efore our evacuation, we sat out on the lawn together and watched trial rockets burn up on the horizon, gauging the risk of going away.
Now, classical music pipes from a crappy speaker into the compartment where we’re all waiting inside this escape pod. Waiting for what, I’m not exactly sure—our arrival somewhere else, our new lives. A bigger ship.
Hard to imagine it was just a week ago when leaving suddenly stopped feeling like a decision at all.
From what we can still see of Earth at this distance, we watch the tiny expulsions of air and exhaust as other pods are jettisoned out, each one so tiny that it almost seems frivolous, the collective human race a cloud of insects our planet is in the midst of shaking off. Every couple of seconds one of them will explode—a similarly tiny explosion—either shot down, or from a malfunction, or we don’t know what.
There will be these long periods in the cabin when no one’s talking, when all we hear is the classical music and the hyperventilating of this tiny kid with his mother. He looks about four or five.
I think, of the twenty people sitting here, we’re the only actual couple. Everyone else is sitting just so far apart, staring at their feet like they left everything they’ve ever known behind. Maybe they have. Maybe their families are trapped back on the surface or in the exploding escape pods. Who knows.
I have the sudden desire to sing.
For us though, it was just the next logical step. All we left behind was our little cat we called Smoky. We both cried when we let him go, but still, he was just a cat.
I feel a prickle on my forehead like I’m getting the hairy eyeball from some of our fellow passengers. I’m guessing they’re unhappy with my Armageddon t-shirt, my visible tattoos, my piercings.
You poke me on the shoulder. “Stop it.”
“You’re humming like really loud.”
I notice the mother has wrapped a protective arm around her kid and pulled him close. She’s giving me this my-son-is-the-future type of look, like my humming is robbing him of his precious oxygen. A balding man with a bad comb-over shakes his head. I wonder how bad my humming could possibly be, above the classical music. I wonder what happened to his hair, if it ran off with his wife back on Earth or he had bad genetics or what.
For a second I imagine what it might be like if the people in this evac-ship were the exact ones I had to live with forever where we’re going.
I choose a window across the aisle to stare out of and associate with instead; it seems healthier this way. I see stars on black, stars and every so often a floating, dismembered piece from another pod. The slow drift of debris reminds me so much of being underwater, of drowning.
It may as well be sea monsters out there. We don’t know.
As I’m staring, something ribbons through the infinity outside and whips against the hull of our ship, throwing us to the side. When we regain our balance we glimpse through the window a red and green shimmer (a tail?) before it disappears back into nothing.
The little kid whispers, “A space dragon.”
You grab my hand for the first time since leaving Earth’s atmosphere.
I look around the cabin again; panicked faces, tears streaming down cheeks—we rock gently back and forth and now they touch: huddled together, people cover their eyes and wail with the quiet orchestra in the speakers, not because they’re seriously convinced that we’re all about to die or anything but because everything out there suddenly seems so goddamn huge.
The baldy’s comb-over has flopped off to one side and he’s grabbed onto this severe-looking middle-aged woman like she’s the last person in the world. I think to myself that we’re not the only couple on this ship anymore. We lace our fingers and shut our eyes.
I start us out, but in a matter of seconds everyone is singing David Bowie at the top of their lungs.
Simon Jacobs is an angry young writer from Ohio currently living in New York. He curates the Safety Pin Review, a wearable medium for work of less than 30 words, and his writing has appeared in places like PANK, NANO Fiction, Columbia Poetry Review, and Best Gay Stories 2013. He may be found at simonajacobs.blogspot.com.
Illustrations by Meghan Murphy