Adrift – part 2

by Gaston Prereth

Jason hung by one hand from the shelf stack at the back of the storeroom. With each swing of the axe the whole stack shook, threatening to collapse on top of him, causing shards of fibreglass and metal wire to fall into Jason’s eyes and mouth. He was hot and uncomfortable, but the axe blade slid through the floor easily enough and he felt he was making quicker progress than wading through the crowds outside.

As the small hole expanded, the space behind glowed red, as if he were punching a pathway into Hell itself. At least, he thought, in their effort to save space the designers of the ship had built the walls and floors to be paper thin. Maybe, once he had got to the next floor, the crowds will have passed or at least some of the corridors would now be empty. Despite the thin boundaries, he didn’t fancy mining his way up through every floor.

With his mind focused on his task, he could feel the anxiety leaking from his muscles and a renewed determination building inside him. Everything was resting on him, all the lives of the ship relying on his making it to the bridge, but for the first time he was starting to feel like he could achieve it.

The axehead disappeared into the hole, now about the size of a football, and he felt the underside of the blade catch against the floor above. Jason pulled down hard. The square floor tile coated in carpet shook and then, with the sound of ripping Velcro, fell. The shelf stack wobbled, and Jason clung to it like a sailor clinging to rigging on rough seas.

As he waited for the stack to steady, Jason stroked his arm across his cheek and grimaced. The sting of fibreglass, like vibrating sandpaper, burnt into his skin. He needed to get out of this damn cupboard. Jason put the axe down on the top of the shelf and, with great care, climbed up to the hole. He placed his hands on either side of the ripped ceiling and braced his arms, pushing up with his legs. His biceps screamed out with surprise and he felt his shoulder muscles locking. He kicked with his feet, scrabbling to push himself through the hole. His foot caught the top of the shelf, launching him through the hole like a penguin, landing on his stomach, his legs still dangling. A clatter bounded through the hole behind him. Jason continued his shuffle, penguin like, onto the floor and stood up on wobbling legs.

He glanced back down the hole, unnerved by how thin the edges of the floor were. The shelf stack had fallen forward into the room scattering its contents across the floor. On top of the mess lay the axe, its blade glinting like a lost diamond just out of reach. Well at least that gave him one less decision to make. He could not keep excavating his way up through the ceiling now. He let out a long breath and put his hands on his hips.

He was in a bedroom. The red glow of the emergency lights, constant in the room rather than flashing, like the cheap attempt at opulence of a red light district. Women’s underwear was strewn over the floor trailing from a half unpacked suitcase, adding to the brothel-esq feeling. The bed was unmade. It was an unremarkable bedroom.

Jason had cleaned countless rooms like this, despite it not being officially part of his job description. That was another way the ship’s owners kept costs down, but what could you do? You were stuck out in the infinite void of space. Either you did the jobs they put before you, or you got fined the exorbitant cost of room and passage.

Jason consoled himself that when this was over, he wouldn’t have to worry anymore. There were thousands of jobs where they were going. He only had another two years left, then it was plain sailing as a street sweeper or gardener. Something out in the open anyway. Anything not in narrow corridors and hoards of people.

The room was humid, the air clinging to him like a tight sweater. The closeness of the atmosphere made his cheeks and arms sting all the more. He needed to clean the invisible fibres from his skin before he could continue.

As the alarms continued to shout throughout the ship, Jason scurried over to the en suite and tried the handle. The door did not move. It was locked. He tried again, leaning his shoulder into the door, but still it did not budge.

“Just a minute.” came a perturbed voice from beyond, followed by the gasping suck of the toilet. Jason stared at the door, then took a step back in confusion.

“Madam,” he called out after a moment. “The ship is being abandoned, you should be making your way to the lifepods.” A clunk came from behind the door, and a petite woman stepped out in one of the complementary dressing gowns. Her face was pale, from lack of sunlight rather than alarm, and her eyes were dull with disinterest. Her sharp face, and proud stance made her seem older than she really was.

“Do you know who I am? I don’t take part in your drills. Now will you please tidy my room before I get back from breakfast.”

“Madam,” Jason said again, taking another step back, trying to keep the urgency out of his voice, “this isn’t a drill. All passengers are required to report to the…”

“Required? I am not required to do anything, and certainly not by you. I hope this little problem isn’t going to delay my tour of the bridge. I’ve been told the Hull-rail is unmissable. The service in this place is not nearly as respectful as they brochure made out.”

“I can assure you madam that this is not drill. There will be no tours of the bridge, you need to abandon ship.”

“Have you been going through my clothes?”

“What?” asked Jason, feeling the backs of his legs hit the edge of the large double bed

“Why are all my clothes strewn over the floor?”

“Madam…”

“What is your name?” Jason lurched for the door, thankful that the door had not been bolted.

The corridor beyond was deserted, but he could still hear the panicked cries of a crowd somewhere nearby. He glanced left and right, and then the ship lurched, throwing him across the corridor into the opposite wall. The sirens let out a final strangled cry and fell silent. The lights snapped out. Everything was silent, save for all too distant screams. Jason was alone in the darkness of the dead ship.

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4 Responses to “Adrift – part 2”

  1. Vividly portrayed. Madame is in for a rude shock …

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for the comment

  3. That would be exorbitant room costs…..

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