Explorers once (A short story)

The boat rocked gently on the passing swell of water. Not a real wave, like on the sea, just a little movement. The wind playing on the surface of the canal. Joshua pulled the thick duvet up over his shoulders and wiggled down so as much of his body was tucked beneath it as possible. With a sideways shuffle he moved himself as close to the edge of the bunk as he could. Edging toward the oil lamp and the meagre warmth it gave off.

His mother smiled down at him and the lamp light twinkled across her dark blue eyes making them look almost like glazed gems. Her eyes had a depth to them that told of the wisdom and knowledge of a life truly lived. Her face was covered in trenches that took on deep shadows in the evenings twilight. Joshua remembered asking her once why she had so many lines in her face and why he had none. She had laughed at him like it was the silliest of questions and told him that one day he would have lines just like hers. They couldn’t be given, they had to be earned she had said. “Well now why aren’t you closing your eyes to sleep young man?” His mother asked in her warm and earthy tones. “Don’t you know you have a long day tomorrow?”

Joshua shook his head and shuffled even closer to the lamp and his mother. “I can’t sleep” he said with a shrug and a slight smile beginning to tug at the corners of his mouth.

His mother sighed and crossed her arms. She shook her head as though she were exasperated by him but still smiled back, bigger than Joshua’s own had been. “You just want to hear a story don’t you? Trying to trick me into letting you stay awake a little longer.”

“Please?” he asked making his eyes as big and round as possible. Joshua loved to listen to his mother’s stories. Each one was plucked from her past and no matter how many he would listen to there always seemed to be more. He knew other children whose parents told them stories, but most of those weren’t true. Somehow he knew that these stories all were, no matter how fantastical they might seem. Every one was as real as a grazed knee or a bump to the head.

She took a deep breath and settled down into her chair beside his bunk. “Ohh alright…but just one” she said with a wink. She leant forward and twisted the valve on the lamp to lower the light as she cleared her throat to begin. As the light dimmed the interior of the little narrow boat seemed to fade away to dark, soon to be replaced by vibrant and colourful memories of far off lands and fearsome villains. “Let me tell you about the time a Troll nearly had my own two legs from beneath me,” she began, reeling him in from the very first word. “I know, I know. You are thinking ‘but how could a poor washer woman and simple mother defeat a nasty, smelly troll’. I wasn’t always as you know me now though. Me and my friends, we were explorers once…”

Douglas (A short story)

If he ignored the hole in the hull of his ship, and all that remained of his air being slurped out into space…the last few minutes of Douglas P Archibald’s life were fine. He wouldn’t have said they were great exactly, he should imagine there were much more glamorous and exciting ways to go, but for him, that just wasn’t meant to be. Flying through an asteroid belt had seemed like such a good idea a few hours ago, it would have cut his journey time nearly in half. Saved him copious credits on his fuel bill and he would have made it to the pub a whole lot sooner. He had run out of rum only a few days into this job and working while sober was not something Douglas wanted to try and get used to.

Things had started to go south pretty quickly. A few of the asteroids in the sector had a lot more magnetic material onboard than was normal. It had thrown his sensors haywire leaving the real business of piloting in his own hands. The main problem with that was that Douglas wasn’t much of a pilot when he DID have all of the driver assist systems running. When they were offline, he was about as useful as a chocolate chair on a hot day.

He swung a right here and a left there, thought he had space between two rocks. He didn’t have space between two rocks. There was a bang, there was some shaking and then there were alarms. Oh so many alarms. Hull breach one of them told him. Critical damage said another but worst of all was the one that kept on saying ‘Air supply interrupted, perform emergency landing in a safe zone or evacuate ship immediately’. He was in the middle of an asteroid belt, there was no safe planet or station to land on so that idea was shot. His only option was to take the escape pod and hope he would be picked up soon. The main problem with that option was that Douglas didn’t just like rum. He REALLY liked rum. He liked rum so much that when credits were low, he would pawn just about whatever non-essential parts of his ship that he could just to buy another bottle. Funnily enough escape pods always seem non-essential when you aren’t stranded in the ass end of space with a hole the size of a small house in the side of your ship.

When all was said and done Douglas had accepted his fate. He was going to die. There was really no way around it. He could kick and scream and cry but what good would that do? There was nobody there to see it and he would just waste his last moments of life in hysterics. Instead, he kicked off his boots, loosened his belt and lit a cigarette. Then a thought crossed his mind and a smile teased his lips. His life had never been anything special, why should his death be any different.