Fiction logo

You're Not Alone...

Uncharted... not the same as uninhabited.

By N.J. Gallegos Published 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 14 min read

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say.

But as I hurtled towards the uncharted planet’s surface in a crumbling ship, I thought I might find out.

It looked like I wasn’t going to meet up with the medical frigate like I'd previously planned.

Something real fucking inconvenient has come up.

“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” I screamed, tasting harsh iron in the back of my throat. A sign of internal bleeding?

Certainly possible.

Or just my raw vocal cords fraying?

My ragged breaths came faster and faster, a red-hot fury blooming in my ribs with each sharp inhalation. The impact had violently wrenched me forward, my restraint belts clenching my torso tightly enough to leave bruises tattooed into my skin—blood vessels bursting and dumping their contents within my tender soft tissues. Creating a contusion that was a colored prism of agony: sunless black, anemic purples, and green, the color of the sky right before a tornado. The same colors that now belonged to the poisoned clouds that comprised Earth’s funeral shroud. Our once beautiful sapphire sky had dissolved into a festering, necrotic wound.

And what happened to humanity?

Even worse.

I gripped the control yoke with gloved hands, gloves similar to those donned by astronauts repairing The International Space Station.

Not that that existed anymore.

They’d taken that out very early on, along with most of the satellites linked to our defense network. They’d fired upon those first, setting the sky ablaze, and flaming metal rained down on our cities. An omen of an unholy End of Times.

Which, incidentally, was exactly what it was.

Some prayed to God, hoping for salvation.

Others took up arms and fought back against the devils who possessed technology far more advanced than ours, suffering devastating losses.


My medical training came in handy. I patched up the injured. Helped the sick, present in overwhelming numbers. Some were ill from the normal maladies: flu, poor nutrition, and the like, but many succumbed to byproducts of the invasion. Foreign germs we had no hope of treating, radiation poisoning. Breathing in air leached of oxygen, inhaling poisonous gases that shut down the body's nervous system, bit by bit.

I believed in God before.

I don’t now.

If God existed, He’d abandoned us in our most dire hour. Or worse, was indifferent to our suffering.

We had almost no chance of fighting back.

But I could fight back.

Right fucking now.

I gritted my teeth. The ship’s vibrations rattled my silver dental fillings and briefly, I worried they’d shake loose, and I’d suck them into my lungs, lodging them in my bronchi, cutting off precious oxygen to my struggling alveoli. Suffocating me from the inside out.

All this oxygen, and not a drop to breathe.

Although… chances were good—excellent even—that my body would incinerate in the atmosphere. At least the G-forces would render me unconsciousness if I survived the suicide plummet through that and spare me the agony of an impact that would pulverize me to bits. The only way they’d be able to identify me would be by checking the ruined cells and tissues strewn miles from the crash site for my DNA signatures.

Forget checking dental records to make a positive ID.

I had to admit, dying from hypoxia would be a dream compared to either of those fates.

That’s me, always looking on the bright side when force fed a shit sandwich.

A symphony of alarms blared with such synchronicity that they sounded like an industrial house track. All the screeches and whines were the backbeat of my ship’s failing. One signaled leaking coolant. Others were fire alarms, only from the outside… for now.

And… worst of all, the alarm that warned of breached hull integrity.

Flashing red lights illuminated the ship’s interior. Not wholly unwelcome since my overhead lights extinguished immediately after the monster’s lasers shredded through my hull.

Lights were the first ship function to go.

Sadly, not the last.

And if I’d lost lights on the inside—the opposite was occurring outside the ship.

Brilliant incandescent sparks rained down around me, traveling alongside me like an old friend. In other circumstances, the display might have been beautiful. If I squinted just right, the debris looked like fireworks cascading through the sky on Independence Day. For a moment, I wasn’t racing to my death. Instead, I clutched a hotdog slathered in mustard in one hand, a fizzling sparkler in the other, my eyes trained on the night sky awash with color. Gazing in that spellbound wonder that’s most precious when you’re a naïve child.

A nostalgic pang squeezed my heart, adding to the agony of my cracked ribs.

No more Fourth of July.

No more America.

Hell, no more Earth.

But I’d be damned if I went down without a fight.

I’d teach those fuckers that we fight back.

Humans might appear relatively harmless. We lack claws and don’t have any inborn means of defense like many creatures native to Earth. No horns, venom, or poison. No, other than our fragile fists and legs that shattered far too easily with an errant kick, we had nothing. Just soft flesh, and teeth that struggled to rip through childproof toy packaging.

But… we had weapons and after studying our foe extensively, we’d created ordnance that penetrated their shields, ripped through their ships, and annihilated every smug asshole on board.

We could really ruin a motherfucker’s day.

“Fuck you,” I hissed at my unseen foe, who I suspected was trailing me in their ship like a hyena stalking an injured gazelle through the Serengeti.

A voice jerked me back into the present, and my heart rate climbed. 170 beats per minute according to my helmet’s display.

“Doctor, we’ve lost control of steering.”

The feminine voice filled the cabin with its dismal news and delivered it almost without emotion. Almost. If I wasn’t mistaken, the announcement carried an undercurrent of impatience. Hurry, hurry, was its unspoken message. “And, I’m afraid, nearly all other controls.”

At that, a lancing cramp seized my intestines. Every time I got anxious; I had a tendency to bolt to the restroom. My disproportionate tachycardia hinted at an impending stress diarrhea, and the central computer, Ripley—thus named for Ellen Ripley, who loved cats and abhorred Xenomorphs—had full access to my vital signs and knew me far better than I liked to admit.

“The good news is that the toilet appears to be functioning still, in the event that you must evacuate your bowels.” Ripley paused. “And according to your haptic suit data and prior observed behaviors, the probability of that occurring is 89%”.

Gritting my teeth until the worst of the intestinal contractions passed—she was right, I was dangerously close to losing it—I said, “Ripley, can you respectfully SHUT THE FUCK UP, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?!”

“Understood,” she replied. Then in a near whisper added, “The probability has increased to 95%.”

Despite my impending doom, I rolled my eyes. Leave it to Ripley to make a shit joke when I was mere seconds from death.

Why had I thought it was a good idea to increase her humor during the last upgrade?

“Doctor, I know you told me, what was it? ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD’? But I detect the enemy ship approaching. Rapidly closing in on our position, currently at 1000 meters.”

“Great. Please tell me our weapons’ system isn’t completely shot, Ripley,” I replied. Sweat trickled down my face as more adrenaline poured into my system. Some au natural from my adrenal glands, but most of it supplied by my suit, in the event of an emergency to enhance alertness and strength.

“Well…” Ripley hesitated. More bad news. She’d long mastered human speech patterns and, annoyingly, mirrored many of my own verbal tics and quirks. Sometimes it was like being around an electronic clone of myself and I often wondered if I was truly that annoying to everyone else around me because she sure as shit got on my nerves at times. But I had to admit, I enjoyed her company, especially on long jaunts. “We have four missiles left onboard but… we will probably only have enough power to fire one before everything shuts down. After that…” she trailed off. Leaving the unspoken phrase ‘we are totally fucked’ hanging thickly in the air like the smoke filling the cabin.

“After that, we are totally fucked?” I said, completing her statement. I reached towards the controls that armed and fired our armament. Shockingly, it was one of the few displays that wasn’t flashing like a DJ’s EDM set at a festival.

“Precisely,” she replied.

“Well… let’s take that bastard out, then. At least we can die fighting. Can you get a fix on their position?”

“Of course, I can get a fix on their position. That’s elementary, my dear Watson.” Clearly, Ripley enjoyed that last personality upgrade, constantly making pop culture references from the last millennium. “Although, Doctor, I’d like to point out that I will not die since I possess no true organic matter to speak of.”

“That’s very comforting, Ripley. Thank you for that information,” I said, sarcasm bleeding into my voice. Here I was, seconds from death, and I was bickering with my ship’s central intelligence like we were an old married couple. My wife would be jealous.

Another voice—this one masculine with the hints of a British accent—announced, “Missile armed.”

“Doctor, I have a lock on the enemy’s position. You may fire when ready,” Ripley said. A smile creased my tightly pinched faced. Long ago, I’d programmed her to say that, echoing the iconic words of Grand Moff Tarkin aboard the Death Star.

I reached using my gloved finger, the fabric previously milky and white, now singed at the edges and mashed on the ‘fire’ button. Even through my ship’s death throes and metallic groans that filled the world, I felt the telltale vibration of the missile disengaging and once it was away, the craft bucked upwards violently instead of holding steady since the stabilizers were long gone, and my stomach leapt upwards.

I closed my eyes, knowing that we’d be well within the missile’s blast radius. I hoped death would be swift. Hoping for a completely painless demise was folly, but the less pain, the better. I didn’t wish to feel the searing heat cascading across my flesh, welding the fibers of my suit to my delicate skin, cooking my sinew, denaturing all my cell proteins. The scent of burning flesh had always curdled my stomach and the knowledge that it would soon be my flesh scenting the air… ugh. I’d smelled a significant amount of crispy tissue in my life, between my times spent in the medical bay with a cautery tool perched in my fingers, its hissing tip dancing across ruined flesh. Trying my damnedest to heal that which was already destroyed. Not to mention all the other people I hadn’t been able to save from our oppressors’ weapons that dismantled cells on a molecular level, melting their victims from the inside out.

At least I’d take one of those fuckers down with me.

And instead of succumbing to their ruinous designs, my atoms would join the universe in a manner I was content with. I’d live on within the stardust swirling throughout the galaxy, maybe even become part of a nebula that could give rise to a star that might someday provide life to the future of humanity.

I smiled.

Tears dripped down my cheeks, mingling with sour sweat.

“Ripley,” I said, my voice thick with emotion. A deep ache seized me, making my throat feel as if it were closing. “It’s been a pleasure knowing you.”

My last seconds slowed, stretching to an eternity.

I thought of endless oceans teeming with life.

My wife’s sorrow etched into every line of her face when she watched me climb aboard my ship, unsure of when or if I’d return.

And… I thought of hope.


A warmth completely unrelated to the ship’s rising temperature filled me.


“Likewise, Doctor. I hope you don’t mind, but I beamed out a message to your wife.”

I opened my eyes and the surrounding sky exploded as the missile detonated against the enemy craft, ripping through its structure with the power of the atomic bombs dropped in Japan long ago. Yellow. Orange. Blue.

Then white.

So much white, like a snow-covered tundra. A pleasant heat overtook me, washing over me like the sun’s rays kissing my skin on a warm summer day.

I invited Death in, offered myself to the universe.

The last thing I heard, instead of my terrified screams in the vacuum of space, was Ripley’s voice, kind and soothing.

“I told your wife that you loved her and that you died a hero.”

Everything went black and silence enveloped me like a long-lost lover.


I gasped and my eyes flew open.

Was this the afterlife? Or something else altogether?


What happened?

I struggled to sit up, every muscle fiber in my body crying out with the exertion of the act. I thrust myself upright with a significant discomfort that echoed through every part of me. The pain was evidence that I wasn't completely unscathed. I scanned my surroundings, ignoring the searing agony of my bruised ribs.

Not the afterlife.

Not Heaven.

Not Hell.


The unknown planet.

Its atmosphere had been the staging ground of my last assault.

I was… on the surface?


My breath caught in my throat as I caught sight of something far more astounding than my continued existence.

What was more stunning than the revelation that I hadn’t perished?

What my eyes beheld.

Endless forest-green sands stretched out in every direction. Dunes in the distance glowed with an illuminance that reminded me of a deep-sea creature luring prey to its death. In the black sky above—remnants of an explosion, likely from my missile. And behind that? A stunning white and yellow ring marched through the sky, encircling the planet, similar to the rings I’d only seen in pictures of Saturn.

The air was absolutely still, and all was quiet.

Not a sound save for my thrumming heart.

It was breathtaking.

I surveyed my immediate surroundings. Instead of green grains of sand cradling my battered body, I was on some sort of… litter? Stretcher?


I glanced down at myself. My left arm was encased in some type of splint and a sling cradled the injured arm, looping it around my neck. And I was no longer dressed in my flight suit; I’d been stripped down to my under clothing. Multiple lacerations marred my legs but instead of open flesh exposing yellowish fat and bloody tissues: translucent bandages clung to the wounds, knitting my skin back together.

Alarm bells went off in my mind.


The fact that I was alive, and someone had taken the time to patch me up wasn’t exactly a comfort.

Our foes had a tendency to nurse their victims back to health, just to torture them mercilessly once they’d recovered.

Was that the case? Or was this the work of someone else?

I knew one simple truth.

I wasn’t alone on this uncharted planet.


Where was Ripley when I needed her?

Author's Note-While I very much adore sci-fi, I don't often write it. They say write what you know... I'm a doctor and I would love to bicker with my onboard AI if I had a ship. I started with that idea and ran with it. Like I said, I love sci-fi, especially Star Wars and Alien. And wouldn't you say that some of the unknowns within sci-fi could indeed be called... horrifying?

Artist's Note-Surprise! I also dabble with the visual arts. The photo accompanying my story was completed with charcoal, oil pastels, and watercolor pencils.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

N.J. Gallegos

Howdy! I’m an ER doc who loves horror, especially with a medical bent. Voted most witty in high school so I’m like, super funny. First novel coming out in Fall 2023! Follow me on Twitter @DrSpooky_ER.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

Add your insights

Comments (7)

Sign in to comment
  • Natalie Demoss9 months ago

    I wonder if all doctors run through medical book anatomy when they sustain injuries. I love the way your mind works. You definitely need to expand this. I need to know what happens next.

  • R. M. Staniforth9 months ago

    “We could really ruin a motherfucker’s day.” One of the best lines I’ve ever read.

  • Neil Chang10 months ago

    Um...loved it! Thank you

  • Jori T. Sheppard10 months ago

    Ooh I’d like to see this as a book someday. Hopefully you have the drive to write it. A lot of effort was put into your work and it shines. Best of luck to you in the challenge

  • This piece perfectly lays out the beauty found in a horrifying situation! Suspenseful yet peaceful in the midst of destruction! This is so damn good!

  • Annie Edwards 10 months ago

    Wow! This is phenomenal. Your excellent use of details and writing style painted a story in my head that kept me hooked the entire time! Well done :)

  • CyCy10 months ago

    SUPER INTENSE. I was on the edge of my seat and I know you're not a sci-fi writer but this is so well-written! Also, that cliff hanger? YES!

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.