I haven’t shared a Furious Fiction story for a little while – quite frankly, they didn’t make it past the internal Quality Control assessments to justify making them public.
This story was different for a couple reasons – first of all, it felt like it hit all the buttons I wanted it to, so that was nice. Secondly, it managed to make the Long List for the month, which is a first for me and still has me giddy with excitement! But without further ado (ad while I quickly double check the list again to make sure I haven’t imagined this), here are the conditions and the story!
The story’s first word had to be FIVE.
The story had to include something being replaced.
The story had to include the phrase A/THE SILVER LINING
A Hero’s Journey
A Hero’s Journey
Five faces stare at me through the hatch. Relief washes over them, and I’m wondering how long before they realise. It’s hard, with the smoke billowing around them, but they are there, and they are alive.
They can’t see my hand. They can’t know its an inch away from the emergency release, though it has to be going through their minds. Surely if they were in my place, they would do the same?
Except they’re not. They never have been and never will be. There are seconds before the fire breaches the compartment and the shuttle is lost. Its easy, I tell myself. Move my hand an inch and the fire is sucked out into the darkness and stars behind it.
Along with those five faces.
If even one was this side it might be easier. I would be saving them, I would tell myself, not just me. I would be able to convince myself it was a noble deed. Or if I was on the other side. Surely its easier being a hero when you only have to sacrifice yourself.
But the reality is that the only person I’ll be saving is me. Everyone else I’ve known for the last few months is on the wrong side of the bulkhead.
Maybe if I open it just for a second, just long enough for one of them to dart through. Jen’s small, quick. Surely she could make it? A tragedy still, but with at least one other survivor?
No. Reality replaces hope before I even finish the thought. Fire follows fuel. Opening the hatch just invites the flames through. It’s a guaranteed death for all of us. This was just a guaranteed death for them.
My fingers brush the release. Would that be such a bad option though? There’s no guilt if I go with them. The mission is a failure anyway, and eight months alone on the way back is nothing short of terrifying.
Through the smoke I get a last look at their faces – pleading, acceptance, anger. It’s a mix of expressions. The hatch it getting hotter now. Its moments away from breaching.
I take one more look. Five faces, staring at me. No relief this time. Tears, stoic-ness, anger – a myriad of emotions replace the hope they had just moments ago.
One button. One moment. And five faces float away, a starving fireball accompanying them into the void. One face remains reflected in the silicate window. One face strewn with guilt, relief, tears and self-hate.
I had survived, sure. I would go home and see my family, and probably get some kind of award then retire on a decent pension. But watching those five faces disappear, even knowing I didn’t have much choice, survival doesn’t seem much of a silver lining.