It was sunset. Chantal knew because the sun had been in the sky for a couple of weeks. It was still a black sky, though. All the stars were visible. Chantal could hardly remember a sky
without them; a blue sky with clouds and rain. She was only twelve and remembered little of Earth. She knew she had been born there but all she really remembered was becoming sick. She was always
sick there. Everything had hidden spores and dusts that irritated her sensitive insides and caused her lungs tremendous problems. She knew that was one of the reasons her father had taken the job
at the colony. She also knew that her mother resented it.
She was walking in the park. The re-purified air from the tank on her back held none of the dangers of natural air. Here, her allergies meant nothing. She was even able to kiss one of the boys, Victor, without choking like her sister told her she would. She had found that out about a week ago, when the sun had been high above them. She was going to see him now. The rounded concrete disc of the maintenance module where he lived stood on a slight embankment facing away from the park. She was not allowed in there. Chantal had found a path that lead behind the module on the lower side, right below Victor’s window. She gathered a few stones as she passed through the Zen Garden, other stones rattling and bouncing away in the low gravity.
Chantal liked being outside. Everything moved much slower; more gracefully. And every sound was dulled, almost muted, and hung in the air, clinging to anything that it could shake. Chantal would often throw rocks at the wide metal panels of the crawlers the workers drove. She would sneak right up to them and hurl the rocks as hard as she could, and press herself against the vibrating panels filling her suit with sound and movement. It was a pleasant sound. She could see one of the crawlers tracing across the flats below the colony. She wasn’t allowed down there either, as the dust brought up from the crawlers would hang around for days. It was hard to see when you got down there.
She had three rocks in each hand. Soon she would be out of sight of the rest of the colony, obscured behind the Maintenance module. She could already see Victor in the window, his head in a book. She had never understood why so many of the older people still read books. It was much easier to read from the screen on her handset. She never had to go into the library like Victor; she had complete access wherever she was. Victor’s parents made him read real books. They were strange people.
Chantal stopped below his window. She didn't bother calling out to him, as she knew he wouldn’t hear. Instead she steadied herself, and hurled the first stone. It clunked against the concrete and spun away towards the flats. She aimed the second and threw it as well. Again she missed, and it floated away on its own errand. Chantal held the third stone up in front of herself and visualised it hitting the window. Then she threw. It was much straighter, and she muttered “Come on! Come on!” into her mouthpiece. It struck the corner of the windowsill and ricocheted straight back at her, striking her in the shoulder. In a frenzy of pain and frustration, she hurled the remaining three as hard as she could with no real target. She watched with denied hope as they ascended towards the window. Two struck concrete, but the third made an entirely different sound. It made a crack.
Victor spun in the window, startled by the sound. He saw her standing below, and she waved to him. Chantal’s moment of frustration passed, and she smiled. But then something unexpected happened. There was another cracking sound. Then another. Victor turned his gaze to the window itself, which promptly exploded outwards, accompanied by a visible jet of oxygen, books, papers, and Victor himself. An alarm sounded and emergency power was automatically re-allocated to the airlocks. Victor spun and twisted helplessly in the airless sky, floating directly over the path, and over Chantal. Her body became rigid and her eyes wide with horror. She was unable to do anything other than watch him as he drifted lower and lower, eventually disappearing into the dust of the flats
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