Hello, friends! This year, the team is back with yet another issue of short stories for your
reading pleasure. Life has been hard on everyone lately, so we're going to count this one as
yet another achievement in the pocket!
As always, thanks so much for checking out our stories. If you liked this one, please consider
checking out our previous issues, or even telling your friends about this project! We'd
appreciate the shoutout. Keep on keeping on, everyone.
-The EW Team
Dan. Who is she? She wrote this story. She likes stories. Would you like to hear more stories?
Find her here: https://twitter.com/DanHusswan
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And she's always gone too long,
Anytime she goes away.
This is not going to be easy, but I know I will get through this. And so will he.
I was at McDonald’s when I read it.
I placed my phone down on the table. I felt cold. I guessed that it was official now. I
looked at the empty seat beside me. It was official.
I couldn’t believe it.
Boy, one of my close friends in college came back to our table with our orders- a double
cheeseburger (mine) and fillet-o-fish (his) medium sets. I looked up at him as he sat down.
He was smiling until he saw my face. “Masalah apa, Adam?” He asked me. What’s the matter,
“Have you... seen Amal’s Twitter?” I asked him, pretending that my voice didn’t crack
He looked crestfallen. “What did she say?" He asked in return.
I picked up my phone and showed it to Boy.
“Aiyaiyai,” he muttered under his breath as he read Amal’s tweet. “Did you reply?”
I shook my head. “I don’t even know what to say,” I replied. I felt myself tearing up. “I
thought we’re on a break. I didn’t think we were… over.”
“Come on man, don’t do this to me,” Boy said, self-consciously looking left and right.
“There will be better girls after Amal. She wasn’t that great for you, I always said. Ada
banyak lagi ikan kat laut tu!” There are plenty of fish in the sea.
But Boy didn’t understand. She was a part of me, like an extra arm or something. For the
past one year, she was my everything. And now that she’s gone, I’m…
Starting my morning with a cuppa Starbucks. Feels like a good day!
It’s been one week since Amal and I broke up. I missed her. I missed laying with her on
my couch, feeling her breath match mine as she leaned on me. Now looking at that piece of
furniture, all I feel is incomplete.
I know, I’m pathetic.
I want to be rid of every memory of her, delete her from my mind. Extinguish every
thought I had of her.
In fact, I almost deleted my Twitter account for that purpose, but it seemed too final. So, I
As I was sighing to myself, staring at that empty couch from my perch by the kitchen
table, my housemate, Rory came home.
“Oy, Adam, bukak pintu boleh tak? I lupa bawak kunci!” He called out from outside the
gate. Oy, Adam, will you open the door? I forgot my keys!
“It’s not locked,” I replied, and Rory entered our home, murmuring a thank you on his
“What are you doing, brother?” Rory asked, taking off his jacket.
I sighed again. “Amal…” was all I could come up with.
“You’re still thinking about her?” Rory replied with a frown. “Man, I hate seeing you so
“I can’t stop thinking about her,” I said, feeling my sad energy encroach on Rory’s cheerful
aura. I exhaled slowly and bowed my head. “Will it hurt this much forever?”
“Brother,” Rory said seriously, making me look up at him. “It won’t hurt forever.”
Down today. Missing him. Wish I could take back what I said. But I can’t.
Three weeks on. I haven’t seen or spoken with Amal in almost a month. Then, she
tweeted something. Boy and Rory were playing FIFA at our home when I read it.
Upon reading said tweet, I was convinced that Amal was talking about me. I felt ecstatic.
Jumping off the couch, I said to them, “Guys! She wants me back! I just know it! Should I
call her now?”
They paused their game and shared a concerned look. “What are you talking about,
brother?” Rory asked.
I showed them my phone. “See? She’s tweeting about me!” I exclaimed.
They shared another look of concern. “I don’t think that’s about you, brother,” Rory
My heart sunk. Silence fell upon the room. Why weren’t they as excited about this as I
“What do you mean?” I asked, after a moment. What if… what if they knew something I
Rory sighed and nudged Boy. “You should tell him, Boy,” Rory said to him. Boy looked
“Shut up, Rory!”
“What’s going on?” I asked, feeling on edge.
“Boy,” Rory said.
“Shut up!” Boy replied.
“What the fuck is going on?!” I shouted, looking from one friend to another. “What is it?!”
There was another moment of silence.
Boy couldn’t look me in the eye. He murmured something but I couldn’t hear him.
"What?” I asked, feeling suddenly angry, impatient.
"It’s me, okay,” he said, finally. “When you broke it off with Amal, I started seeing her.
I’m sorry, Adam.” He then turned towards Rory and said, “There! I said it! You happy,
I fell backwards onto the couch. I was speechless.
Good morning, twitterverse! How is everyone today?
She made a hole in my life like a wrecking ball. I was crushed, destroyed. Damaged goods.
It’s been one year. I’m still not quite over her. But it doesn’t hurt as much anymore.
Boy fell in love with her, before she broke his heart too. He never could look me in the eye
since that fateful FIFA afternoon many moons ago. It’s not too soon to say I lost a friend
And Rory? He moved out soon after. He said he had family matters to tend to and couldn’t
stay on. I suspected that wasn’t the case.
When they told me what they did, I was furious- at both of them. It was a rage like I’ve
never experienced. Not gonna lie, I broke a few plates and a window.
What I didn’t realise was how toxic it was to indulge in that rage. It led me to a path
devoid of friends, of any other souls. The relationships I built were shattered.
Now, my home is an empty space. And I only had myself to blame.
A Retrospective Look at
Intergalactic Fine Dining
Han is an aspiring storyteller who likes creating things, and then writing them down. If you
liked her stuff, you can find more over here at https://www.wattpad.com/user/black_waters.
>> renamedrive “SalvagedHD(G:)”
>> latest access
“Log #1809: A conversation between friends ”, Last Accessed
February 13 2049.
>> open(latest access)
Retrieving Log #1809
Audio file corrupted, transcribe and display audio transcript
Displaying transcript of Log #1809: A conversation between friends
Log #1809: A conversation between friends
[Start of transcript]
Speakers denoted as V01, identified as possible restaurant staff,
designated waitstaff; V02, customer, resident; V03, customer,
traveller; V04, customer, residential status unknown.
Conversation as follows:
V01: Welcome, distinguished guests, to Dayang, rated amongst the
top five dining destinations in this part of the galaxy, and the
best fusion restaurant in this sector. I will be your waitstaff
for tonight. What will you be having?
V02: Actually, our friend here is new to this area and she's not
quite sure what she wants. Do you have any recommendations?
V01: But of course! For starters, might I suggest the vegetable
puffs platter? A plate of ten lovingly-crafted puffs, consisting
of a mixture of fresh vegetables hand-picked daily by our chefs
and marinated in one of the house's secret sauces to create the
perfect blend of flavours. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the
inside, it's one of the crowd's favourites.
V01: Certainly. If you'd prefer a more protein-packed appetiser,
the meaty delight is always a crowd-pleaser. Your selection of
meat stir-fried and seasoned to perfection, topped with fresh
blue lettuce and cherry tomatoes.
V03: I was actually looking at the soups as well. This wingedsnake
soup sounds interesting. Is that good?
V01: That one is actually one of my personal favourites.
Pressure-cooked overnight, our chefs manage to turn the hard
stringy flesh of winged-snakes to juicy, tender meat. Slowly
cooked with only the best spices and topped with fresh ocean
basil, served with bread of your choice.
V03: I'll get that one then. With Indian bread.
V01: Excellent. And for your main course?
V03: Oh, actually, I'm still deciding. Someone else order first,
V01: Of course. Will you be wanting any sides with that?
V02: --and the nasi lemak house special. I always have that when
I come here. It's to die for.
V02: [Laughter] Oh, we can always share. Don't you worry!
V01: And for you? Have you made your decision yet?
V03: Yes, I think I'll get the Ayer Biru laksam, a regular plate
of sizzling golden bean sprouts and a small bowl of assorted
V01: Would you like anything for dessert? We have a wide range of
excellent sweet and savoury dishes for you to choose from.
V03: Oh, that's the one section of this meal we already planned
for. We'll each have one serving of the ocean-crest pie--
[End of audio file]
[End of transcript]
Displaying Log #1809: On the Topic of Nasi Lemak
Log #1809: On the Topic of Nasi Lemak
Nasi lemak, a plate of coconut rice traditionally served with
sambal tumis and anchovies, squid, prawns or fried chicken,
topped with slices of fresh cucumber and a sprinkling of fried
nuts. Dayang's crowd favourite diverges from the conventional
dish by using flying prawns bred and exported exclusively from
Makam Keerthana on the moon 11-A instead of the earth's seafood.
The rich flavour and springy texture of these flying prawns
quickly became popular soon after the variation was introduced
and eventually replaced the more traditional preparations on the
Although the flying prawns were slowly being introduced to the
public's menus, their popularity only soared after the Silent
Ocean Crisis of 3158, when it was reported that all marine life
in the Earth's oceans mysteriously vanished. At the time of the
incident, numerous investigations were launched, including over
35 voyages deep into the Earth's waters. However, all such
efforts yielded the same results with investigators coming back
empty-handed. For a few months, the fisheries were able to
continue supplying seafood, but it was not long before demand
quickly overtook supply and the fisheries dwindled to nothing. As
a result, it was concluded that humanity's overfishing had
finally dried up the rich ecosystem of Earth's oceans.
A minor section of marinebiologists from Sarawak, Malaysia,
however, proposed a different theory. Given their notes and
records, they found it inexplicable for the ocean to go silent
overnight. Instead, they suggested that an incident of a more
supernatural kind had taken place, and they believed the missing
marine life had somehow been transported out of humanity's reach.
Efforts were made on their part to continue investigating the
seas' depths, but with the dwindling funding and poor results,
their department was soon shut down. No further investigation was
>> search(“flying prawn”)
Displaying Log #1830: When Prawns Take Flight
Log #1830: When Prawns Take Flight
Caption: a painted illustration of three flying prawns, two
soaring across the ocean, one just breaking the surface of the
water. Their wings are given shape in delicate brush strokes, a
translucent pink, their exoskeletons lined in deep, rich shades
of purple. Painted against the background of a muted sunset, the
reflections of these prawns are notably absent from the water's
surface. In the bottom right corner of the image is the elegant
scrawl of the much-loved painter, Sandra Chu.
>> search(“winged snek”)
Did you mean:
Please enter the number of the entry you would like to access.
Three entries found. Display all entries? (Y/N)
Displaying Log #1841: The Space Dragon
Log #1841: The Space Dragon
The winged-snake was often referred to by the public as space
dragons. Indeed, their long winding shape and generous wingspans
quickly brought to mind the dragons of mythical times back on
Earth. However, a closer look at the species revealed that these
"dragons" were no different than Earth's more ordinary snakes,
save for the wings sprouting from their backs. These reptiles had
between 2 to 6 pairs of wings, depending on their species, size
and habitat. The largest known winged-snake was discovered at the
beaches of Pulau Sirbu and was recorded to be 20 feet and 3
inches, with 5 pairs of enormous wings.
Displaying Log #1842: The winged-snake, additional notes
Log #1842: The winged-snake, additional notes
Caption: a photograph of the largest winged-snake known to
mankind. Caught as it was rising from its sprawl along a cliff's
edge, the snake has its head turned towards the photographer,
fangs bared in threat, wings spread open behind it, blanketing
the sky. The photographer's corpse was later found washed up 20
miles from the cliff depicted in this image. Thankfully, the
camera's contents were salvageable.
Displaying Log #1850: The author’s take on Dayang’s famous wingedsnake
Log #1850: The author's take on Dayang's famous winged-snake
Basic spices including white clove, star anise, cinnamon,
cardamom, river stars
A handful of onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger
A stick of celery
Akla mountain carrots
Your choice of potatoes
Blue tomatoes (beef tomatoes are a suitable replacement)
500g of winged-snake meat, de-scaled
1. Pressure-cook the winged-snake meat for 36 hours to achieve
a soft, tender texture. Drain the water and set aside.
2. Blend the onions, garlic, ginger and celery. Set aside.
3. Gently stir-fry the spices on medium heat.
4. Add the blended mixture to the pan. Stir-fry until the aroma
5. Add 500ml of water.
6. Add the softened meat and leave to boil.
7. Add carrots. Boil until soft.
8. Add potatoes.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Add tomatoes. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes.
11. Sprinkle some basil and take the pot off the heat. Serve
with a portion of rice or bread for the perfect pairing of
>> search(“golden bean sprouts”)
Displaying Log #1847: A Handful of Golden Bean Sprouts Keeps the
Log #1847: A Handful of Golden Bean Sprouts Keeps the Doctor Away
The name bean sprouts here is actually a misnomer. The golden
bean sprouts is a type of fungi, being a much closer relative to
the enoki mushroom. Their name came about as a result of their
shape which without a doubt resembles earth's much beloved bean
sprouts, growing from the soil with a thin golden stem with two
delicate leaves sprouting from a round centre. However, the leafliked
shapes actually form the base of this fungi's cap which is
normally invisible to the naked eye. Under the light of the fullmoon
however, the rest of this mushroom's cap can be fully
appreciated by any passerby. The exact science/explanation for
this trait was never found, as the species went extinct two
decades after its discovery.
These mushroom became widely popular after a study in the 2400s
found a correlation between its consumption and blood cholesterol
levels. It was found to significantly decrease all levels of high
density lipoproteins found in the blood system. This finding was
true at all levels of the study population which included healthy
individuals, individuals with controlled cholesterol levels, and
individuals with uncontrolled high cholesterol.
As a result, the golden bean sprouts quickly found its way into
the daily diets of nearly every recorded household. Production
lines quickly soared and these mushroom enjoyed a tantalising 20-
year spotlight in the public eye before fading out.
>> search(“ocean crest pie”)
Displaying Log #1862: The ocean-crest pie
Log #1862: The ocean-crest pie
The ocean-crest pie was banned throughout the galaxy in the year
2976, when it was discovered that its main ingredient, the lunar
jellyfish, scored 13.75 on the Salmah Sentiency Test (SST). Much
to the alarm of the public at that time, this score ranks the
lunar jellyfish higher on the sentiency hierarchy than any other
intelligent lifeform ever recorded in history, including mankind-
Session ended due to inactivity. Exiting SalvagedHD(G:)
Considers herself an amateur in the world of stories, and as such spends most of her time not
writing. Most of her impossible scenarios will never make their way to paper, with which she
has made peace.
Her (not) writing can be found here for all to read:
A blinding sea of white, the corridor stretched and twisted, a soft groan heard with every
movement. Transparent mist blanketed the floor, its vapour a thing of poison.
An infinite labyrinth of its own mind, it held no way out.
A playpen designed by a sadistic mind.
"E--e--ri--" a young woman choked out as she hobbled down the corridor, "Hu--i--"
With her tattered jumpsuit and unkempt hair, the young woman brought to mind an
unfortunate victim, the fly trapped in a spider's web. She had entered the labyrinth with
noble intentions, only for it to warp into greed. The game had been lost, unfortunately for
her, and the price had to be paid.
"Ky--d--" she attempted again, her words trapped. Her hands, tinged blue and decorated
with blisters, flew to her throat when a sudden, sharp pain enveloped it. Blood stained
mucous oozed out of her mouth while she buckled over in pain.
Her ears caught the sound of heavy footsteps, its rhythm one that she had heard before. It
grew louder and louder in her direction until it came to a sudden halt. Before she could even
splutter a word, she felt something cold and sharp pointed at her throat.
With great pain, she lifted her head as her eyes squinted through the brightness to make out
the figure that stood before her.
Tall and formidable, it appeared human in nature. Nothing much could be made of its face,
except that it was oval in shape and surrounded by dark hair. Its hand held the hilt of a
long, jagged object, the pointed end pressed deeper into her throat.
The words that it spoke sounded monotonous, as if it were in some kind of deep trance:
"Close the loop if you wish, but be warned that such an attempt is foolish.”
Erie stared at her reflection in the mirror over the sink, her mind encumbered with sleep inertia. The
Sandman had eluded her lately, that was apparent, for deep, red bruises marked the skin under her
eyes, their colour a stark contrast to her porcelain complexion. Strands of auburn hair stuck out from
her ponytail, its sleekness lost.
Fuck, I look tired. she sighed internally as she splashed her face with cold water.
Despite her exhaustion, it was a price that she willingly paid for the Phobetor, a spacecraft that she
had worked on for years with the Eudis Space Agency.
And after all this time, her hard work had finally paid off.
The Phobetor was ready for the final frontier.
And maybe, just maybe, they would let her man its first mission. After all, she had been the lead
engineer since day one...
Her daydream got cut short when she felt a soft vibration on her wrist; a sign that someone was
attempting to reach her communicator. She took a quick glance at the screen:
Prof. James Smith
She furrowed her brow in confusion. Why would the Director of Human Spaceflight contact her so
early in the morning?
Maybe it's the call, the voice in her head said excitedly, The one that you were thinking about
just now! Oh my god, you're going to space.
An unusual surge of energy coursed through her body, her earlier lethargy now no longer.
"Right, right," her communicator vibrated harder this time, "I've got to pick up first. Um-- answer
On a distant unnamed planet, the Phobetor stood uselessly, no longer the pristine spacecraft
that it was meant to be. Not a single soul roamed its halls, save for a young woman in the
The young woman, whose name tag read KARA, sat cross-legged on the floor while she
tinkered with an object that resembled a watch. Her ashen face, covered by a mop of fair
hair, was scrunched with immense concentration as she screwed the case back on.
Alright, moment of truth. she set the precision screwdriver down and took a breath, her eyes
squeezed shut as if in silent prayer:
"Roessel, this is Phobetor, RADIO CHECK, OVER." Kara recited as calmly as she could,
"Roessel, this is Phobetor, RADIO CHECK, OVER."
Much to her dismay, however, silence greeted her. The time that she had taken to fix the
communicator was for naught.
Kara felt a cold knot form in the pit of her stomach-- she was truly on her own now.
A cacophony of images played itself out in her mind's eye; death by asphyxiation, death by
myocardial infarction, lethal hypothermia--
"No! No! NO!" she violently shook the communicator, every inch of her overcame with a
sudden panic, "You HAVE to work! GOD DAMN IT!"
Her body quaked with rage as she forced it open with the screwdriver, "I can't die here, I
But in her manic state she fumbled, a screwdriver through her hand the unfortunate result.
Consumed by immeasurable pain, Kara released a blood-curdling scream.
Kara sat alone in the interview room, adrenaline still fresh in her system. She couldn't remember a
time when she was this nervous, not even back when she was an intern at Roessel General Hospital.
That, she thought, was a cakewalk compared to this.
For years she had prepared, with countless nights of incessant studying, strict diets, and not to
mention a strenuous exercise regimen. Her entire life had built up to this moment, and she could not
let herself fail the second time.
Who wouldn't be as anxious as she was if they were in her situation?
But she had made it through this time, after a multitude of tests and gruelling interviews, Kara had
now earned the title of spacewalker.
She felt a grin creep across her face, her nervous energy now replaced with giddiness.
"Kara, I reckon?"
The sound of a woman's voice made her jolt upright, she hadn't heard the door open, let alone the
sound of footsteps.
A few steps from her stood a striking, Amazonian-like woman with an air of keen intelligence about
her. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a sleek ponytail, not a strand out of place. Dressed in a
pinstripe pantsuit and combat boots, the woman looked a force to be reckoned with.
"Erm, yeah," Kara stood as tall as she could, her hand held out in front of her, "Hi, I'm Kara.
Pleased to make your acquaintance."
Rather than return her handshake, the woman eyed her over, an act that made Kara deeply
uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she tried her best to appear unperturbed.
After a few moments of silence, she took a step towards Kara.
"Tell me, Kara Regan," the woman's dark eyes searched her pale ones, "Are you an asset or a
Kara felt a surge of heat rush towards her cheeks, her heart rate now at a wild pace. She returned her
hand to her side as she processed their short interaction. Who exactly was this woman? And why
would she ask her such a question? Surely, this would not be considered normal by most.
"I haven't got all day, Kara." she pressed, her voice dripped with acid, "Are you an asset or a
Kara knew that her response would set a precedent as to how she'd be treated in the future, and how
important it was that she worded it carefully so as not to cross a line.
"With all due respect, ma'am," Kara steeled herself, "I'd rather let my work speak for itself. I find
that more productive than prematurely slapping a label on myself."
The woman's expression remained inscrutable, but Kara couldn't help but notice a shadow of a smile
on her face.
"Professor Smith told me about your spunk. I’m Erie Thomson, your guide and mentor."
Kara's bandaged hand hovered over the hand scanner, her only way out of this spacecraft. In
her heart of hearts, she knew that this idea of hers was suicide but, be that as it may, she
could no longer cower within its confines. It was her fault that the mission ended up the
way it did.
Her anxiety heightened with each breath as she inched her hand closer to the scanner.
Don’t go, Kara. an all too familiar voice whispered into her ear.
“Kaydn?” she pulled her hand away and spun around, “Kaydn, is that you?”
Out of nowhere came a strong gust of wind, Kara's face licked by its bitter cold. A dull ache
radiated from her extremities and towards her torso, her movements limited as a result. She
could see vapours exit her lips as she called for Kaydn once more.
“They’ve got me, Kara.” the voice weeped, “They’ve got all of us.”
Clearer but slightly muffled, the voice appeared to have came from her jumpsuit pocket.
Kara flicked her eyes downwards and reached inside. A small, cool object vibrated against
her fingers, “That's impossible.”
Slowly, she pulled the communicator out and turned it with her fingers. The screen showed
a random pattern of black and white pixels.
A gentle breeze played with her hair when she heard a harsh hiss. Whizzes and whirrs
followed thereafter as the airlock sprung into life. An intense white light spilled out of its
gap and onto her, sinister sounding voices with it.
As the light grew in size, so did the volume of the voices. Kara shielded her eyes to look
beyond, her hopes held out for a chance of a familiar face.
But her eyes had clearly laid on something more.
In a dimly lit office, Kaydn sat hunched over a table full of notes, her face illuminated by multiple
computer screens. A crease formed over her forehead as she tried to make sense of the markings that
she had transcribed from the audio they had received. She loudly exhaled as she pulled her dark hair
into a bun, under the assumption that that would help clear her head.
In her ten years as a linguist, they looked like nothing she had ever seen. With the hope that she would
pick up something new, she placed a pair of earbuds into her ears and pressed PLAY.
"Managed to get anything?"
Her colleague, Humaira, stood over her, two mugs of steaming hot coffee in hand. Ever grateful for
the sight and smell of caffeine, Kaydn grabbed one and immediately took a gulp. Her rash actions may
have resulted in a seared tongue, but she couldn't care less. She needed to wake her brain up more than
"It's all gibberish," Kaydn carefully placed her mug down, "I can't make out a single word."
She gathered her notes and handed them over to Humaira, "We're no closer than we were a year
Humaira let out a long, weary sigh as she plopped down on the chair next to her, "We can't show
these to Professor Smith... And we need the Phobetor for this mission."
"I know," she pulled the earbuds out and handed them over to Humaira, "Knock yourself out, I'm
going to check my emails."
Reluctantly, Humaira took them, "I'm an astrophysicist, not a linguist."
"You know what they say," Kaydn turned her attention towards the computer closest to her, "Fresh
eyes and whatnot."
Humaira rolled her eyes and slammed the earbuds down on the table.
A sudden high pitched sound filled the room, immediately followed by a flash of symbols on the
computer. Transfixed, Kaydn stared at the screen, her eyes sparked with a sense of familiarity.
It wasn't that they looked exactly like the markings that she had written down earlier but--
"Holy crap... I can't believe that I missed it."
Quickly, she grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down what she could.
Within the span of a few seconds, they were plunged into utter darkness, their eyes and ears free from
"What the hell was that??" Humaira demanded through the pitch black, "Are you OK?"
"I don't know..." Kaydn pulled a transparent rectangular object out of her pocket, "But whatever it
was, I think that it helped us crack this puzzle."
"Tablet. Light, please."
Excitement coursed through her veins when she shined its light onto the paper. She traced the symbols
with her index finger, their lines and curves filled her with elation:
Whispers of a thousand voices traversed the partially broken down spacecraft, its mother
In the galley, the entire crew gathered, their expressions serious and sombre. The voices
had been constant and ceaseless, its source yet to be determined. They had tolerated it for
almost a week now, but their patience had clearly thinned.
Their presence on this planet was not welcome, that had been made clear, as a series of
unfortunate events had plagued them ever since their arrival.
"So you're telling us that these voices has something to do with those texts?" Erie asked
Everyone turned their attention towards Kaydn and Humaira, both of whom had called for
the meeting. Humaira sat on the table's edge whilst Kaydn stood, her hands constantly
playing with her tablet.
They exchanged a meaningful glance before Humaira nodded, encouraging Kaydn to
"Yes," Kaydn replied, "Tablet, show me Yadari please."
She placed the tablet in the middle of the table as a series of symbols floated above it.
"When I first heard the voices," Kaydn began, "A part of me said that something about
them seemed... familiar. And then it dawned on me, I have in fact heard these words before.
Worked on them, even. I then spent the entire week searching, looking through the records
on my computer. And that was when I found it, the very audio clip that started this mission.
The clip that came with these texts."
"You don't mean--" Erie's voice hovered over the final word, her tone suggestive of fear.
"It’s them," Humaira confirmed, "they've finally revealed themselves to us."
At the sound of those words, a sudden shift in energy overtook the room. Everyone had
become lively and curious again, as they had been once before.
How could they be so certain? What do they mean by ‘revealed’? Why didn’t they resume
their communications earlier on?
More and more questions were hurled her way but Kaydn paid no heed. Instead she pressed
on, more concerned about their reaction towards her upcoming proposal than their queries.
She was certain that they wouldn't warm to it, but it was the only way that she could think
"Which is why I suggest that we return to the caverns. To the source of these messages."
As predicted, her proposal was met with a chorus of groans, the loudest of which came from
"We've already searched the caverns, there is nothing for us to find."
"Or so we thought." Kaydn said as she reached over and waved the floating symbols away,
now replaced with an image of a graffitied wall, "Remember how every inch of the cavern
was covered with symbols?"
Aside from Evelyn's grunt, the rest of the crew gave her a puzzled look, not certain of how
to respond. Undeterred, Kaydn went on:
"Well, I've listened to the voices some more, transcribing what I could," she made a gesture
that enlarged the image significantly, "I then compared those symbols to the ones on the
wall, and made this little discovery right here."
"What does it say?" Erie leaned forward and squinted as she searched the symbols.
Kaydn cleared her throat,
"Tangled and endless my innards may be, but fools and seekers still walk within me.
Whichever class you choose to belong, the door you seek lies not far beyond.
A passage through time awaits the person who conquers, death the consequence for those who dare
"So, like a labyrinth?" Erie asked.
"That's what it sounds like, yes." Kaydn replied.
"After comparing the symbols on this part of the cavern to the others, Kaydn and I have
reason to believe that this wall is the door that they speak of." Humaira added, "The others
mostly talked about religion or sacrifice--"
"Tell me that you've just heard yourself talk." Evelyn said incredulously.
"I did," Humaira replied, "But we came here for answers. And I'll be damned if we go back
"No way," Evelyn argued, "Labyrinth? Religion? Sacrifice? We'd be lambs to the slaughter
if we went in."
"Kaydn has found us a new lead to go on," Humaira countered, "Do not let her efforts die in
"I'd rather not die an idiot, thank you very much."
"I'm sorry, what exactly was your contribution to this mission?"
"Not piggybacking on someone else's work, that's for sure."
"That's enough," Erie interjected before Humaira could get a word in, "As much as I hate to
say this, Evelyn has a point. The labyrinth sounds like a dangerous place to go. And we
have limited resources as is. I'd rather that we remain in the spacecraft and fix what we can.
I'm sorry, ladies, but it's a no to the caverns."
Disappointed but not surprised, Kaydn stood rooted to her spot, her muscles too frozen to
move. What was she to do now? She couldn’t just ignore the voices. They had wanted her to
find whatever they kept hidden inside that labyrinth. Somehow or other, she had to find
another way in--
"Are you alright?" she heard Kara ask.
Kaydn broke away from her thoughts, only to realise that the others had left the galley.
"I'm sorry that she rejected your proposal like that," Kara continued, "I know how
important this was to you. I actually thought that she would approve, to be honest."
Her statement surprised Kaydn, Kara had been so quiet throughout the entire meeting, she
had simply assumed that Kara was opposed to it, too.
"Yeah, danger or no danger." Kara replied, "We’ve been stranded here for quite a while
now, might as well act on a new discovery. What have we got to lose, right? "
Kaydn felt her spirits lift a little at Kara's words, at least someone aside from Humaira had
seen things from her perspective. Now if she could only convince the other two. All she
needed was some proof, a form physical evidence...
She felt an idea form itself within the crevices of her brain, it wasn't a good one but it might
just be crazy enough to work.
"Hey, Kara," she said, "Can I ask you for a favour?"
Five women sat in the conference room, each one brought in for their specific set of skills. Not a single
word was uttered throughout for they eagerly anticipated the arrival of Professor James Smith, the
Director of Human Spaceflight. He had claimed to carry some good news.
The type of news that could alter their lives forever.
A few minutes had come and gone when finally, they heard the door open to reveal a dark haired
middle aged man. Tall and sharply dressed with a tablet in hand, he strutted into the room like he
"Morning, ladies." he greeted cheerily, "And welcome to the Avengers initiative."
The youngest of the five covered her mouth with her hand while she tried her best to stifle an
unwanted laugh. The rest, however, could only give out polite smiles, their interests reserved for the
good news that they were promised.
"Come now," he pulled out a chair at the head of the table, "Where's your sense of humour?"
"What of this news, Professor Smith?" one of them, a woman with an oval face, asked matter-offactly.
"Ah typical Evelyn, always straight to the point." he winked as he set the tablet down, "I wanted to
have some fun but why not. Show them the mission files, please. Project Artemis."
At his request, the tablet projected an image of a planet from its surface, a wall of writing right next
to it. Everyone leaned forward in their seats, their interests piqued.
At last, the moment that they had waited so long for.
"I started Project Artemis with questions frequently asked by many; were we truly alone in this
universe? What has stopped us from reaching out if we weren't? Why not seek them out ourselves?” he
began, “But for reasons which were obvious, it was difficult for me to gain the Agency's approval.
This mission was truly speculative in nature, and being the frugal scientists that they were, some
physical evidence was needed. And I hardly had any, truth be told. The ones that I've received at the
time weren't exactly... promising."
He paused his story and turned his attention towards someone seated at the far end of the table. A
woman, to be precise, her gaze faraway and distant. The look of someone with much on their mind.
He simply smiled at the sight, and returned his attention towards the room.
"And then one day we got this signal, a sort of garbled audio if you will, that was almost impossible
to make out. I was just about to throw in the towel before Kaydn here stepped in and saved the day.
Her brilliant mind found us the coordinates to this planet. Project Artemis would have remained a
pipe dream if it weren't for her."
The woman seated next to him harrumphed.
“And a big thanks to you too, Humaira. She was the one who recommended Kaydn in the first place.”
“The clip you received,” Evelyn interrupted, “What made you think that this was the real deal? You
did say that the others weren't promising. What made this one different?”
Rather than answer her question, he nodded towards the tablet, a knowing smile etched on his lips.
“Play them the clip.”
Without so much as a beat, unintelligible voices began to echo from the tablet, its tone ominous in
nature. The women, with the exception of Kaydn and Humaira, felt their hairs stand on end, ever
thankful for the clip’s short length.
Unintelligible voices emitted once more from the tablet, its utterances differ greatly this time around.
Its tone, too, became lighter, less threatening somewhat.
“Same clip. Different message.” he said smugly, “I bet you that no one on this planet has the capacity
to pull off that trick.”
The room fell into a hush once more, most of its occupants in deep thought.
The first mission of its kind, this news was indeed life changing. And it wasn’t something that one
would turn down despite the dangers it might present. They would return as heroes, explorers of deep
space. Their names carved into history.
“So where do the rest of us come in?” finally, the million dollar question was raised.
Professor Smith turned to face the questioner, the auburn haired woman whom he had heard so much
about. Her reputation had preceded her and clearly, they weren’t wrong. She sounded as tough as she
looked, an after effect of the ‘all boys club’.
“I’m glad you asked, Erie,” he replied, “Word around the Agency is that you’ve built one of the best
spacecrafts in the world.”
“I’ve worked hard on it, yes.”
“Pish posh, no need to be so modest,” he brushed her statement aside, “I went to have a look myself
before I came here. Quite a beauty, the Phobetor. Most of us agreed that that spacecraft of yours is
way ahead of its time.”
“Thank you for your kind words, Professor.”
“Would be a waste if it was used for something less than,” he continued, “Or captained by someone
“...it sounds like you’re ramping up towards something.”
“Tell me, Erie,” he said, “How would you and the Phobetor feel about being pioneers?”
Crimson red lights coloured the corridors at intervals, indicative of imminent danger. Each
flash acted as the hands of a ticking clock, a grim reminder of what was to come.
Three of the crew sped towards the airlock, time now a luxury they couldn’t afford. The
lives of Kaydn and Humaira hung in the balance.
And it was all due to a moment of naivete.
“Why did you let them leave, Kara?” Erie demanded furiously.
“They told me that the labyrinth was safe!” Kara defended, “They showed me those texts
“They showed all of us those texts!” Erie almost screamed, “You don’t see us pulling off a
stupid stunt like this. Honestly, Kara, I taught you better than this!”
Kara held back her retort and sulked in response. She was unwavered in her decision to let
them leave, if it weren’t her then who else would it be? The distress call must be a false
alarm, it had to be. Most of the spacecraft had broken down and communications couldn’t
just start up on its own.
Even so, her heart raced, a seed of doubt implanted within her.
“The both of you stay behind,” Evelyn ordered once they reached the airlock doors, “I have
every inch of that cavern memorised, it’ll be faster that way.”
She extended her hand towards the scanner.
“Out of the question,” Erie grabbed her wrist, “Whatever they saw sounded like trouble and
I can’t have you going in there without backup. Or a plan, for that matter.”
“This isn’t my first rodeo, sweetheart. I'm sure that I'll be fine.”
“This is not the time for the shoot first, think later approach--”
“I seriously don't have time for this,” Evelyn pulled her hand away and placed it on the
scanner, “If you want to come so badly, then be my guest. But if anything were to happen to
you, best be warned that I will leave you behind.”
The doors opened and Evelyn stepped in, “Move now if you're coming because I'll be
closing these doors with or without you.”
She grabbed one of the space suits while the other two looked on. Torn between fear and
duty, they lingered by the door. Reckless valour in the face of danger was uncharted
territory for them both. Even more so with the threat at hand.
“I’m giving you three seconds.”
Erie exhaled loudly as she entered the airlock, “You had better know what you're doing,”
Evelyn made a dismissive sound in response and shoved the space suit into her hands.
Kara remained by the door still, too frightened to move. No matter how hard she tried she
just couldn’t summon up the courage. The consequences of her actions, if it was indeed a
bad one, were too dire for her to face.
“Kara, I'm leaving you in charge of the Phobetor,” Erie instructed unexpectedly, “And do
not, under any circumstances, leave the spacecraft. Do I make myself clear?”
“Wh-what?” Kara asked, puzzled, “But I thought…”
“Am I clear?” Erie pressed.
Kara heard Evelyn key in a sequence from within the airlock. It was evident that the
decision had already been made. Defeated but secretly relieved, she took a step back as the
doors began to close, “Clear as day, ma’am.”
During the time that the door was closing, Erie couldn’t help but notice how poorly Kara
tried to hide her apprehension. Her earlier rebukes might have been harsh but the safety of
her crew was not something to be compromised.
She’s just a kid, she didn’t mean them any harm, a maternal voice inside her said.
On the spur of the moment, Erie called for Kara through the gap. She had to say something
to ease her thoughts.
“We’ll bring them back in one piece, you have my word.”
Evelyn awoke with a start, swept with relief at the sight of her room.
She could feel beads of perspiration drip down her forehead as her heart began to even out its erratic
rhythm. She felt a dampness underneath her fingers when she pushed herself up.
It appeared that she had sweated through her bed sheets once more.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and grabbed the notebook that she had placed on the bed
stand. With the pen that she had left inside, she began to write fervently:
I entered a corridor that was bright and blinding, accompanied by another. It was meant to
be a simple search and rescue, but whatever it was inside had yearned for something more.
The word ‘sacrifice’ kept being mentioned again and again as if a crowd of spectators had
been inside. I felt uneasy and unsafe.
She pressed the pen against her forehead as she tried to recall the details of her dream.
Night terrors had plagued her ever since her last mission, vivid images of her death now a near
constant. She couldn’t remember a time when she had a good night’s rest, or a dream where happiness
was the outcome. At times she wondered if her dreams were punishments for her past sins.
“Ugh, this is pointless.”
Her mind still a blank, she tossed the notebook across the room. She had never been much of a
wordsmith in the first place, and she only recorded her dreams at the advice of her brother. For
research purposes, was what her brother had said. Evelyn, on the other hand, had preferred to occupy
her hands with more important things.
She got up and proceeded to pull the sheets off her bed. With an unnecessary strength, she crumpled it
up, as if to release pent up frustration.
“If only I could squash this stupid trauma away.”
She made the journey towards the laundry room then, bed sheets in hand. The entire campus was
dimly lit and she was all the more thankful for it, for she hadn't bothered to change out of her
Evelyn felt the communicator on her wrist vibrate. She turned the screen towards her face:
Professor James Smith
She didn't feel like talking to the man that the people here so ardently adored. His daily check ups,
though kindly intentioned, had vexed her so.
“I had a feeling that you were dodging my calls.” a deep voice said from within the shadows.
“Motherfu--” startled, Evelyn dropped her bed sheets, “Why would you do that??”
The owner took a step out of the shadows, his form illuminated. With his tall stature and mop of dark
hair, it was Professor Smith.
“I was out for my nightly walk and I happened to see you walk by,” he replied, “I apologise for having
scared you like that. It was not my intent.”
“Consider a bell around your neck one of these days.”
She gathered up her bed sheets and continued her walk, Professor Smith by her side.
“Still having those night terrors, I see.” he observed.
“Why should it matter to you?” she asked, her tone one of annoyance.
The terrors of her dream still fresh, she had rather bury them than speak of it. It was bad enough that
she was asked to write them down, but to rehash it was another form of cruelty, she found.
“Because I'm your brother, that’s why.”
Evelyn stopped dead in her tracks. Her annoyance now transformed into anger, she rounded on him
with her nostrils flared, “What did I tell you about saying stuff like that out loud?”
“Evelyn, you must realise that you are being quite ridiculous about this whole thing.” he dropped his
voice to a whisper, “I’m supposed to look after you and honestly, all this secrecy--”
“I only had one request,” she hissed, “Keep my identity a secret. Disrespect that and I’ll walk.”
His shoulders sagged as he sighed, “Help me understand, Evelyn. Why is it so important that we keep
your identity a secret?”
His question had set off a trigger as her lips began to quiver. The emotion that she had kept in for so
long had finally bubbled its way up to the surface. Quickly, she broke eye contact and answered, her
voice barely above a whisper.
“You know why.”
His eyes softened slightly, her survivor’s guilt had still remained it seemed. Had he knew, he wouldn’t
have pushed her into this. The repetition, furthermore, must have amplified her pain greatly.
Despite that, the loop must be closed. And he needed her to carry out the task.
“Evelyn, what happened in the labyrinth was beyond your control. You can’t keep blaming yourself
every single time.”
“You weren’t there,” she shook her head violently, “You have no idea what it’s like, to kill them every
A flash of images hijacked her brain, all the misdeeds and killings that she had executed from prior
loops. Burnings, beheadings, liquid poison, and toxic gas; the images were numerous and gruesome.
The world around her swirled and her breathing became laboured as more and more filled her mind.
Once Professor Smith caught sight of her spiral, he swiftly but gently cradled her head in his hands.
An act he had seen their mother do. It had stopped Evelyn from shaking further, but her breaths had
still remained ragged.
“You’re right,” he said softly, “I don’t. But I just need you to hold on for a little bit longer.”
He saw her eyes widen at his suggestion. He had anticipated her resistance, nonetheless he persisted.
“We will close the loop and in turn, erase your memories. You’ve just got to stick with the plan, that’s
all I’m asking of you.”
Her face was one of disbelief for he had said this to her in all the previous time loops. And regardless
of the variants, his ‘plan’ had failed her too many times. She despised the ‘gift’ that the labyrinth had
given her and she wanted nothing more than to be rid of it.
“You have got to be kidding me,” she angrily pulled herself away, “Were you even listening? I can’t--
“I went through every single one of your entries, Evelyn.”
His statement had thrown her off, “What?”
“The ones that I had you write down.” he urged, “Your night terrors.”
“You really are on a roll tonight.”
It was his turn this time to be irked.
“Evelyn, listen.” his voice had turned stern, “Every night you dream about that labyrinth. In it, you
enter, and in it, you die. But you never do in real life. Do--don’t you see the significance of these
“They’re night terrors, James,” she brushed his question aside, “They’re not uncommon for those with
post traumatic stress.”
“For goodness sakes,” he took a deep breath, “Just humour me, please. I’m trying to help you out here.”
She bit her lip in response. Uncertain what to make of it, he simply ignored her and went on, “They’re
clues, Evelyn. Your subconscious, or whatever it is, it’s telling us how to close the loop.”
Still, she kept mum.
“In the previous loops, you were always the last one standing. But in your dreams, it was always
someone else,” he repeated, “And I think that in order to break the loop we’ll have to introduce
something, or someone, new.”
“Are you asking me to die? For a theory?”
“There is a chance, yes,” he replied, “But you might also come out of it alive. All of you might come
out of this alive. And I believe that you, more than most, are aware about how time can be non
A beat of silence hung in the air between them. They both knew that there was a risk to his theory, but
it was a theory that they had yet to explore. And as always, it all bore down on Evelyn.
“And who is this breaker of loops?” she asked after a while.
“I’m sure that you’ve seen her around the campus from time to time,” he said, “The one that they call
Somewhere deep in space, the Phobetor cruised towards its destination. Its inhabitants
tended to their assigned tasks, mostly in preparation for their arrival. There were only a few
days left into their journey and they had wanted to make the best of what they could. Erie,
the spacecraft's captain, had kept tabs on everyone’s progress, which made it near impossible
for them to skip out on work.
Humaira, however, had figured out a way around this matter. All she had to do was
volunteer for the more menial tasks, anything that could free her time faster. And when the
others were busy besting the ship, Humaira spent her time in her living quarters, in talks
with Professor Smith.
Their discussion, which was constantly one-sided and took about a good hour, mostly
consisted of warnings and reminders. All of which she was already aware.
His likeness was projected from a lens embedded in the wall, its full form stood in the
middle of her room.
“Remember to keep me up to date on your discoveries,” his feet began to pace, “If all goes to
plan, then this planet could be our next home.”
“This isn’t my first time working for you, you know,” she sighed, “I have everything under
“And don’t forget that whatever they are might be hostile,” he ignored her words and
babbled on, “So approach with caution. No discovery is worth losing your lives over.”
“The closer we get, the more paranoid you become.” she noted, “Any special reason?”
“None, none at all,” he shrugged, “It’s just.. My entire life’s work depends on Project
Artemis going well. And I promised my sister that I’d keep her safe.”
His last few words went unheard as it was drowned out by Erie’s voice over the speakers.
Her announcement sounded urgent, asking everyone in the crew to immediately make
themselves present at the bridge.
“That’s my cue,” Humaira walked through the projection, “I’ll keep you updated if anything
The door immediately opened itself to let her through. She stepped out and headed in the
direction of the bridge. Her journey, luckily, was a relatively short one in comparison with
the others. All it took was a few steps and a quick climb up the stairs.
In the bridge she could only find Erie, seated in the pilot’s chair with an excited look on her
face. A look that Humaira had hardly seen. She was famously known for her no-nonsense
Curious, Humaira followed her gaze and immediately understood why, “Holy shit, is that
Through the window she could make out an Earth-like planet, covered in blue and green.
The sight of it brought tears to her eyes. In all her time as an astrophysicist, she had never
seen a planet up close.
A planet that looked exactly like home.
“There she is...” she said in a hushed, awed whisper, “Have you ever seen anything more
“I can't say that I have, no.”
“Yeah…” at a loss for words, Humaira could only smile, “I can't wait to see what she has in
store for us.”
A dark and silent vacuum interspersed with clouds of dust and gas. Brought further to life
by its vast array of colours. Planets of every imaginable size surrounded by their own
moons, orbiting but never colliding, pulled by an unseen force.
An image of beauty and peace, forever steeped in mystery.