This story is by Renee DeSuza and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Harper!! Oh my god! Harper!!”
Mercy tried to grasp the quickly receding space station but the force of the explosion pushed her out of arm’s reach. She punched the button for the tether. Her heart hammered against her rib cage, threatening to burst out of her chest and space suit when nothing happened.
She faintly heard her name being called as she repeatedly punched at the button. The world around her focused in on that button before everything went dark.
The sound of the alarm clock jarred her awake. Opening her eyes, she was met with darkness. Raising an arm she tried to slap the light switch above her bunk but the movement spun her around completely. In the rotation, she saw the space station go by, part of it bent at an odd angle. Then she was assaulted by the bright rays of the sun, making her squint in pain.
Her headset buzzed, cracking with the effort to transmit the voice on the other end.
“Mercy, Mercy are you awake? Answer me.”
She tried to speak, managing a croak before mumbling, “Hey, yeah. I’m awake.”
“Jesus, you scared the shit out of me for a while there. What happened? Are you ok?”
She closed her eyes, thinking, trying to control the tremors rippling through her body. “There was another explosion. My tether got cut.” Mercy looked down at the display on the left wrist of her space suit. It flashed readings at her, the alarm peaking her headache. She realized then that the alarm clock sound was really her suit letting her know what was going wrong.
Oxygen levels: Critical.
Suit Integrity: Compromised.
Her blood pressure was elevated and it felt like her heart was beating just behind her eyes. She knew Harper could monitor her vitals and the condition of her suit. He knew what was happening.
“I have a pretty big headache,” she replied. “But otherwise I think I’m good. How are you?”
Harper sighed. “It’s getting a little hot in here but I’m good too.”
She scanned the blackness around her, swinging her arms in an effort to move to face the station and Harper.
“Mercy, your suit…”
Her stomach did a sickening flip. She had never believed when she heard others say it but in that moment her life flashed before her eyes or rather what she hoped her life could be. The man she loved was going to witness her death. Mercy choked back a sob. It was probably the worst time to say something but… “Hey, do you remember how we met?”
“Yeah, it was autumn.”
Mercy focused on the sound of Harper’s voice, trying to calm her mind and racing heart. “Right, the leaves were starting to turn but in that park it was like fall was a couple weeks ahead. I remember the bright shades of orange and red,” she added.
The suit beeped again. She was running out of oxygen and talking would burn it even faster but she didn’t know what else to do. Harper couldn’t come out to help her.
Before she lost consciousness, she was trying to repair a hull breach. They lost two of six crew members before the area could be closed off. She volunteered to repair it from the outside. She didn’t know what but something triggered an explosion, blasting her away from the station and severing her tether in the process. The station vented oxygen suffocating two other crew members: Jack, the station’s doctor and Kingsley, the pilot. Now, only she and Harper were left.
“You were wearing these hot thigh high boots, trying to look cute freezing your ass off in your light jacket,” Harper replied.
She scoffed. “I was not freezing and I damn sure was cute.”
“That day in the park was cold, Mercy. It was windy and that cold air coming through those trees… ”
Mercy rolled her eyes. It would annoy him to no end if he saw her do that. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She wanted to keep annoying him but she was slowly running out of oxygen and drifting away from the station. He had no way of rescuing her or saving himself. He would have alerted command regarding the explosions and losses but they could not send help. It wouldn’t come in time.
“But I was cute enough to get your attention though. You trying to be all chivalrous, giving me your jacket.”
“My mother raised a gentleman. I couldn’t watch you suffer.”
“Yes, she did raise a gentleman.” Her voice softened and lowered. Mercy wasn’t sure if he heard her. There were times when she thought he knew how she felt. He’d give her those cute lopsided smiles. On a few occasions she caught him staring.
She cut him off. “We talked for hours that day. I think by the time we parted ways that afternoon I was already in love with you.”
He chuckled. “Really? And I thought you probably thought I was the biggest damn nerd.”
“Nah, you were so sexy in your glasses. Reminded me of Clark Kent.”
Harper laughed outright at that and Mercy felt the coldness leave her. Her chest ached and she missed him. She wanted to be back on that park bench, sitting under the trees, orange and red leaves falling around them. She closed her eyes, picturing the park and trees. Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought she would find her soul mate that day but then such was the nature of these things. It happened when you least expected it. He was an engineer, like her, and she had seen him around campus but their paths never really crossed before that day.
He coughed, breaking her concentration.
“Are you ok, Harper?”
“I’m good, baby. Tell me how you really are.”
The pain in Mercy’s chest made her cough. It was excruciating. She struggled to catch her breath afterward, taking in mouthfuls of oxygen in a panic. The alarms shrieked. The last of her oxygen was flowing now and it would only be a matter of time before Harper would be alone.
“I’m scared, Harper.”
There was a long period of silence and panic blossomed in her chest, snatching her breath for a moment. “Harper? Are you there? Harper, don’t leave me.”
A sob racked through her headset. “I’m in that park again, baby,” he said finally. “I can see the orange and red leaves. The wind is cold on my face. Maybe we can get dinner after we leave here. An official first date. You know, I’m kinda hungry.”
“Me too. I’m kinda hungry too.”
He blew into the coms. “A leaf just blew into my mouth.”
Mercy tried to laugh but it turned into a gasp for breath. She said, “I love you.” But she wasn’t sure if she even said it out loud for him to hear. Her view of the space station grew smaller until everything was black.