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Our Empty Lungs


By Martin S. WathenPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 10 min read

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. However, in this particular moment, a certainty arises for Alissa. Watching her brother float exposed through the vacuum of space, she is sure that his ungodly exclamations reverberate through her cowering ears. Then again, it’s probable that her mind calculated the details to which her ears could not. It’s a sight so visceral that disregarding its intricate detail would slight its brutal absurdity. His face contorts. A lower jaw dislodged off-kilter from the other and concocting a skew-whiff grimace. Such an expression is synonymous with a scream, or unearthly wail, yet refuses to quite correspond with the precise definition of one. In a morbid devotion to reality, Alissa doubts his lungs were even capable of evacuating the gasses necessary to scream. His skin crystallizes, blushing a glassy navy. Eyebrows risen, eyeballs wide. An expression of surprise etched between brow and chin, with fingers curling like a Falcon’s talon. Alissa fiddles with her threadbare restraints and tilts her neck from her brother’s demise. With this, a hand behind pugnaciously yanks it back into place – pressing her temple onto the window as she kneels. A lanky and broad window. Near encompassing one half of the ship’s hall, a cinema screen visual association with the backdrop of black projecting its grisly image. Her own face reflects upon it, tears streaming so briskly that they blend her own vision into an abstract kaleidoscopic characterization of reality. Above the rear clamor, begging, screaming and ire, her own body roars above the rest. They call it ‘Rubatosis’. The sensation of hearing, even feeling, your own heart pump. In a pace far too swift to maintain track. She even feels, or which she swear she can, her own blood boil.

Marley is, fortunately, floating virtually from sight within a fistful of seconds. It isn’t long before she is certain he is dead. Ever since their adolescence Alissa felt that the boy was a fighter - yet this skirmish was one far beyond the pale. An uncanny energy surrounds the corpse, confirming that everything that it once was is now gone. All that which formerly resided within was now banished; bound to never return again. The glowing blonde light of the hall Alissa lay reflecting upon her brother’s vanquished vessel. Nothing surrounds him. Only the very same black expanse emitting from that window – the uniform for 800 days now. The ‘backwards end of space’, with waning generators and prorated oxygen.

‘Some souls are worthier than others’. A voice remarks behind, in reference to that evanescent oxygen. These mass executions were so commonplace that some bystanders about her went on about their day as if they could not see a thing. Alissa was once one of these people, her brother the same.

Her undernourished fists clench tight enough to draw blood at the palm, bound by the wrist through makeshift rope shackles. They’re burgundy, merging rope and blood as she despairingly jerks - praying she isn’t next. Lord knows, they choose at random. The hand pressed against her neck squeezes tighter, but Alissa gathers the sense that her own emotional exhaustion is intended to prolong far beyond her contemporaries. The three men at her left are not recognizable to her. Most plausibly poor saps snatched at random. The man most direct has a cheek smothered against glass and rubs along it, smearing his tears into a broad smudge. She is quite certain the glass’ cold is a precursor for things to come. The stranger’s hands are wrapped tighter than hers, and dry blood paints his chin and lower lip like encrusted graffiti on elderly brick. There must have been more fight than her, an approach less nihilistic than Alissa’s own. That said, more fantastical. If his nabbing was anything alike her, he’d have known that battle was futile. He mutters pleas against the glass as if it might help, and whimpers like a lonely dog. It seems beyond human, for her. A noise unimaginable nor worthy of replication. Both hopeful and hopeless. In him, a lost and hapless sense that these savages might somehow reach their senses, but a dread reminding him that they certainly would not.

By now, the second body glides beyond her eyes. This time, a woman. Thick black licorice hair in a blood seeped dress. This one curls into a ball and crystallizes into place. If the victim was to clatter against the window, she might shatter into pieces. This face was hidden. Retreating behind a cowering forearm. The arm against Alissa’s own neck rolls toward her curled and knotted hair then clenches tighter than ever before. Fingers burrow into the grease lathering her hair, burying nails into a crumbled scalp to press cheek firmly against glass. Two months was sure to have passed since her prior shower. It was within the realms of possibility that she was discovered by her captors through scent alone.

‘Open your eyes’ the voice pipes. Her knees shiver, and the weeping man to her flank howls in mistake that the mandate is pointed at him. The voice, cruelly familiar. One she’d heard since she and her brother were young. In fact, one she once welcomed as that of warmth. Even, dare she say, a shoulder to cry on. Only, this time, his spittle moistens her shoulder rather than her tears on his. Her eyes curling toward his own, to find Marley’s old best pal. It wasn’t long before he caught her eyes fixating upon him rather than his old friend.

‘Out there!’ His voice roaring with a crackle. She doesn’t comply, finding her scalp yanked backward and then hurled into the glass.

‘Simon!’ Another familiar voice heckles from behind. The fist loosens around her scalp and she slumps heavily to the ground. A steam of blood drips against her knee like the initial flashes of a crimson monsoon. Now, her eyes curl back up to the coward which hurt her. Ahead of him, arms extended, the man she had once tried to kill. He looks different to how she remembered some weeks ago. Paler, with sunken eyes which had not rested for, likely, as long as she had hidden. A fresh scar laces his right cheek. A fleeting moment of pride for Alissa as she realizes this was her own handiwork. She only wishes she could have finished the job – yet again, a thin shard of glass lacks the sturdy efficacy of a dependable weapon. Just a couple inches lower and her brother might likely have been alive.

‘Anger is contagious. We have a job to do. Don’t waste your breath, and don’t waste my air’. The bastard chimes. Behind him are several others like her old pal ‘Simon’. Men in black button shirts, and tight mismatching jeans. It’s the nearest to a fresh uniform they can salvage and it allows these hopeless thugs to exert a power they once never could. They wore steal toed boots and near matching styles of hair – a comb over shaved shoddily below the ears. Simon conceded right away. Lowering a bowing head and stepping back from Alissa’s slumped body. The other man stepping forward in his place, hunching aside Alissa and maintaining contact on her eyes. Gazing down a bloodied nose, she looks back. But not into his eyes, into his fresh scar, and he can feel it.

‘Somewhere, somehow, somebody will finish that thing off’ She murmurs beyond the copper tinge of her own blood. The scarred man merely smiles and whispers:

‘It’s a shame you won’t be able to see it’.

With this, he leaps to his feet and turns to the crowd. There’s a shift in expression, and different angle to which he carries the weight of his cowardly body. His arms sway like he conducts a symphony, whilst his audience gleam with jaws dislodged like her own brother’s. There’s a power he holds, as with any conman, amongst those hearts he has judiciously stolen. Even with his back to hers, Alissa recognises that the very same smirk will be painted with the callous brush it has always been.

‘We’ve got no place for anger’. He begins, hogging oxygen. “This is a job we must do, but we don’t do this from anger. Anger leads to arguments, and arguments lead to excess oxygen depletion. We only speak when we’re spoken to. We don’t waste oxygen like these people. These animals”.

With this, a third ejected. This one more hesitant than the last. Clawing at his captors, he leverages the momentum to moan cries of mercy – though no ears prick firm enough to hear. Even so, the plea verbalises merely as a snuffling growl interspersed with yelping excursions of breath. Moments later, he’d regret lacking a priority over his lung’s capacity – gliding by that cinema screen window tearing at the sockets of bulging eyes.

The crowd falls hush upon the words of their de-facto leader. They always would. It seems only few hold the courage to stand tall against the monster, and those do reach a fate all the same as Alissa and her supposed conspirators. With each word that slips beyond the tongue of that snake, the crowd are weaved and tangled further into the knot. Alissa tried; with the nearest glimpse of nobility she had seen in the prior three years, to separate the knock by slicing the tendons around it. Her brother was only guilty by his association. This, likely, is the gut punch which stings the most. Watching, through damp tearful eyes, she wonders whether the sobbing fool on her left was as innocent as her brother too. By now her head slumps over across her body and knees weaken far beyond mustering the strength to carry her. She burrows her chin into a stale, stained, collar and rolls eyes upward to those who will reunite her with her brother. There is no emotion other than wonder. Dozens of eyes, varying in colour, but wide enough to decipher their exact tone, with jaws slipped wide and bobbing necks. Eyes in every direction, devouring her at her most vulnerable. At her most humiliated. Her angriest. Blood slipping along her upper lip then branching beyond her chin, she scans over to each. Begging does not work, whimpering does not work, but perhaps locking eyes with each fool and forcing them to confront the soul they are soon to dispatch might be enough. Such an avenue of desperation is perhaps as foolish as all those which had gone before.

‘Her next’. The prince of deceit barks. Without hesitation, Simon scoops Alissa and tugs her toward the shuttle disposal. It resembles a tube, chrome toned, and spherical. Beyond it is a funnel slide which eventually leads to the duskiness of outside. Her shoulders have slumped into the arms of her captor. Even if she held the mental dexterity to battle onward, she’d eaten only scraps for weeks. Her arms were straws ready to snap, and legs quavered beneath their own weight. One last time, her eyes curl toward those which were set to feed her into nothing. Scanning each and every one, their blues and browns may well be red, for she glared hesitantlessly at the devil and his demons. Yet, amongst them all, one stood different about the rest. One toward the rear of the pack. Green eyes less widened than the rest, with the glistening of a thin blade shoddily disguised amongst the palm. Then another, this time approaching Simon leisurely from the right. An emerald box cutter dangling from their left wrist. And a third, then fourth. A minimum of five brandishing blades and opposing expressions to the dozens about them. Alissa groaned, the only bodily response capable, and clenched her knees. It’s no use. No strength remained in those frail knees. If, even, there was, Simon is a man which towered over her own naturally slender stature. He clenches her hair tight a final time, tugs her close and makes effort to ensure her evacuation is as violent as possible. Then, on an outward push, she is excreted from that hall, down the chute. Behind her, the cries and screams are not like they were before. No, the fearful wails derive from the majority this time over. The creamy overhanging lights of before no longer radiate on her back as she slips toward her expected end. There’s nothing behind her, almost as there is nothing ahead. Blackness ahead, blackness behind. She realises, a suspicion of which she fears is too late, that somebody has cut the lights.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

Martin S. Wathen

A writer practicing in both prose and script. With a deep passion for film and screenwriting, I use this platform to publish all unique ideas and topics which I feel compelled to write about! True crime, sport, cinema history or so on.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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    Well-structured & engaging content

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    Original narrative & well developed characters

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