.” Image smiled halfheartedly. “Exactly.”
“So, how do you get more energy? Do you have to get a refill or something?” Dorrie asked. Image laughed. “No, numbskull!” she chortled. “All I have to do is rest for a bit. That bar will be full in an hour or so.”
Dorrie groaned. Image saved her just so they could relax? “Do we have to stay in the water and wait?” she whined. Image rolled her eyes and said, “No, I’m not completely useless.” She held her arm out in front of her and pressed a button on her forearm. Then she said in a clear voice, “Raft.”
When nothing happened, Image tried again. “Raft.”
Image was beginning to get frustrated. “Raft!” she shouted into her forearm. Dorrie was starting to get worried; what if the buttons were broken? What if they were stuck here in the middle of the ocean?
Even though it was obviously no use, Image kept on shrieking at her arm. Tentatively, Dorrie touched her shoulder. Image cursed, then looked at Dorrie sheepishly. “Dorrie…” she began. But right at that moment, Dorrie felt a tug on her leg. Fear exploded like a firework inside of her and she whispered, “Image. Something…something’s got my leg.”
Image’s expression turned serious. “I feel it too. Something is tugging on me,” she said in a hushed voice. They were both quiet, deliberating on what to do. Image was deciding that she should jerk her leg out of the ‘something’s’ grasp when she was heaved downwards. She splashed and fought, but the thing holding her didn’t let go. Faintly, she could hear Dorrie’s screaming from above water, then a muted splash.
It’s got Dorrie too.
Image thrashed around and tried to pry her leg free. With a stunning jolt, she realized that the thing holding onto her ankle had fingers. She was just about to sink her nails into its flesh when she heard a beep.
Image opened her eyes and looked at her wrist. The energy bar was blinking red, illuminating her face as the water got deeper. No, she thought, beginning to panic. I can’t be out of energy!
But it was true. She was clean out of energy, and black splotches were already beginning to obscure her vision. She tried desperately to stay conscious, but it was no use. Going limp with defeat, Image’s eyes fluttered shut and the world turned black.
© Copyright 2016 Stephanie Smallshaw. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Action and Adventure
Book / Science Fiction
Essay / Memoir
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