My third story in this year’s flash challenge was inspired by Anthony Jutz, who gave me the title. This story comes in at 1220 words, and is one of the few times I’ve written a in 2nd person PoV/present tense. (It doesn’t usually work for me, but in this case, I like how it turned out.)
Grab a snack and enjoy:
Breakfast on the Moon
Your AI beeps at you until your eyelids flutter open and your eyes, slowly, adjust to the screen in front of you, projected inside your helmet.
“I’m awake,” you mumble. “I’m awake. Stop… making… sound,” you add, struggling a little to find the words. The beeping stops but in its absence, the throbbing in your head actually feels worse. You check whether you can move your limbs, which, yes, are all there, and then scan the readouts for a sign of what’s happened to you.
“Armor is at 45%,” you say to yourself. Your AI already knows of course, but you want to figure this out for yourself. “Everything’s intact, though left leg and left forearm show radiating fractures. So, an explosion, close enough to knock me out, far enough away that I didn’t sustain any serious injuries.”
You make yourself stand up to be certain. You ache everywhere, but your bones support your weight and your armor remains airtight.
“Distance from the ship?” you ask.
“Approximately 340 kilometers,” your AI tells you, then adds, “but it’s in pieces.”
“Figures,” you say, mostly to yourself. “Which direction?”
“The ship is not operational at this time,” you’re told.
“I understand that, but we can salvage from it. Just tell me where to go.” You look around. You’re in a small gray valley, round, undistinguished. There’s a few pieces of twisted metal lying scattered near you – nothing identifiable. The sky is mostly clear, night-black, and full of stars. “C’mon now, buddy,” you say impatiently. “Let’s go.”
“The ship is approximately 340 kilometers–”
“I know that already.”
You look up again. There is a smear of cloud above you that you’d already decided to ignore, except now that you think about it, the Moon doesn’t enough of an atmosphere to get clouds, so it’s a smear of something else, thinned out and spread across the sky.
“Hey buddy, did the ship explode?”
This valley does look unnaturally round. More like a crater.
“Was I… onboard at the time?”
“Technically, you were falling toward the Moon’s surface at a high velocity when the ship detonated.”
“Okay. This is starting to make sense.” Sort of. “So… what made the ship explode?”
“You ordered it to self-destruct.”
“Why would I do that?” You shake your head but your memories are still in pieces.
“You said it was the only way to kill the Hive ship that had attached itself to us, and the Drones that were breaching our hull.”
“That is… one way to do that, I guess. Can’t go up, got to go somewhere. Is there a base nearby?”
“There was an outpost established 12.5 kilometers from this location. However, it is not currently transmitting on any known frequencies.”
“It’s a place to start,” you say. “And moving is better than standing. Which way?”
Your AI gives you the heading and magnetic declination. It takes longer than you’d like to climb out of the crater, and you can’t feel your left foot at all. Your knee itches, though.
The sensation is familiar.
Once you’ve finally scrambled over the rim, you can see the vast landscape sprawled out on all sides of your position, painted in shades of gray and white. You start walking. You tap open the screen on your arm, and scroll through comm channels, looking for a friendly voice.
It takes two hours to check and double check every frequency. You only hear static.
The itching seems to have moved further down your knee, into the top of your calf. It might have been… your arm? Maybe it was broken once? Or… fell off?
“Hey buddy,” you say, waking your AI. “I’m having some trouble remembering stuff. Did I maybe die a little?”
“The impact did end your biological functions.”
“Huh. Okay.” You look down at your foot. That part of your armor does look newer than the rest. “And then what happened?”
“Repair procedures were initiated. Due to the limited materials available, it took some time.”
“Do I want to know how long I was dead?”
“Protocol suggests that you do not.”
You don’t argue. Instead, you focused on putting one foot in front of the other, trudging across sand and rock, hundreds of thousands of miles from home. While you walk, you sort through the memories you do have, trying to put them into some kind of order.
“Hey buddy,” you ask after a while. “What’s ‘fish’?”
“As a noun, fish is an aquatic Earth animal, and as a verb, it is the act of harvesting that animal.”
“But it’s a food, right?”
“Food, and a slang term for unwanted communications.”
“Food, and the animal the food comes from.”
“Hmm. I think I’m hungry,” you say.
“That is not unreasonable, given the circumstances.”
“Because of how long I was dead?” You remember the protocol. “Right, no asking. Sorry, buddy.”
After another few kilometers, your proximity alarm beeps. There doesn’t appear to be a structure nearby, only soft dunes. You climb one until you’re standing at the coordinates your AI gave you.
“Is this maybe the wrong place?” you ask.
“The entrance to the outpost is no longer above the lunar surface.”
You think about that for a moment. “So I have to… dig?”
Digging with only your hands takes time, but the ground is pliable enough that – after a few hours – you bump against a metal hatch. You wrench it open, and go down into the darkness.
Your AI sparks up your suit so you’re your own flashlight, and the helmet display includes a thermal and motion sensor readouts; it’s obvious this outpost isn’t just momentarily empty. Good old Earth military: there’s maps on the wall showing the way to all of the important places. You make a note of the infirmary, just in case, and head to the cafeteria.
Among the detritus left behind, you find a couple of crates of meal pouches, permasealed and (probably) still good. You crack open an “omelet” and a “pancakes with syrup” with one hand, grab a crate of pouches with your other hand, and take a seat at one of the tables.
“Hey buddy,” you say between bites. “This place was abandoned a long time ago, wasn’t it?”
“It appears so,” your AI admits.
You finish the pancakes and root around until you spot an “oatmeal with raisins, hot”. You tap it against the table to activate the heating coil. You don’t want to eat too much too fast, but your ankle really itches, and your brain has finished taking inventory of everything you should remember, but don’t. Besides, it’s not like you’re going to have to share with anyone else for a while.
You need something to eat the oatmeal with, though, and you can’t quite find the word for the thing you want. Shovel? Tool?
Your brain is starting to itch now, too.
“Okay, buddy. I think it’s time you tell me what happened.”
“Protocol – ”
“I don’t care. I’m overriding your protocol.” You stand up. “You are going to fill me on everything I want to know, and I’m going to find a spoon.” You pause, realizing your accomplishment.
“Hey, buddy,” you tell your only friend, “I think this is going to be a pretty good day.”
If you liked this and want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, here:
You can read more about that, including last year’s flash stories, here.
Last week, I posted two other stories. Read them here: