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The Flight – St Leonards Sci-fi

A Sci-fi story based in St Leonards, by Sarah Janes (Feb 2011)

James Parsons, 2011

James Parsons, 2011

“Another block is going now, come see, quick”. James held the balcony doors against the whining storm. I stepped outside. Undulating dark blue clouds rumbled like a foundry overhead and a stinging shower of luminous hail bounced noiselessly around my feet like frozen popcorn. At sea, a circle of froth contracted, my eyes still trying to adjust to the outside gloom, a sudden bolt of lightning hit the balcony next door. The crystal edges of previously smashed windows sparkled, animating the empty hollows of a deserted residence. Tattered, pink, wet curtains, laced with a pattern of black mould, sucked into the vacuum and the fantastic light seared a neon print upon my eyelids. A metallic silence and then a stillness swamped us, we withdrew indoors, blinded by the light, my ears started ringing.
James put his Eye on the table. The storm projected and replayed in the charged air. I saw in miniature, the collapse of the ancient mansion-block in night-vision, then the sea surging and swirling around the black statue of Queen Victoria. The film stopped and we looked up, shifted focus. I opened my mouth to speak but instead drew a breath. “I wonder what will be left in the morning?” James said in the space I left.
I exhaled. “Do you think we are the only ones left on Warrior Square?” I felt my Eye vibrate and pulled it out of my pocket. “Hello” There was no picture, and then the familiar government flight call ‘click’. The automated message…
“Do you need to fly on… the twelfth of January two thousand and twenty two? Say ‘yes’ after the bip. Bip!”
“’Yes’”
“Please verify identity” I pressed my finger onto the screen and motioned for James’s hand so he could do the same. He pressed the screen. Our fingerprints glowed green side by side.
“Booking complete”. The screen went black. I looked over to the government bags we had collected in the hall, they contained our slender provisions, and some we had scavenged from the empty flats in our building. The room was illuminated for a moment by a silent flash of light and outside the shaking, streaming windows, something dark and heavy fell through the air. Its shadow streaked down the walls. James went out on the balcony to see what it was, the night flooded in and the front door rattled against the lock. He leaned nervously over the balcony, but it was too dark to see what was lying on the ground. He looked up, in time to catch a second great black mass already descending. It slammed him against the balcony and continued rushing downwards, slowed only slightly by cracking his neck.
I swallowed and looked at my Eye. Without stepping onto the balcony, no doubt further weakened by this last assault, I dragged him inside by his feet, tearing his jacket collar which was caught and bloodied on a wrought-iron curlicue. He had already stopped breathing, I didn’t even try. His neck was warm, I laid my hand upon it for a moment, but there was no pulse. I closed the doors to the balcony and took his Eye out of his wet hand, his grip was tight, the screen had cracked. I transferred his memory and credit to my Eye and I used his fingerprint to verify. There was a tremor in his arm. His fingerprint glowed and disappeared. My Eye buzzed and the screen displayed the flight number.
I packed all the provisions I could carry in one bag and I went into the bedrooms to see if I could find any waterproof clothes. I figured there might be less people out in the streets during the storm, it might be a better time to walk, as long as I didn’t get ill. There were some vitamin ampoules in the kitchen, and I took a knife. The storm seemed to be calming but one of the doors on the balcony swung open and I suddenly heard someone shouting on the street outside. It took me a minute or so to recognise my own name.
I had the knife in my hand, I felt the skin of my palm prickle and sweat against the handle. I didn’t recognise the voice, but the air was thick and the sounds passing through it were changed. There was banging on the front door to the building, then there was a smashing of glass and then feet, tired and slow on the stairs. Still the voice  called –
“Zia?” Quietly now. I hid in the darkness of the kitchen, clasping the knife, not breathing. Knocking on the door to the flat “Zia?” It was a man’s voice, he caught his breath, leaned against the door “Zia, it’s me, Vincent, are you there?” My Eye buzzed, it was Vincent, leaning on the door. I walked over to let him in, suddenly conscious of the knife I was holding and the body in the middle of the floor.
I opened the door and Vincent tumbled in, he clocked James on the floor, in the darkness he might of been asleep.
“James?” He spoke to the vague shape of a man.
“He’s dead. He went out on the balcony and something fell on him.”
“There are two dead people on the street outside.” He looked at his Eye, still calling me and stopped the call.
“I didn’t think there was anyone left in this building.” I said, I wondered if James and I might have taken their last provisions. I knew we had.
“Have you booked the flight yet?”
“Yes, tomorrow, you?”
“I wanted to see you first.”
“I booked James for the flight, but now… well, there’s a space. If you want it”. I handed him the rest of the provisions. He had none of his own.
“I’m ready to go.” We were already moving out of the door. I flicked my Eye on and brought up the flight details. I drew a line through James’s name and had Vincent put his fingerprint down in his place, while we were still moving. Down the soaking, carpeted steps, our feet squeezed the moisture underfoot and left footprints. The walls dripped and the great cracks in the plaster seemed to creak and stretch with our every movement. It was a relief to be standing on the stone steps outside, even though there was blood and a porridge of brains on them and two dead people to step over. I kept my eyes above the level of death. I didn’t want to recognise them. The moon shone brightly, the clouds had cleared from the sky and the sea had stopped its raging. As we walked along Warrior Square, I almost felt the old building would collapse, with its last living residents now departing. I turned to watch it crumble but it remained, silver and tragic. We turned the corner onto Western Road to see a gang of kids and dogs disappear into a building, just missing us, we waited for them to be well inside before we moved again. We kept our Eye lights off, there were a few people looking out of the windows, but it was dark and we kept in the shadows. Vincent reached out to hold my hand.
“I thought you had gone already” I whispered. Dogs barking made me jump. An unseen door opened and two chunky, slobbering dogs came tearing around the corner. Their thick claws clattered on the pavement, their heavy metal collars in a frenzy, their breathing wet and desperate, they rolled into one another and began chewing on each other’s necks, One dragged the other along by the throat whilst it did a crap in the gutter. I didn’t even blink. A scream from an open door and they roared back in time. We waited to hear the door click shut and continued walking. The plan was always to walk down the railway line. The railway station had been deserted since last year. Files and equipment lay everywhere. Some black market Voo dealers would deal from there occasionally, it was safer for them because there was bullet proof glass and a steel door, I think they also liked handing over their packets like travel tickets for old times’ sake, but maybe that’s just me romanticising. They were hardly ever seen anymore though. We walked through the empty lobby and out onto the platform, we jumped down onto the tracks and started walking.
“Nobody can really tell you what it’s like, that’s the scary thing.”
“This is scary.”
“Yeh, I guess.”
“Someone said to me that first of all it feels like your body turns into a plastic bag full of maggots, then after that, you can feel yourself inside the maggots and the maggots feel like a million plastic bags full of even smaller maggots, and on and on till there’s nothing.”
“That’s a horrible idea, and anyway how do they know that?”
“It doesn’t work properly on some people.”
“Well then how do they know what it feels like when it works?”
“How do you know when it’s really the end?”
“Oh Zia, I wish you hadn’t said that thing about the maggots.”
“Sorry. If you really think about it though, it’s sort of amazing.”
“I guess death is just not being you anymore. You know I think we should wait until the very last minute.”
“Isn’t this the last minute? Everyone else has gone. What do you think is going to happen Vinnie?”
“God, I don’t know.”
“God?”
“No, I just mean, God! I don’t know.”
“Let’s just keep walking.”
“Flight – 21009, 21010.” A robot voice pronounced our numbers. Sickness, excitement, dread wove a net and pulled my body back down to the chair. I couldn’t look at Vinnie. I eventually stood up, faint-legged and offered him my hand, but he didn’t take it, his eyes were frozen. He couldn’t do it. The light above the door to the corridor clicked green and I walked over and opened it and began walking down the corridor to the little flight room right at the end. The door was ajar. A nurse sat me down on a bed, she smiled and without saying anything, or preparing me in any way she shot a needle into my neck. There was no pain, but a sudden rush of elation, I saw the tiny glass vial of “Voo” on the trolley, the nurse stood back with her syringe. I tried to call out to Vinnie that it was okay but no words came, no sound came, my mouth didn’t even open. The dull room around me exploded into a multi-dimensional vision of loveliness and strange shapes coalesced in the brilliant colours. Beings of light defined themselves, the nurse became part of the room and fused in and out of my expanding reality. My skin became a transparent film filled with light and there I was. The tiniest bead of dew on a spider’s web, trembling with all the majesty of the Universe.
Editorial by Sarah Janes (Feb 2011)
Are you a budding Isaac Asimov, L. Ron Hubbard or Kurt Vonnegut? If so we want you to send in your sci-fi story, MAX 2,000 words, MUST be set in St. Leonards, £5 entry fee. Will run more details in April/May issue. Email: editor@bohemiavillage.com or pop into the office to enter. TOP PRIZES!!! And VERY illustrious panel.

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