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All Mira wants is to go home for her mom's 80th birthday. But when her ride is a banned spacecraft, she can't help but wonder if she'll survive. Her husband's attitude isn't helping either

“C’mon, hurry,” Mira yelled to Jules as they rushed through the spaceport. “We can’t miss this ride.”

Jules ran after her, panting. “There’s another one next week. What’s the big whoop?”

“That one is heading to the opposite side of Earth. I can’t waste any more time and money getting from Australia to Europe.”

Jules grunted. “That’s because you don’t want to use the supersonic train. It’s not my fault you have vertigo.”

Mira shook her head and kept pushing through the crowd. Allowing her husband in the VR capsule was a mistake. Jules was a gamer, the worst of his kind. Why did she think he’d stop playing in time?

While waiting for an escalator, Mira looked at their glowing stick boarding passes. They had a few more minutes, at best. Was she truly going to miss Mom’s 80th birthday because of this goof? Because she believed he’d learned to handle his gaming addiction?

Finally, they made their way to the boarding booth. It was cramped, dirty, and smelly, just like all other rides flying to her home country. No wonder. Her nation had been the poorest one for centuries. Sometimes, she wished Mom wasn’t so attached to nature and came to live with them instead. It could have made things a lot easier.

Glancing at her glowing stick, Mira noticed it went dark and sighed. If she was being completely honest with herself, she couldn’t remember the last time she saw one of these, not to mention held it in her hands. Here on Ganymede, the quality of the boarding pass depended on the spacecraft. She should have guessed there’d be a delay. She also should have guessed their ride would be a piece of junk.

“Is that a shape-shifter?” she asked as the vessel approached. “What the hell did you book?”

“I booked what was available,” Jules growled.

“These things have been made illegal over a decade ago!”

“Not in your country,” he laughed.

Mira couldn’t get over the fact they’d be flying back to Earth in the shifter. They were notorious for accidentally killing people in their “shifting process”. When they were grounded, they looked like a massive triangle, and when they took off, they elongated, turning into a rocket. If they had to pick up a passenger somewhere in between destinations, they’d either be looking at another triangle transformation or the ellipsis, depending on where the stop was. Any passenger could get killed at any moment, especially if not tied properly. Not to mention if they used the toilet.

They slowly made their way to the shifter, and she sent her mom a text, saying they were boarding. Mom asked if it was a safe ride and Mira lied, knowing Mom would flip out if she knew what they were flying with. They stood aside, allowing the others to storm in. Her nation wasn’t exactly the best-behaved. If it wasn’t for her dad who got a job on Mars, she’d probably have evolved into the same neanderthal. Mom couldn’t have stayed on Mars, though?she missed the trees. It was why her folks got divorced. She stayed with her dad, as Mars offered excellent education and had an amazing social structure. She usually visited Mom three to four times a year back then. Now, traveling from Ganymede, she considered herself lucky to go once a year.

“C’mon.” She pulled Jules into the shifter. “Let’s go.”

They got in, and to her surprise, there were four seats available. Any ride to Earth, even to a shitty country such as hers, was usually cramped to the point of people paying to be standing all the way. She glanced at the seats and went towards the one with magnetic belts. The flight attendant stopped her midway.

“Sorry,” the attendant said, “these aren’t your seats.”

Her jaw dropped as she turned to look at Jules. “You booked us plain seats? Are you insane?”

Jules shrugged. “I wasn’t aware there’d be ones in the first place.” He opened his palm and swiped his finger over it. “Look, there’s no mention of the old-fashioned belts in here.”

She pushed her thumb into a small hologram. “There is,” she shrieked, “right here! Are you blind?”

He squinted, then laughed it off. “We’re not the only ones using these seats. I’m sure we’ll be fine. Just . . . umm . . . try not to get up. At all.”

She was one step away from killing him. “It’s a thirty-eight-hour flight!”

“Don’t blame me for your tiny bladder.”

Jules took a seat and strapped up while Mira stood speechless. She had quite a lot of health issues, courtesy of her genes, but her husband’s ways of using them as an excuse for his fuck-ups were deviant. The attendant in front of her was getting nervous?Mira could tell by the way her nostrils widened with each breath. She smiled at her.

“Can’t we pay extra to use these?”

“They aren’t available, miss.”

“Missus,” Mira corrected her. “And what do you mean?they’re not available? No one’s sitting on them.”

“They’re not available. Now, either sit down or leave. Take off in five.”

Mira frowned. As any other attendant from her country, this one didn’t give a shit about the tone of voice or appropriate words?probably because an uncle or a sugar daddy had gotten her this position. Making a complaint wouldn’t do anything but eat Mira’s time while she was back home. Unlike Ganymede and Mars, administration sucked down there.

She hesitantly sat down and strapped up as tight as she could without suffocating. She’d only flown in the shifter once, when she was five. She remembered blood splattering all over the craft as it changed its shape. She remembered a lady screaming and her dad pressing his palms on her ears, telling her to shut her eyes. And now, they were sitting in the same seats where that poor man and his child had sat . . . and died.

They took off. The rumbling sound of the engines reminded her of how old this craft was and why it was banned from most spaceports, planets, and countries back on Earth. She actually believed her country could be the only one to still use this vessel. How did it even get approval to dock on Ganymede? She looked around and realized one face stood out in this crowd of nobodies. Their country’s Chancellor was a pig. She despised that man. Naturally, he sat in the most elite section available, leaving a seat empty on each side. That’s why the attendant wouldn’t let them use those seats. The pig needed extra space.

Five hours into the flight, all was well. They even had sandwiches with salami and cheese brought to them. The only available juice had tons of sugar in it, so she drank water to prevent her blood sugar from spiking. She wasn’t even thinking about saying it out loud. Jules would just ridicule her even more.

Soon after she had her meal, she dozed off. Or at least she thought she did because, by the time she woke up, the shifter had already picked up ten more passengers. They all stood perfectly quiet, terror flooding their faces. It was like they weren’t aware this ride was a shifter until they saw it. Just like her.

“Next stop?Mars,” the attendant said.

Mira looked at the red planet as they approached it, remembering her dad’s funeral. She hadn’t been back there since and wasn’t planning going back. Ever. There was nothing more for her there. She took advantage of a spaceport break to go to the loo. Surprisingly, almost half of our journey had passed with no issues. No one had died yet. Still, she raced back to her seat and strapped up again, waiting for another?hopefully last?take off.

More sandwiches. As she felt sleepy again, she couldn’t help wondering if they spiked the sandwiches. Was this their way of making it easy for the dying passengers? Or maybe she had another relapse. Damn autoimmune disease. It made her so weak. There were days she literally couldn’t lift a fork. To her, any exercise was science fiction.

“Final stop?the independent society of Beli Grad,” the attendant announced.

Mira rubbed her eyes in shock, noticing more passengers doing the same. So, it was sleeping drugs, it must have been. It didn’t matter, she was just happy they reached safely. Jules still snored next to her, but she decided not to wake him until they landed. She tightened his belts and rested her head on his bony shoulder.

“Shifting process commencing.”

She bit her lip as their seats moved, holding her husband’s hand. A thump startled her, but as there was no accompanying scream, she thought someone must have dropped their juice box. Then, the shrieking started. The left side of the shifter got stuck in between phases. All passengers who weren’t neatly tied up fell into the abyss. The right side had pieces of metal bending inwards instead of outwards, killing another five passengers. Mira screamed, shaking Jules to wake up. As usual, he was deep asleep. He didn’t suffer from mid-dream heart palpitations as she did. She tightened both their belts, knowing it won’t be saving them if more metal popped up on the wrong side of the craft. Below their feet, the cargo area opened up, sending all luggage into space. Or was it the upper Earth atmosphere? Did it even matter?

The cockpit twisted and turned before her eyes. The crew had ejected, abandoned the spacecraft. That meant they were left to die. They’d probably say it was a tragedy. But what about the Chancellor? Mira looked around, screams piercing her ears. The Chancellor was still strapped to his seat, his face pale as if he’d just seen a ghost. Was this an assassination, then? If so, well done. It was about time. But why now? Why now, with so many innocent civilians? Why now, when she was supposed to see Mom again? Why now, when there was a doctor back home who said he’d isolated a missing gene that could cure her? Why now, when she was finally supposed to start living, in her fifties?

The shifter fell to the ground. At first, Mira was sure she was in Heaven. She slowly opened her eyes, thinking what to say to these higher beings when they ask her what her religion was. Mira was certain they wouldn’t count “The Force” as a valid source of beliefs. Then, she noticed shreds of metal dipped in blood and lifeless bodies everywhere around here. She pinched herself and yelped. This was no heaven. But it wasn’t hell either. It was real. It sure looked real.

Jules yawned, stretching his arms over his head. “Are we there yet?”

On the outside, old police cars and ambulance vans lined up to search for survivors. But apart from the two of them, there were none. Mira shuddered. “Yup. We’re home.” 

Submitted: November 02, 2021

© Copyright 2022 B.K. Ntouris. All rights reserved.

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Krista Lynne White

So creative! What and ending!

Tue, November 2nd, 2021 7:42pm

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