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art by Agata Maciagowska

Life in Space

It was only an affair because he was the captain and Maria was a cadet. If they had been the same rank it might just be a mistake. The other cadets will probably call her a slut now. She hides in her room and the computer pours her a cup of tea. She looks out her window at the earth, spinning. Spinning.
She dreams. The concrete basement of her parent's home has flooded, and the racks of their old clothes have fallen under the water. Wires fall from the ceiling and the electricity skitters across the surface like angry white spiders. There was no way to fix this. No way. Everything was ruined. She dreams she is bleeding into the secret caverns of herself.
She wakes up and is sick in the clean, white bathroom. She pours her guts into the low, porcelain bowl. It is almost time for her shift, so she dresses in her gray uniform. In a few months she will begin to show. She won't be able to hide it. She won't fit into her uniform. She hurries out of the door and into the stainless steel hall. She walks past the air lock and stops.
She always wondered why they put it there, just in the hall. Everyone had the code for it, in case of an emergency evacuation. It was so strange that it was just there, in the middle of a hall so they could lock the hall down if there was a leak. She walked by it everyday, the two thin walls between her and the vacuum.
She is stationed on the bridge today, so there is no way to avoid him. He locks eyes with her as the bridge doors swish open, a clean sound like a theater curtain across the floor. He looks quickly away, as if she wasn't worth a greeting and his eyes had swept across her like another computer, another chair. She works her shift and goes home. She stops at the airlock on the way. It is her park, her church.
She dreams that she is the space ship tearing through space like a corkscrew. The motion makes her sick to her stomach. The crew moves inside her like cotton wrapped blood cells, smearing their hands along her rails, their fingerprints sticking on her windows. She wakes up and the room tilts. She jumps to her feet and runs to the bathroom. She is sick in the low porcelain bowl. She wants them out.
The white bathroom. The white shirts soaking in the cold water. She puts on her uniform and walks through the halls, through herself. She looks through the windows at the blue marble below, like a toy. She loves the dark alley of space, suddenly, for needing nothing, neither warmth nor duty.
Space could not judge her. The cradle of life is empty and cold now. The place where life began will only tear it to pieces, a mother devouring her children. Maria wants to go to it, to give it her body because it would never ask for it and would keep it forever. She stands in front of the air lock. She knows the code.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, December 20th, 2012

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