A flash fiction by Christina Yin
The gears shifted and the spacecraft rose, then hovered. It was well-known that the most dangerous parts of space travel were the take-offs and landings. Eva adjusted her seat belt and stared at the window opposite, ignoring the rest of the crew strapped in all around her. She could still see the green of the secondary forests and the long winding brown of the Sarawak River. The settlements were tiny but linked by the roads and the zig zag of the aerial highways, human activity stretched out for as far as she could see. This was the reason after all, for the journey.
When she woke in the morning, Eva’s eyes were crusty with tears that had seeped down her cheeks. She didn’t have to look in the mirror to know that her eyes were puffy; her head was pounding as if she were suffering from space travel sickness. Her nose was blocked, and she breathed in deeply through her mouth. She felt like she had just emerged from a swim in the sludge of the Sarawak River with a crocodile on her heels.
The news screen by her bed was still on and she saw that the newscasters in their speech bubbles were continuing to wax eloquently over the return of the latest Space Shuttle to the landing station near Mount Santubong.
“Good morning, Sarawak! And how is everyone this fine day in the Land of the Hornbills?” called out the one-time state athlete turned newscaster.
“Wishing you fresh air and a healthy morning, this wonderful Malaysia Day!” chimed in his partner with her long black tresses and chirpy, lilting voice and endless smile.
Eva closed her eyes. She could see the crew, feel the wobble as the spacecraft hovered. But that was in the simulation. The training had gone well, until just before they were to board and take off for the future, for the New World. Every one of the crew had been given the antigen test. The tickle in her throat that morning and not being able to taste her breakfast – the warning signs had been clear, but she had tried to ignore them. But now, she could not ignore the two lines that had formed on her test kit.
“Sorry, Eva,” the team’s doctor had told her as he signed the form that grounded her to the Earth. The dimpled Ai-Lyn with her buffed up physique and genius IQ had taken her place.
Who would have known that fate was to deal her – simple, hard-working Eva – such a hand?
That wobble, that slight hesitation, the look on the faces of the crew. All these were etched in her mind. Eva had trained with the crew, been on multiple simulations preparing for the real take-off and for the real life on the Spacecraft Endeavour and for the real life that awaited on the newly discovered Planet with Two Moons.
In her dreams, she replayed the scenes, but always, always she woke before the moment when the spacecraft disappeared from the plotted flight path and when there was just silence instead of cheerful voices on the communication channels.
Like the mysterious MH370, the Spacecraft Endeavour had disappeared like a brilliant comet flaring and then blanking out in the night sky.
Eva got out of bed.
She wasn’t sure, but in her dreams, she had known that something had changed.
Christina Yin is a lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus. Her fiction and nonfiction writing have appeared in Anak Sastra, e-Tropic, New Writing and TEXT Journal, among others.
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