Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Flash: Xavier's Escape

I'm not thrilled with the title "Xavier's Escape" and would appreciate your suggestions in the comments! At 923 words, this pushes the envelope of "flash fiction," but that was the goal when I started writing.


Xavier crouches behind a bulkhead and tries to slow his breathing. He listens for the sound of heavy, inhuman footsteps coming in his direction, but his heart is beating too loudly in his ears for him to be certain he wasn’t followed.

The brushed steel walls of the SS August Marok are spattered with blood, both red and green. Behind Xavier lay the remains of Captain Marshall, his blue uniform ripped to shreds, his left hand resting in the flayed-open cavity that once held his internal organs.

Nausea hits Xavier hard; he clamps a hand over his mouth and looks away. If he’s he’s going to avoid the captain’s fate, he knows he must make it to an escape module, if there are any still left. So many of his crewmates were slaughtered during the first assault by the lifeforms hiding in the asteroid that Dr. Asanka insisted they investigate more closely. But surely some of them had managed to survive? Even to escape?

He pushes thoughts of the rest of the crew out of his mind, focussing instead on the hope that he can escape the ship. That hope is all he has now.

Ten strides up the hallway is the intersection that would put him at the end of the central corridor. Half the ship's escape modules line the leeward side of that corridor. If he can just make it to one of those escape hatchways and away from this ship, his horror will be over.

He takes one last glance behind him; nothing there but the empty shell that once was his captain. He takes a deep breath and sprints for the intersection as quietly as he can.

He flattens himself against the wall next to the central corridor and surreptitiously peeks around the corner. He has a clear line to the nearest escape hatch. But in front of the second hatchway, Xavier sees the shiny, black articulated plates of one of the aliens’ backs. From the sounds reaching his ears, Xavier guesses that the thing is gorging itself on the warm entrails of one of his crewmates.

The first hatchway is only fifteen feet away, across the hall. So close, yet it seems like treacherous miles to Xavier. He knows it will take only moments to open the hatchway, but doing so will make enough noise to alert the alien.

He collects his thoughts, weighing the benefits of speed over stealth — should he sprint to the door or tip-toe to it? — when something grabs his arm.

He jumps, barely holding back a squeal.

Melanie hunches behind him.

You’re alive! Xavier mouths in surprise.

Barely, says Melanie silently. She slumps against the wall, clutching her side. Blood seeps between her fingers and down her already saturated uniform. Her wound is bad, but Xavier might be able to keep her alive with the medical kit in the escape module. If they can only get to it.

Xavier hopes that Doran managed to send the distress signal. If he did, crews from Earth could be here in five or six days, and there are enough emergency rations in the escape module to keep the two of them alive for almost three weeks.

If Doran had been caught before sending out the signal, well, Xavier and Melanie would have to deal with that when the time came.

Xavier shifts to let Melanie peek around the corner. He points to the nearest escape hatchway and Melanie nods. She is too injured to run, Xavier knows; they will have to move slowly and quietly.

Xavier takes Melanie’s free hand in his own and they step into the central corridor.

Step by silent step, they creep toward the hatchway. Xavier’s heart, once pounding in fear, now begins to beat in excitement. He can almost touch the hatchway door when the monster abruptly stops eating. Melanie and Xavier stop, too, as it sniffs the air.

Slowly, it turns its five eyes to them, its giant fangs dripping with red blood and torn flesh.

Xavier tightens his grip on Melanie’s hand, dashes to the hatchway, and presses the release button.

The monster stands and rushes toward them.

The door slides up into the wall as the alien lurches forward, swinging a great talon.

Xavier ducks under the monster’s arm and tugs Melanie’s hand, forcing her to the floor of the escape module.

Xavier is in right after her, striking the flashing red Launch button with his fist.

The doors snap shut before the monster can attack again. Through the porthole, Xavier watches it bang against the door, roaring in anger. He feels a small bump, and the alien’s snarl recedes, enveloped by the hull of the SS August Marok, which fills the window and then recedes as well.

“We made it Melanie! We made it!” Xavier turns and nearly trips over his crewmate who lay prostrate on the floor. He retrieves the medical kit from over the hatchway, crouches, and helps Melanie onto her back.

“Turn over and let me see your—”

Melanie flops onto her back, and Xavier sees in horror that the wound on her side has become meaningless. Xavier might have ducked the monster’s attack, but Melanie hadn’t. Her blood now flows unabated from the space where her head had been.

Xavier looks away, only to find himself staring into Melanie’s face, framed by the vast dark infinity of space in the main front window, her eyes and mouth still wide with fear in a final, silent, eternal scream.


Constructive criticism welcomed, hoped for, even!