Day 7022 - Year 2645
Dana Swithers - servant
Nothing much happens on this boring ship. Day in and day out, it’s the same... I do my chores, eat and sleep. Unlike the Captains and their logs, which has everything that happens outside the ship and our journey. It must be fascinating to visit new places and make new friends. All the while, we have to stay on-board to clean and serve the ‘rich’ passengers and be poisoned by the carbon engines in our quarters down below. My mother said that was the way of life, the poor served the rich. My mother was a servant, so was my grandmother, and my great-grandmother, who started on this ship when it first left the station beside Neptune. Our lives are inside this ship with 12,145 passengers on their way to a new life, well by the time we get there, it’ll be their grandchildren. Four generations will only know this way of life, inside this ship, our great-grandparents left Earth and our grandchildren will roam free on a clean planet with water and plants.
Most of Earth was destroyed in 2175 by a plague, which was frozen in the Arctic circle for millions of years, until climate change melted the ice and it spread. The US and Asia were hit the hardest with the disease, killing off 90% of the population. It ate the skin before attacking the muscles and multiplied at an astonishing rate. A person would die within 12 hours of coming into contact with this plague, they called it the Crimson Plague, since your whole body was red after losing the skin and the amount of blood in your vomit was terrifying. That’s when it got interesting. This left the other countries fighting over the power and control of the markets and oil with the Middle East and North Korea combining their efforts. I read in our history books it was a bloodbath and there was no winner, just a desolate Earth with low survival rates.
A small community of scientists came together and created large passenger ships like our massive Luke, named after the leading scientist. Each ship hosted thousands of those seeking a better world. They tested freezing on animals, but it never worked. Either they never revived, or they awoke as vegetable, unable to function. Then they tried cryosleep, human hibernation...well that was a disaster, too. It didn’t slow down the age process, and organs started failing because they were ‘asleep’ for too long. So, many generations will live and die on this ship.
Rumour was, the previous Captain was an obese, long-bearded puffer; he inhaled the remnants of a fungus from the planet Akanthos, which was similar to drugs taken in the 20th Century on Earth. I think it was called LDS. Last week, on his fifty-eighth birthday, he sealed himself into an airlock, for smaller ships to come in and out of, and opened the doors. No one noticed him missing for two whole days, probably what drove him to do it in the first place. The Commander took charge for a few years, as Captain Miller was too young to take over the running of the ship. At just three years my elder, I remember him from school...well, there were only 3 classes on the ship for different age groups. Tall, athletic, a rugged square jaw, with hazel eyes and hair to match, which quiffed at the front. He swam like a fish in the ship’s pool.
He never noticed me, why would he, I was the ‘help’. It didn’t matter we all were created in the same laboratory, we probably used the same petri dish when they stimulated the eggs. They created me to clean his shit, eat his leftovers, and remove the tissues from his bed.
We were passing the star Zeta Virginis, with many uninhabitable planets orbiting this Sun, when the Captain spotted a ship near the planet Kula, with multiple bright rings encircling it. Our ship sensors didn’t read it because there was no power, it was just floating in space. We kept at a distance, I overheard Engineering say there were no signs of life but there were small signatures of energy on-board. Commander Polzin, Chief Security Officer Lucan, and a couple of security officers took a runner over to the ship to investigate. That was two hours ago, and they’ve lost contact, at the same time a flash of light lit up the area in front of us and near the other ship. I saw it through the window on Deck 17 while I mopped the floor.
“We need to take another ship over to see what has happened to the crew. We have no signs of life on the ship anymore,” said Chief Engineer Dawson. His narrow chest pumped up and down as his slim frame trembled, while he pushed his hands through his golden-brown shoulder-length hair. Captain Miller rubbed his chin and stood in silence.
“Send some servants,” he said, much to the astonishment of the other crew members. In the distance, I stopped sweeping the floor and listened intently as the conversation unfolded.
“But, Captain, you can’t do that. It goes against protocol,” Dawson gasped.
“Can a ship continue without a Captain? Without its Chief Engineer? Your replacement is still in training. It makes sense to send others across that can be done without. But of course, I would prefer to have volunteers and they will be rewarded by changing their caste. I want a meeting with the servants in the mess hall in ten minutes,” he ordered.
Wow, that meant higher living quarters, a better job, and I may be allowed to have a larger family. The lowest caste system can only have one child per family. They want our numbers kept low, so we do not rise up and take over.
In the mess hall, hundreds of dirty faces all faced the captain, awaiting the news. I hadn’t told anyone yet.
“I have a proposition for you all. We need a group, maybe four or five, of people to go to the ship where the Commander went and see what happened to them. Now, I know what you’re thinking… this is not your responsibility. I’m giving you a chance to rise from the gutter and move from the steerage to a room on the upper decks. Be trained in a new profession. All you have to do is arm yourself, take a runner with a security officer to see what happened, hopefully find the crew that went before you, and come back and report to me.”
A skinny man in his early forties, with his ribs protruding, put up his hand and the Captain nodded to allow him to answer.
“What happened to the crew that went over?”
“I’m not going to lie to you, we don’t know. We’ve had no contact from them since boarding the other ship. There is no guarantee you will return, but it is entirely up to you if you want to take the risk.”
Captain Miller peered across the room from left to right awaiting more questions. There were no more hands put up.
I stood up, gulped, and spoke. “I’ll do it. I’ll go.” Mother tugged at my hand, and her broken heart tugged at my soul.
“Please don’t go,” she begged.
Fear welled up in her eyes as her bottom lip quivered. Her fifty years on this ship had taken its toll, her face gaunt, with tired eyes.
“It’s okay, Mum. I need to do this.”
I needed to get out of the rat hole and make a better life for my children and me. If I died trying to do that, it would not be a waste. Better than dying down below, a life wasted. It was worth the chance.
A few others stood and volunteered. One was Mikey, the kitchen porter who had eyes for me since school and stalked me at every chance. I groaned. He’s only doing this to be with me. Vinny, the waste disposal technician, or shit-guys as we call them, who crawled through human waste when there was a blockage, jumped from his seat at the chance of something better. Rolly, the incinerator, with a permanently red face from the heat of the furnace, slowly stood up, his wife’s tears freshly on his hand. “I’ll go, but it means my family come with me upstairs.”
Captain Miller accepted that condition and said it applied for all. We were leaving now. We were all handed a small beamer, a deceptive petite laser gun which could blow a person’s head right off, and a chain shield which could only be penetrated by a beamer, all other weapons were useless against it.
The Captain looked on as we strapped into our seats and gripped the sidebars with anticipation. He gave orders to the security officer, Nepton, to keep communication open at all times, drift into the ship with no engine on, and wished us all good luck.
It didn’t take long to glide alongside the massive ship, similar in size to ours, and drift into the bay. The entrance shield to keep in the oxygen didn’t block us, and we saw the other runner there. I shivered like someone had tickled my spine and goosebumps spread over my skin.
“You okay?” asked Mikey.
“I’m fine, but I have a bad feeling about this. Something is not right.”
As we walked out of the runner, the glacial atmosphere hit our skin, like being pricked with a thousand needles dipped in nitrogen. My breath turned to ice droplets as it left my mouth. The engine had not been on in weeks. Our flashlights turned on one by one as we explored the room, creating eerie shadows that stretched and grew across the walls.
“It’s freezing, which shows the engine hasn’t been on in a while,” stated Vinny, as he breathed into his cupped hands.
“We need to get to the bridge or the Captain’s quarters to find any log to tell us what happened,” said Nepton.
“What about the other crew?” asked Rolly.
“They’re dead. The Captain doesn’t want to face it, but it’s obvious something happened to them. We haven’t heard from them since they boarded here. Since that flash.” Nepton scratched his acne-scarred cheek, still oily in parts. Only a trainee, he seemed a little lost as we made our way through the deck to the stairwell beside the elevator.
I peeked down each corridor for a split second as we passed them. I didn’t expect to see anyone, and I don’t know why I kept checking.
Movement, down there. I saw something.
“Wait,” I said to the others. I stared down the corridor as if I expected someone to appear and wave at me. “I know I saw something. I did.”
“We don’t have time for this. It’s just your imagination,” Nepton snapped.
Nothing. I moved on and apologised for keeping them. Nepton stopped outside the elevator and realised we were all walking around with our weapons charged and pointing outwards.
“Please, lower your weapons. Only if you need to use it, should it be pointing at anyone or anything. I suggest we split up, so we save time and are not here longer than we need to. Dana, Mikey, and Rolly, you go look for the Captain’s room, check the top floor of the living quarters. Vinny and I will go to the bridge. Stay alert and keep your weapons down until needed. Good luck,”
Nepton and Vinny had to go up four flights of stairs to the bridge while we needed to go down seven. Our flashlights struggled to break through the darkness, etching at the abyss below. Their steps echoed as they descended. I looked up through the gap and saw two reflecting eyes looking back at me. I screamed startling the others and leapt back toward the wall.
“Someone is up there. I saw two eyes.” I held my chest and felt my heart race, my breathing now erratic.
Rolly pointed his light upwards and all around. “I think she’s seeing things. Stupid woman. We shouldn’t have brought her along.”
“There’s no need for that, Rolly,” answered Mikey, defending me.
“I tell you, I saw something. This place is creepy as fuck. Let's go back to the runner,” I added.
“I didn’t risk coming over here to go back empty handed for the Captain. I want a better life on the ship that is my coffin. I won’t get to walk on land, so I want to sleep in a soft and comfy bed, eat fresh food, and drink a whiskey. Is that too much to ask?” Rolly raised his voice and pulled at his collar, “Well, is it?”
We heard a loud bang from above which vibrated and echoed down the stairwell, and I wasn’t waiting around to see what made the noise. I sprinted down the remainder of the steps and through the door of the living quarters. I didn’t look back to see if the other guys were following, I was out of there. The door closed behind me, and I was alone in the corridor. I peeked through the slimline glass on the door. I waited for what seemed to be an eternity.
A hand covered in blood slapped the glass which caused me to jump back. Then Mickey’s face appeared. He flung open the door, stepped forward, and slammed it behind him. Out of breath, and with fear spread across his face, Mikey looked in a right state.
“Where is Rolly? What happened? Why is there blood all over you?” I demanded to know.
He grabbed my hand and ran into the closest room and locked the door. He bent over, still trying to catch his breath and put one finger in the air asking for a minute. I was freaking out and paced the room until I heard him speak.
“A ghost. It was a ghost. Rolly continued shouting about you, and this figure floated towards us. It attacked Rolly and tore him to shreds. Right in front of me.”
He held up his hands and looked at the crimson fluid staining his skin. I knew I saw something, but it couldn’t be a ghost, could it?
Nepton and Vinny entered the bridge, and the stillness enveloped them. Nepton checked the systems to see if the ship still had life in it, he touched the screens in multiple locations, but nothing worked.
“I’m going to try the secondary systems. It has a black light setting that might give us a few clues. At least the glow might help us see better than these flashlights. You check the files over there, check any recent reports.”
Vinny strolled to the cabinet under the systems and opened the drawer. He pulled out the documents closest to the front and sat to read through.
Nepton worked on the systems and informed Vinny he was ready to try and switch it on. Within a few seconds, a deep purple glow slightly lit the room, but what was disturbing was the green colour splashed everywhere. Nepton mouth gaped open as he viewed the floor and walls before him. Vinny reacted to the silence behind him and turned in his chair. Nepton searched for the last voice communications entry and played it…
What’s all that on the floor?” asked Vinny.
“Blood, a lot of blood,” Nepton replied and held up his communicator, “Captain, come in. We think it’s best to leave now and explain on our return.”
“Captain, come in, please.”
Again, there was no response.
“We’re getting out of here. Let’s go find the others. Bring those files with you, we can check them on our ship.”
Vinny wrapped the folder and kept them in his hand. They headed towards a door and halted as an apparition approached. It was humanoid in shape, but its mass was unstructured. Like a million little crystals moving in unison. Vinny hollered. “A ghost.”
It turned toward Vinny and stared straight at him, its eyes reflecting in the light, and floated toward him. A hand raised and sliced Vinny across the face with a hundred tiny glass knives. Blood sprayed, and Vinny fell to the floor. Nepton was already running out of the room, the howls and cries becoming a distant sound until all he heard were whimpers.
We made our way through each room until we were sure it was the Captain’s abode. Upon entering, the darkness evaporated to a purple glow, which made our flashlights redundant.
“What is this light?” asked Mikey.
“I think it’s called black light. Nepton must have turned it on. I can see a little better but not much. Let’s get searching. You check for a voice log, and I’ll try to find any written copies.”
I searched the bedside table and all other drawers in the room with no luck.
“Find anything?” I asked Mikey.
“Yes, but it looks like Nepton has accessed these from the bridge.”
“Copy them, just in case. We need to get out of here.”
Mikey did as I asked and as the files were downloading, his body language told me he wanted to ask me a question, to talk to me. I didn’t think this was the time or place.
Please don’t say anything.
I had to distract him and said I was taking a look outside to see if the others were around. I slowly turned the handle, not knowing what to expect. What if there were ghosts? In the purple glow were scattered splashes of a green liquid, it seemed out of the ordinary. I touched one and held the flashlight to my fingers. Blood dampened my skin. Shit!
“Mikey, we need to go now. Now. Move.”
“Coming. What’s up?”
“Let’s just say, more evidence has appeared, and we need to leave.”
I tugged at him and scoped the corridor before leaving. Empty. We ran as fast as our legs could carry us. Blood stains appeared throughout the hallways, some minor splashes, others were large patches. We peeked around every corner before continuing, but as I turned to check behind, I saw a glistening figure in the distance. Floating. Then up ahead, I saw another. They took no notice of us, not searching for us, just aimlessly hovering.
“Dana. Mickey. This way,” Nepton hollered at us.
I spotted him near the entrance to the runner.
“Hurry, or I’m leaving without you.”
I heard a yell, and one of those glistening ghosts attacked him. We stopped in our tracks. Their glass like hands tore at his skin, shredding through him like paper. As he screamed in pain the blows appeared more vicious, and within seconds, an unrecognisable Nepton lay lifeless, and an illuminous green patch of blood grew around him.
I whispered to Mickey. “I think it’s sound. They don’t like loud sounds.”
“What are they? They look so human, their shape and features, but made up of crystal-like particles.”
“I don’t know, but these records might tell us. Let’s go in here and take a look,”
We entered the mess hall which had its hidden secrets. Multiple bodies, sliced and diced decorated the room. I recognised our crew members by what was left of their uniforms. The strength of the signatory patches allowed them to keep their structure. Mickey vomited with the sight of the massacre. He turned his back and looked for the voice files again in the system.
“Dana, listen to this.” He turned up the volume.
‘We’ve stumbled across a beautiful planet and see some unusual activity in the rings. We want to investigate and see if they have anything to help us on our journey, a source of energy to be precise. A team is on their way now. Wait, what is that? A beam of light is heading….’
“It must be the light. It’s changing the composition of the body to make them look like ghosts. We saw the light flash when the other runner came over. But why are they attacking us?”
Logic set off a light bulb in my brain. “Sound. They must be sensitive to sound.”
I picked up a metal lamp and threw it across the room. The bang attracted two ghosts who flew straight over to it and swiped at the metal. Loud scratching noises rang out which aggravated them more and they kept attacking it. The sounds attracted more and more. I’m sure one was the Commander; his height and build were unmistakable. He towered over most. So not all were attacked, some changed. Oh shit! When will the next flash happen?
“We need to go. We can’t risk staying here any longer,” I demanded.
“What’s that humming sound?” asked Mikey.
“Hello! Is there anyone here? Commander. Nepton. Rolly. Where are you all?” a volunteer shouted.
Agggh, it hurts. Stop shouting. I head straight for the sound. Stop shouting. I lash out and hear more screaming all around me. Stop it, it hurts so much. I keep lashing out and soon the screaming stops. It is peaceful now.
“Captain, you can’t keep sending runners over with people. We need to accept the fact that no one is coming back, and whatever is happening over there is too dangerous to investigate. We’ve seen two flashes of light since the first runner caused by two large particles colliding in the ring structure. I suggest we take the scenic route around and keep well away,” advised Chief Engineer Dawson.
“So be it.”
Captain Miller slumped down into his chair defeated.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”