This story is by Meetav Doshi and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I kick my legs as fast as I can, parting the freezing water with strokes of my arms. I have to get away. I swim at my top speed, my arms getting heavier with each stroke. I slow down, sensing I’m safe from the danger. I get my bearings and float in the water, my arms circling. I look down and realize I’m wearing military gear.
When did I put these on?
I try to remember what happened. That’s when I realize.
Wait! What exactly am I swimming away from?
I’m surrounded by flaming debris and corpses.
What the hell happened here?
I try to remember but instead met with a searing headache. I wrap my arms around a wood board. I look left and right, for anyone left alive.
Who were these people? What happened to them? Where am I? Wait… Who the hell am I?
I can’t figure it out. It’s like there’s a dam in my brain preventing me from accessing the information. The side of my head is bleeding slightly. I almost faint at the sight of blood. Maybe I got a concussion. I need some medical help.
Not knowing what to do, I drift on the board for a few hours. I can barely feel my legs. Even though I had boots on, my toes were numb. I saw some land off in the distance. I paddled towards it, with the little energy I had left. When I arrived, I thought of calling for help, but there’s no one. No people, buildings, or houses. Just ice as far as the eye could see.
Am I in the Arctic? That would explain the barren wasteland but shouldn’t there at least be a patrol boat or a laboratory of some kind?
I sit down on the ice, looking at the binary star system.
Bi-star system? Wait a damn second. Am I on a different planet? Shit! This is more serious than some memory loss. Let me check out my gear for some shit I can use to stay alive in this shitty place.
Checking the many pockets of my military gear, I find a water bottle, two wet granola bars, a box of matches, a pistol, a few pieces of wood, and a military-grade knife.
Why the hell do I have a pistol and a knife? There is nothing to kill or eat here. Who the hell gave these to me?
Taking my boots off, I grimace at the pinky toe on my left foot, which was about to break off at the halfway point. I cough in disgust and feel nauseous. Turning my head, I rip it off. I put it in one of the many pockets of my gear.
I put my hand down on the ice and wipe my hand on it. It feels slicker than usual ice. I became curious and rap my knuckles against it. It rings like glass.
What the hell? What is this shit?
I decide to curl my hand in a fist and punch it. It shatters just a little bit, kind of like glass. My hand pains and I curl it and blow on it. It’s not bleeding, thank god.
Ok, so this shit is like glass, but not glass, and definitely not ice, but as cold as it. Now, I know I am most definitely not in the Arctic.
I take out a match, light it, and hold it near my toes for the time of the match’s short life. Putting my boots on, I curl up in a fetal position and sob.
It’s just so cold. I can’t deal with this.
Ice forms on my eyelashes and brows. My lips quiver and my tears drip on my gear. After a few minutes of self-pity, I got up and wipe my cold tears with my freezing cold hands. I know I have to continue my treacherous journey for some answers. There was no other option.
After some time walking, pearl white clouds roll in, followed by rain.
Rain? In this frozen tundra? How? It’s below freezing.
I felt the rain patter against my gear. I stop for a second, enjoying the smell of glass?
Searing pain erupts all across my body.
Agh. What the hell?
I look around, for any danger. I see nothing other than rain.
What hit me? Was it the rain?
I hold my hand out. New cuts start forming on it. Pulling it back, I conclude, Yup, the fricking rain is glass. Imma fricking die now.
Running the opposite direction, I try to get out of this torture. I stop knowing I would never go as fast as the clouds. I ran the other way, looking for a way out once again. After a few minutes of crying, regretting, and running through the rain, it eventually stops. I sit down once again, looking at the fresh glass ‘snow’.
Looking at my body, I gag. I start to stem the flow of a few serious cuts. I wasn’t losing too much blood, but I had to close my eyes and breathe slowly for a few moments between each fix. I finish up and stood up once again. I felt dizzy but manage to walk.
After a few minutes, the wind starts to blow from left to right. I slow down even more. I’m pissed off. I’m so frustrated. Several times, I consider suicide. Dark thoughts plague my mind.
In a guttural voice, I scream, “Where the hell am I?” out to the barren wasteland I was stuck on.
Who would do this to me? At this point, everything is against me. I had half a pinky-toe, amnesia, cuts all over my body, and minor frostbite. Why still try? Everything here is designed to kill me. Why don’t I just let it win? Stop walking and it’s that easy. I can die being lazy. Wait… No. I need to figure out what happened. I have to stay alive.
I had only one goal in my head.
Get some answers.
After an hour of carefully walking, I came across a wrecked vessel. The debris was spread out over an area of about 100 yards. The vessel looks as if it was a rectangle shape. It had a hyperdrive cortex, which allowed it to travel to lightspeed and give other ships boosts to lightspeed.
Must be a spaceship.
I walk around till I found something other than some useless metal. I came across a hub of some kind. On it was a barely lit screen, some of the pixels burned white. It shows some alien writing I understood for some reason. The last message sent meant, “ Mayday, crash landing on unknown planet imminent. Mayday, mayday!” I look through the device and found some crew logs. I watch a video in which a few human beings play with a creature of some kind. It had a long neck, thick blue skin, 2 big eyes, and 4 legs. I skip through a few videos until I found an interesting one. The title was, “Second Contact?”
Second contact? Second time contacting aliens?
I watch as two of the crew members said the planet had the right amount of oxygen for human use but was much colder than Earth. They left the spaceship in space suits and boarded a transport vessel and were about to descend when red lights flood the spaceship. There were 10 electronic voices saying, “Emergency,” at the same time. The two crew members were about to come back from the transport vessel, but the hatch auto seals and releases them, tumbling with no course.
What the hell?
The spaceship rocks with a deafening thud and starts to descend, even though the crew members attempted to stop it, sending the mayday message I found. I watched as the crew braced for impact and the ship crashed, the broadcast beeping out.
I took the hub with me as I inspected the rest of the crash. The information in my brain was about to overflow but was still kept at bay as if there was a dam. I had a pounding headache the whole time I walked through the wreckage. I found one of the crewmember’s corpse and checked it for anything of use. Nothing. I found another corpse with the same skin tone as me. I checked her and found an ID card. It said,
Jennifer? Why does that name sound so familiar to me?
I looked up and glanced at a mirror. Seeing my reflection broke the dam holding my memory back. I suddenly remembered everything that had happened. The information overflowed my brain and I fell backward, my ears popping at the realization I was having.
My name is Jennifer Smith. I was onboard the spaceship that crash-landed on Hugo-74-G. If I’m Jennifer, then who the hell is this?