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art by Jonathan Westbrook

Diatra

Kevin Pickett lives in Norfolk, England with his future wife. He has been writing for pleasure for most of his life; writing horror, science fiction, fantasy and crime genre stories together with screenplays, radio scripts and novels, but has only recently decided to try to unleash his efforts on the world. This is his first published story. Kevin doesn’t have a web site yet, but will soon be contactable on Twitter if anyone fancies a chat about life, the universe, and everything.
The outer flesh of the Diatra vessel was roasting; the stretched sleek surface popping and crackling; blisters bursting with fountains of green photo-cell blood which vaporized as it fell towards the blazing sun.
"I am Diatra."
The strange voice echoed inside the ship and the sole occupant slid a hand along the soft corridor wall as he hurried to the flight deck.
When the genetic neuron spaceflight engineers created the first organic, living space craft, amidst the accolades and awards, the sudden flood of sponsor's finance and academic fame, they did not spare one thought as to this creature's lifespan, nor its eventual inevitable death.
"I am Diatra," the voice said again. "Please may I make your acquaintance?"
The decommission of a spacecraft would have been considered no more relevant to those early geneticists than the disposal of an outdated computer, but now the Diatra craft was dying.
The pilot sat in the operational chair and pressed buttons which were rudimentary nerve endings set into a panel of pale green luminescent skin; each a pressure point linked directly to the space-craft creature's brain.
"I sense you. Please do not be afraid," the disembodied voice of the craft echoed inside the flight-deck chamber.
In front of the pilot was a monitoring screen. A stretched table of skin with blood vessels pumping green fluids through its surface was lit with an iridescent glow. Just beneath the fleshy surface, an image of a vast sun was shown, growing steadily larger as the Diatra vessel fell towards it. The pilot dexterously tapped a sequence into those neatly spaced nerve endings like a typist with an impossible deadline to meet. A whining rumble filled the room.
"Reverse propulsion faltering," Diatra said. "Pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Dammit! Come on, girl."
"I… know you," Diatra said, hesitantly. The whining noise faltered. Cut out. The image of the sun grew steadily on the screen. "You… are…"
"Jake Winters," the pilot said, pressing the same sequence of nerve endings as previously, but now there was no change in the interior of the craft, just a growing crackling roar from the rupturing flesh walls surrounding him.
"Jake Winters," Diatra repeated. "Human. Captain. Hometown: London, Earth. No family. Space Corp Experimental Exploration Team 3540. First in class of 3520, qualified with honors--"
"Save your strength, Diatra," Jake told her.
But her voice continued above the crackling hiss of the melting internal walls. "We saw stars, didn't we, Jake Winters? There were so many stars; seas of infinite light. All so… beautiful. They were beautiful, were they not, Jake Winters?"
Jake nodded. His eyes suddenly moist with tears.
"There will be no more stars for me," Diatra sighed. "I am so tired and my mind is faltering, but for now I remember everything. You must go. Leave me. There is not much time left for you."
Jake shook his head and punched the same sequence of codes into the soft pad of keys. "I'm not leaving. I want to share this last star with you."
Diatra said nothing more and Jake helplessly watched the sun grow larger on the screen; larger until its edges were no longer circular but rectangular as the boiling surface filled the screen completely. Then, she spoke again.
"I am Diatra. Please may I make your acquaintance?"
Jake put his head in his hands and cried.
Later, as Diatra finally fell into the boiling mass of the sun's fire, she did remember once more; she remembered everything.
"I love you, Jake Winters," she said.
But he could no longer hear her.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 30th, 2012


I remember reading a flash-fiction horror story a few years ago by Steve Rasnic Tem and being totally blown away by it. Even though it was only 50 words in length, it packed a real punch. I was inspired enough to attempt my own version of flash-fiction, and so it was that "Diatra" was born. I knew I wanted a story about something powerful that everyone could relate to in one way or other. The challenge was to limit the word count without reducing the impact.

After being deeply moved by a TV documentary about couples who had their lives changed irreversibly by the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s, I realized I had found something important I wanted to write about. I suppose at almost 600 words, my resulting attempt is like a flash-fiction equivalent of War and Peace. I hope "Diatra" resonates.

- Kevin Pickett

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