Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. It is stupid to say, especially to somebody afraid of the unknown. The saying never felt more realistic than it does right now. The walls seem to bulge outwards, decorated with blackened scratches and dented craters. My throat sears from dehydration and overuse. I don't know why I bothered screaming. After all, nobody can hear you when you are in nothingness. I don't know how long it's been. Long enough that it is more comfortable to be endlessly spinning than it does to be still. Long enough that I feel disconnected from everything around me. Long enough to sense a vicious rage consume me at the mere inkling of the voice I thought I could trust most.
"Fadine, come on! They'll never even know!"
I didn't question it. Why would I? I have known Sarbek since I was a toddler, still crawling on all fours. I had no reason to doubt. No reason to think the situation would be anything other than what they said.
I scream and beat my hands against the door. For too long, the door has been sealed shut. I can still hear a monotone beeping in the back of my brain! The same sound the escape pod makes as it disengages from the main ship. With a vividness that almost tricks me into believing it is still happening, I can see flaring red lights engulf the room.
"Sarbek," I had laughed, carefree, as I walked into the escape pod, "there's nothing here. The pod's fine." My feet thump against the metal floor with the finality of a failing engine—a sound of imminent doom.
"I can't do it," Sarbek had said without prompt, a dark expression crossing over their reptilian features. It was a look different than anything I had seen from them before. A maliciousness flashed in their eyes. It was the same look Sarbek got when they were about to do something they knew they shouldn't.
"Sarbek? What is wrong?" My stomach twisted. Something had felt wrong. But I ignored it because I trusted Sarbek and believed that he cared for me as much as I cared for him.
I should have walked away. A roar charges itself out of my burning throat. Every swallow feels like acid seeping into the inner layers of my skin. I no longer have claws at the end of my fingers. I will make do with my knuckles instead! The door groans in agony under the onslaught. And yet, despite my efforts, it never caves. It never opens enough for me to throw myself into the nothingness to get out of there. I don't want to be in here anymore!
"I am sorry, Fadine," they whispered as they walked forward, their clawed hand resting upon the barrier between where the door latches and the rest of the ship. I almost believed them too.
They told me they discovered one of our escape pods had malfunctioned.
"You can fix it without anyone knowing it was broken," Sarbek had said conspiratorily. I didn't think much of it. That was how they were: playful, conspiratory, always ready to do something as long as it felt like an adventure. "Put that education of yours to use," they had laughed while leading me along like everything was okay. They guided me straight to my doom. Then it was like they suddenly shifted. The mirth was replaced by something else. When I turned around to face them, a stranger stared back. "I can't do it. I can't stay in that crowded room any longer. I need my space. I need a breather from you!"
They got rid of me...for a room? A room. Space! Ironic that they would eject me into the void because they wanted some space. If they wished for "space" so bad, why couldn't they have just EJECTED THEMSELVES? They sent me spiraling into the vast nothingness of infinity, screaming and sobbing, and they watched like our whole childhood didn't matter! All for some time to themselves? I would have gone on a mission alone to give them their desired space if they had just told me. I didn't need to be abandoned! I slam my hand against the wall, wincing at the sound of my bones rattling and the feeling of my bones grinding against one another painfully.
How could Sarbek so easily toss everything away? How could they abandon me? Do they not remember us running through the streets, working together for our mutual survival? Do they not remember what it was like only to have each other to depend on? Do they not remember our whispered promises of forever? Since we joined this crew, every mission we had was with each other! I trusted them with my life repeatedly since we were nothing but toddlers! Did it mean nothing? How could Sarbek be so insensitive to the memories we share? How could they toss me away? Like I'm nothing. Like we're nothing. I wrap my arms around my torso with forlorn longing, sliding down to the ground, my back pinned to the wall.
"Sarbek, what are you doing?" I remember screaming as he stepped back, the door sliding shut with a loud hiss. The sound of the door latching booms in my ears. My arms still tingle with the force I had slammed my body against the door. It didn't budge. It never budges!
The door is dented now. Blackened scratches circle around where the keypad to open the door should have been. The button to disengage the door after the escape pod lands somewhere was removed. Sarbek must have been planning to be rid of me for a while. The window is shattered, showing fragmented visions of the void circling around the cage I reside in.
"Please, don't do this!"
It didn't matter. No matter how much I screamed and pleaded, Sarbek never even turned around. And just like that, I was left all alone. The ship we both had stayed on disappeared. Just like that, I was left spinning endlessly. At least this is a pretty place to die. It is dark, but when the stars, planets, and sun place a certain way, the void lights up with various shades of purples, blues, and black. But, in the end, it did little to distract me from where I found myself.
I freeze as the entire escape pod lurches without warning. I splay my bloodied hands upon the wall as the escape pod gets pulled towards something. I have no idea what, but if I had to guess, I would say that it feels similar to a spaceship forcing a smaller ship to dock inside of it.
"Hello? Is there somebody in there?" a loud voice asks over an intercom, likely belonging to the ship that snatched me out of the abyss. Despite the acidic feeling in my throat, I utter a scream, a plea, begging for somebody to hear me. "Hello! We hear you! We'll have you out of there shortly!" I don't know how long I have been in that escape pod. Longer than I ever wanted to be, I know that.
I knew that I wasn't going to look particularly dashing. But how the crew that released me from the cage looks at me makes me realize that things are likely worse than I want to believe. As I walk forward, it is not lost on me that I can barely carry my own weight anymore. My legs shake, my arms feel heavy, and my stomach rumbles at the mere sight of any potential food source. I don't think I have slept since I was left behind.
The ship combines sterile white and various dull shades of grey. I have never been happier to see such a drab combination of colors in my life. One of the crew members slips my arm over his shoulder, wincing at the sight of my clawless fingers and the dried blood coating my knuckles.
"Don't worry, we have a good medic," multiple people say with concern glittering in their eyes, "we'll get you taken care of." They move as if they want to help but are unsure if touch is welcome. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about contact anyway. If I can't even trust the person who is like a sibling to me, how can I trust people who are nothing but strangers? And yet, I don't have the energy to put up a fight.
An older male, part of a species known for great medical technology and capability, quickly shoves his way through the crowd and pauses only when he stands in front of me. With startling ease, the man hefts my arm around his shoulder and guides me into the room where medical procedures are done. The crew's medic sets me onto a small bed in the middle of the room, eyeing and prodding me.
The faces of the crew contort into expressions of relief when it is said that I'll pull through. Even though I don't particularly care for medics, I allow this one to prod me as much as is needed. This medic is one of the gentler personnel I've met.
I knew everything would change as soon as the captain walked in. I could see it in her eyes and how she tensed her shoulders when she caught me staring back. But there was a silent understanding passing between the both of us too. I can feel something slithering inside of me. A festering rage ready to turn explosive. With every moment, it becomes more apparent that I'm not going to die, and something cruel and evil is growling in wanton revenge. I can tell that the captain can see this darkness within me. I think some of the blackened nothingness I had been drifting in managed to slip inside me.
"I don't know what happened to get you in that situation," is the first thing the ship's captain says. "I don't think you would tell me even if I asked." She isn't wrong. "I can give you a spot on the crew if you'd like. It isn't much, but you'll get a warm bed, clean clothes, and food." It isn't lost on me that the captain is staying far from me even as she says this. I curl my fingers inward, digging the jagged remains of my claws into the warm flesh of my reptilian hands. I couldn't go after Sarbek now. Not with him having one of the most dangerous crews protecting his back. But Sarbek wasn't getting away with this either. Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Sarbek made me test that statement out. It is only fair that I let Sarbek discover the truthfulness of that statement for himself.
"Happily," I reply to the captain, shaking her hand when she offers it hesitantly, my tongue flicking against my teeth. I'll need to start somewhere, and it may take me some time to find my old friend again, but Sarbek is on borrowed time.
Thank you to my boyfriend, who helped me brainstorm and allowed me to bounce ideas off of him!
About the author
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme