Space

ramizanur

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.

Sincerely,

-The EW Team


Empty Space

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.


@lemongrassgirl tweeted:

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,

Adam?

“Have you... seen Amal’s Twitter?” I asked him, pretending that my voice didn’t crack

mid-question.

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…

Nothing.


@lemongrassgirl tweeted:

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

didn’t.

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

way in.

“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

down.”

“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.”


@lemongrassgirl tweeted:

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

replied cautiously.

My heart sunk. Silence fell upon the room. Why weren’t they as excited about this as I

was?

“What do you mean?” I asked, after a moment. What if… what if they knew something I

didn’t?

Rory sighed and nudged Boy. “You should tell him, Boy,” Rory said to him. Boy looked

terrified.

“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,

asshole?"

I fell backwards onto the couch. I was speechless.


@lemongrassgirl tweeted:

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

there.

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.


Drive(G:) detected.

>> renamedrive “SalvagedHD(G:)”

Success!

>> 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

instead? (Y/N)

>> Y

Transcribing...

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.

V04: [Unintelligible]

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,

please.

V04: [Unintelligible][Static]

V01: Of course. Will you be wanting any sides with that?

[Static]

[Corrupted]

V02: --and the nasi lemak house special. I always have that when

I come here. It's to die for.

V04: [Unintelligible]

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

nuts.

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]


search(“nasi lemak”)

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

menu.

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

done after.

>> search(“flying prawn”)

Displaying Log #1830: When Prawns Take Flight

Log #1830: When Prawns Take Flight

//Image corrupted//

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:

1. Winged-snake

2. Winged-snack

3. Winged-serpent

Please enter the number of the entry you would like to access.

>> 1

Three entries found. Display all entries? (Y/N)

>> Y

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

//Image corrupted//

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

soup

Log #1850: The author's take on Dayang's famous winged-snake

soup.

Ingredients:

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

Basil

Instructions:

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

rises.

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

flavours.

>> search(“golden bean sprouts”)

Displaying Log #1847: A Handful of Golden Bean Sprouts Keeps the

Doctor Away

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:)


Emit Loop

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:

https://muggleweasley.wordpress.com/


ANTHE GRIM

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.”


HEROINE MOST

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...

Bzzz. Bzzz.

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.

Bzzz. Bzzz.

"Right, right," her communicator vibrated harder this time, "I've got to pick up first. Um-- answer

call, audio."


AKA RANGER

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

bridge.

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.

"Shit."

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

can't..."

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

liability?"

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

liability?"

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.

“Kaydn??”


“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.

“Kaydn?”

HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

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.

“Holy shit.”

But her eyes had clearly laid on something more.


BREATH THINLY

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

ever.

"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

ago."

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.

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

EEEEEEEEEEEEEE

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

distress.

"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:

"Yadari."

Whispers of a thousand voices traversed the partially broken down spacecraft, its mother

tongue unknown.

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

hesitantly.

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

answer.

--

"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

of.

"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

Evelyn,

"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

enter."

"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

empty-handed."

"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

vain."

"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."

"You did?"

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?"


AD NW

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

owned it.

"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.

“Again.”

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

less than.”

“...it sounds like you’re ramping up towards something.”

“Tell me, Erie,” he said, “How would you and the Phobetor feel about being pioneers?”


DRA GEN

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

again and--”

“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.

“Suit up.”

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.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“We’ll bring them back in one piece, you have my word.”


AILS MED

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.

“Shit.”

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

pyjamas.

Bzzz. Bzzz.

Evelyn felt the communicator on her wrist vibrate. She turned the screen towards her face:

Professor James Smith

“Hang up.”

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

single time--”

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

terrors?”

“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

linear.”

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

Kara Regan.”


LIAR VAR

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

control.”

“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

exciting happens.”

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.

“You called?”

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

demeanour.

Curious, Humaira followed her gaze and immediately understood why, “Holy shit, is that

it?”


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

beautiful?”

“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.”


Space--

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.

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