Low Orbit

by | May 18, 2013 | Flash Fiction | 0 comments

She composes poetry in her head because there’s no place to write it down.

If she had a scrap of paper, there wouldn’t be a surface she could write on–and the gloves that work well enough for mechanical manipulations are too thick and clumsy to hold a pen.

At first she transcribed triumphant epics to keep her spirits high, ballads and even songs with themes of risk and rescue and salvation. Now she’s resigned herself to weary haiku.

above the bird’s wing
and above the whirling world
quietly she waits

The stars shine through the glass before her, but she’s grown weary of the cold and impartial view. She cranes her neck to try to see the world unfold beneath her, but she soon grows lightheaded and closes her eyes.

She stopped crying weeks ago. And at a certain point the sleepless nights faded into lethargic days–shivering, then sweating as her orbit persists.

trapped within the shell
pecking, scratching, screeching
waiting to emerge

Counting out the syllables, she’s suddenly unsure if she’s got the pattern right. Was it 5-7-5 or the other way around?

She knows she was never a talented poet. Creative writing instructors told her she “had promise,” but she realized quickly that was a standard refrain. The rejection letters told another story.

But she had a knack for flying. Where words came only with intense and focused concentration, the sky flowed easily in and out of her. She threw herself to the wind and she was both the pilot and the craft. Her senses spread before and behind and around her, extending far past her fingertips and the metal hull.

She was good.

The pay was good too, and better if you knew how to keep secrets. She didn’t mind conceding failure in the literary realm. She had her ship–she was alive and she was free.

Until someone up the chain decided she was a liability and sent her on a blind jump with bad coordinates.

At first, she’d thought there was some mistake. They’d send someone to find her, wouldn’t they? So she waited–as low on fuel as she was and as far from civilization, there was little else to do.

only empty space
of life, no trace, no whisper
adrift and alone

The lights flicker, then hold steady. She’s nearing the end of her provisions. It’s the water that concerns her most–the one thing she can’t reasonably ration. It seems she’s always thirsty, and she’s not sure an extra day or two of torture matters in the grand scheme of things.

She’s thought about deactivating the distress beacon–when she’s not thinking about taking a stroll out the airlock. But she can’t take either step just yet.

Slowly losing power and shivering in the glare of an unfamiliar sun, in the shadow of a dead and rocky world, she’s had time to wonder. It’s not the first time she’s felt a pang or two of regret for what might have been. What if she’d reconsidered her priorities? Gone for the English degree. Tried for an internship somewhere.

Submitted just one more poem from the comfort of an atmosphere. Natural gravity. Abundant oxygen. Water falling from the air and welling up from the earth instead of bottled in individual sterile plastic containers.

Maybe if she had, there would be some scrap of newsprint somewhere to with her name on it. A legacy. Some proof of a life lived beyond a hollow metal shell, abandoned lightyears from civilization.

Eventually, she’s reduced to couplets, when there is nothing else to say.

how high in the sky
can one lonely woman die?


Recent Posts