Level Flight

Walking across a stone plaza
Crunching the gravel under my feet
Knowing that you are the only one
But the one that I won’t meet
An empty floor once full of life
Spun away at the drop of a name
A word not of any importance
That changed the sweep of the game

Was that a sound of a voice that I knew
Covered by a shoe stepping down on dirt
A heavenly sound that could only be you
But never to hear through the hurt
It’s only a change but I can’t turn back
To face a field with no one looking out
Just a plaza crumbled and weary
It’s fate also to collapse without doubt

The ground seems to crack with every step
Crevasses splitting wider, the distance a leap
Making recurrence impossibly hard
A return to something we couldn’t keep
The void is expanding and filling with space
Without a bridge to step across
So I fear to turn to catch a glimpse of your face
A valley now too deep, full of loss

Stepping quickly on crumbling rock
Tripping on fate with stumbling feet
With tears of blindness obscuring my sight
Forever to pass and never again to meet
It was just a fluke of painful history
Grinding dust in our mouths and eyes
A shiny cloud no longer blowing with wind
Tempting our souls with unreachable lies

Barbara Blackcinder

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An Inevitably Boring View

I couldn’t go down as the biggest disappointment in the history of man, after all, we had strived for it throughout our entire existence. The Plutocape was just exactly as expected, but just a little bit more dangerous. There was the possibility of death right outside the ship, no matter how well constructed it was. We were always told to remember that everything, other than experimental versions, were built as cheaply as possible. This ship was no exception. He could only hope that they had come a long ways towards perfection since beginning to design the thing.
He strolled in front of the window, a massive screen that curved around the very front of the vehicle. If it wasn’t for the shield covering it during flight (a misnomer for sure), you could see the universe as it passed by between planets. He looked downward, outside of the ship, and saw it reflecting the light of the sun, thousands of millions of miles in the distance. At this distance it was hard to distinguish it from the background stars, those that surrounded Earth, itself millions of miles away and quite unperceivable.
Instead of looking at reflections and illusions, something done as a normal exploration back in the travel agencies of Earth, he looked up and into the stars beyond our own planetary system. It was a massive crushing of his ego, seeing something so immense that his mind could scarcely allow it’s existence in his simple, threatened mind.
From the position of Pluto at the given time, as far out of the planetary plane as it ever was, it gave his a view that almost allowed him to see the edge of the galaxy. To the left, behind the trailing swirl of star dust and sunwave bands, he could almost see the bulge that was in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. His curiosity had always been peaked when he compared the simple planet system he was raised on, and the similar construction of the galaxy, indeed, most galaxies. In this case the galactic bulge was trillions of stars, some so big as to make ours a mere speck in comparison, all huddled together to give notice to those other star systems that it was there. It was just as our star dominated the planetary plane from the very center, a dark one without stars with planets instead of the blinding intensity of light that the stars gave off.
Billions and trillions of miles, light years, and their shine was nearly painful to look at without the filter of an atmosphere, or in this case, various screens. He removed his glasses, wiped at a minute bit of dust that clung to the lens, and put them back on his face, having eliminated a single dull star that followed the position of his head at every turn.
It was very tempting to step out into the hostile, atmosphere, or rather, the virtually lack of one, just to prove that he was actually here. In his old age, there was very little to lose anyway. This trip was his last dance, his final fling before settling into the cocoon of rest, his euphemism for his casket. The wooden box that would carry him to the only place known that couldn’t be gotten to by a flying ship.
And he had come prepared. He had smuggled an opener as he departed, just as he had designed a distraction to rid his travelling companion. It was hard not to giggle at his own cleverness, but it was not even that sneaky, just a spur of the moment impulse. Although it was in his thoughts to go out in a ‘blaze of glory’ for many years, he never thought the chance would ever be offered to him.
He had studied all that was known about the ships prior to his departure. Knowing that they had to be built by someone, he found out the lists of individual component suppliers, and used the knowledge to get the blueprints and theories necessary to pilot the ship. The installation of the trip was way beyond any chance of his remembering, the complicated formulas were much too intense for him to juggle, even with the best computers at his disposal, and it was unnecessary as well. It was much easier to let them plan the travel arrangements, and go from there, to take advantage of the procedure. His planning had been of the ‘just in case’ scenario, if things happened according to procedures, and he could take advantage of them.
Now he stood in front of the sealed window to the stars, his belly bumping the plastic aluminum as it also curved, though it’s curve was much wider, encompassing the front of the ship, while his encircled the expanse of his stomach. He wondered silently if it would be noticed when he was discovered by some other creature of the galaxy.
He knew it was unlikely that human’s would recover his body, having jinxed up their machine by leaving the door open. It couldn’t be recalled, not even through the intense calculations that they were already pouring over, attempting to get him back as he stood there thinking. A few moments passed while he escaped and they argued about whether it was simply a glitch, or if it had been intentional on his part. After dealing with his near travelling companion as a thief or a terrorist, they returned to find out that the countdown had gone off as scheduled, but with only a single occupant. This time he did chuckle, remembering how easy it was to tuck the opener into her handbag while she searched for travelling pills.
It was almost too difficult to resist, his revulsion at her ignorance about travelling by lightwire. There was no instances of anyone ever getting sick from it, yet she insisted on taking pills that would keep her from becoming nauseous. He knew that flinging particles across space couldn’t produce any such thing while the body, along with this whole ship, was mere specks of light, separated into particles until they reached the other end of the voyage.
He wondered how she had even been chosen to take such a trip, but then recalled his own history, one not expected to be sent either. He was old, a bit crotchety, overweight (as his belly flattened against the viewing screen attested), and certainly not so wealthy as to be some kind of showpiece for the company who sent his here. Suddenly a sad wave of remorse swept through him as he realized that he was slighting a woman who was every bit as likely to travel across the galaxy as he was.
“The standards must have really dropped.” He thought about the ability of humans to pinpoint themselves anywhere in the planetary system. Even as he had stepped into the ship they were talking about doing the same thing across the galaxy. It would take new formulas, better computing abilities, and a bit of time as they put it all together. When it came down to it, there was very little difference between this little jump he had taken, and that of launching someone into a nearby star system. The exact distances where well known, even with the expansion of the universe occurring at all times, along with the jostling of every speck floating in space large enough to land on.
He was a bit of an old stogy man. Leaving his own planetary system was unappealing to him on the basis of loyalty. It was a silly concept to be loyal to one’s planetary system, but someone he didn’t want to go further than that. When it all came down to it, now that he was here, it was already a disappointment as it was. Calculating every viewpoint that he would see had been easy compared to that of figuring out an actual trip out here. The virtual trips were stunning (and probably enhanced as well).
His finger ran over the smoothed button, a single protrusion in the middle of a rounded disk, a bump that as he was watching, seemed similar to the bulge in the center of the galaxy. Suddenly he held it up to his face and wondered. Lifting it to arm’s length, he held it out in front of him, between the window and himself. Shockingly, it was nearly the same view in either case, whether he was looking at the door trigger, or the galaxy on it’s edge. It was so close to identical that he mused that if he pressed the button inward, the suns of the galaxy might also depress themselves below the plain of it’s stars.
He hadn’t noticed it despite his innumerable trips to the abbreviation center (supposedly the views within the center were only an approximation of the real thing), his manipulation of the wiring within it as he modified it, that there was such a similarity. Nowhere could he see a difference between what they had projected into his brain, and that of the reality of being where he was right now, staring out into an unblinking star system, even though it was ‘the big one’, the whole universe seemingly in view with the twist or two of the neck muscles.
Of course, who would have thought that anyone would have put that much thought into a mere door switch, which was basically what he now held in his hand. His modification only allowed it to be opened while outside of the launching building, a simply radio telemetry trick to fool the ship that it was still within it’s structural confines, a safe hanger surrounded by breathable air. Air that had always been there, never failing to fill itself around the planet. Shortly he would find out how well he had re-programmed it.
He put on a simple helmet, one that contained enough of the precious gas to keep him alive for minutes at the most. Not wanting to trust himself, or his possibly fears, he didn’t want to allow himself to rush back into the ship in horror of what he had done, he didn’t carry any extra air with him. As it was, this would be highly suspect had he appeared at the ship holding a bottle of pressurized air. The ships were not meant to allow exploration once you arrived, and so extra air was not necessary. The ship had plenty for the short term visit, and there were enough safety features on it to allow a return trip, even if the passenger’s had been disabled by a sudden leak of the life sustaining gas mixture.
Pulling the finger out of the bottom gasket surrounding his neck, he then pressed the rounded button in the galaxy-shaped door opener. He hoped it would work, but he hadn’t been able to test it, and it seemed to be taking a while to function. Failure was a rising concern as he could see nothing happening to the entrance door just to the left of the viewing nose cap of the ship. But suddenly a crack appeared around it as the door pushed outward in the standard procedure of a regular airline plane. He could hear the seal being broken, and a little whoosh as the two atmospheres equaled, one with air, one without. With a push on the middle of the moving panel, it would swing further out of the side of the ship and then swing sideways out of the way.
Then there was the surface of Pluto. It was disappointing, quite exactly what he was expecting from the pseudo-trips he had gone on back on Earth. The surface seemed black, and not very impressive in size since it was barely a planet, but more of an asteroid locked into an odd orbit around the sun. The opened door faced the rocky stone of a hill or mountain jutting out from the more level site of his landing area. He couldn’t see around it, not even into space as he could while looking out the front of the ship. It seemed to him to be coal-like, shiny in places, dull in others, and very cracked and sharp-edged vertical lines.
He stepped out of the ship, taking a few cautious steps without much gravity to hold him to it’s surface. But then his throat quickly caught, and it sealed itself off for the lack of breathable atmosphere. It was infuriating to have so misjudged the contents of his helmet, but his anger was quickly overwhelmed by the fear of death. He had never had it before, but here, at the time of it’s delivery, it grabbed him and choke his throat and mind as he passed out. Only a little bit of satisfaction was gleaned out of the situation, the fact that they couldn’t recall the ship while the door was open. He would be found, if ever, on the rock of Pluto, endlessly surrounding the sun, his only one true sun that had warmed him through his many years, though clearly not at this distance.
Gasping as he sat hurriedly on the floor, facing that wall of black rock, he felt the helmet as it was being sucked in by each of his shallow breaths. It was a thin plastic bag virtually, meant to calm a passenger as they were transferred back to Earth. It was supposedly just a crutch for them to cling to as they passed out due to whatever failure had occurred. It puffed back into it’s rounded shape as he exhaled, each time clouding over with moisture as his breath hit it’s inner surface. Just as he noticed that it wasn’t expanding quite as much with each exhalation, getting smaller as it filled with carbon dioxide instead of mostly an oxygen mixture, he felt his thumb rubbing around the curved button in his hand. Oddly (because he was never a fan of children’s movies), he thought of Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”, rubbing it as she would have knocked her heels together back on her voyage. He couldn’t help but remember her instruction from the good witch, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…”
His finger stilled circled around the button where it intersected the flattened shape of the galaxy. He couldn’t recall if he had pressed it or not, but he remembered sitting on the floor of the space ship. Now he was lying on his back, and not looking into the black cliffs of Pluto, but into bright white lights that were blinding him.
Then he remembered pressing the button, initiating the journey that would take him all the way out to Pluto and back. He always hated waking afterward, those damned bright lights they used to bring you out of the drugged state. They always said that it was the least shock to the system upon returning, and in his case, because he was over ninety years old, they wanted to take the least dangerous method possible with him. Never mind that his heart was as strong today as it had been twenty years ago, they didn’t seem to care about that. And his eyesight, faltering as it will when you become nearly a hundred years old, didn’t need to be shocked every time he returned, but he never could convince him of that.
When he could finally see, and the blinding lights faded their intensity, he could once again see. It was a relief to be able to use his eyes again, always fearful that they wouldn’t work after that exposure. He was even surprised to find his vision good enough to see the black crystals covering his heavy boots, those they were made to wear to keep the blood circulating during the voyage, another fear that he didn’t share with his team.
He attempted to blow them off, but his breath wasn’t that strong. It was perhaps the one thing that his advance age was affecting. His mind swirled once again with the lack of oxygen, having blown it out towards those coal-like particles clinging to his feel.

Barbara Blackcinder

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Dreams Are Made of These

I thought for a moment, what if it were to be
A singular thought that was coming to me
An idea, the first, (in my head), of its kind
A new revelation, an idea, just coming to mind

A frivolous thought that sprang in my head
But not so absurd to be tossed quickly instead
Just a little obscure, randomly sprung in my brain
Along with the usual doubts, I mostly sustain

Still going with the idea, along a simple pathway
Lifting up my stature, my prominence this day
And swelling my self-worth, my ego in tow
Far beyond anything I might previously know

Swept along with such an abstract thought
Surely not the way success is usually taught
Riding the tide of popularity, a singular flight
Quite likely to be gone with the passing of night

But gone it has still inspired a calm within me
Something unlikely, but still with a chance to see
Encouraging a positive peacefulness of mind
With a hope that someday, its reward I will find

Barbara Blackcinder

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The Flight of Reality

Premise: Nothing special to note, just another daily flight to Mars, Jupiter, or wherever in the universe one might travel these days. One can look out of the computerized screens, still called windows, and see beyond their panes, into the green forests and across the concrete ribbons spanning across and through them. Traffic was light, programmed to be that way, never too heavy, never too few as to create a raised eyebrow, a quickly inhaled breath of astonishment, or worse, outright panic by the observer. Such little things were known to cause havoc. It was due to their infrequency, a planned consistency that was now required by the stable minds of a stable world. But all was not to be on this flight.
There was nothing that could even be foreseen about it, it was way beyond even the imagining of most creative minds. The scope of disaster was so horrendous most people gasped, and died right there in place, not so much collapsing, but having their bodies relax in semi-vertical positions, then drifting off to clump together in the corners of various rooms, the pseudogravity having the very slightest variation, programmed to create the illusion of normalcy.
The window screen had been broken. Not just inoperable, but destroyed in place. A plastic covering was all that remained while the screen itself gathered in crumpled and sharp shards at the bottom. Only the attachment of the plastic covers on either side kept it from showering the floor or the ground beyond it.
And yes, there was ground beyond it. It was unexplainable, but it was there. The windows on either side of the broken pane didn’t show it. They kept playing the Flourmadian world, known to be so many millions of miles beyond Earth’s view, but travelled to regularly. It was impossible to understand for the single person not incapacitated by the horrific display.
Common reasons emerged first. Perhaps the broken screen was an illusion itself. There had been talk about creating excitement during these flights around the galaxy by visual trickery. Setting up the spaceship itself for minor catastrophes to stimulate interest in future flights would cause a risk that many people would enjoy. It would boost their self-worth, and depending upon how they reacted (since there would never be any real danger), it would elevate their stature in all those faces they already knew, and in those reading the newspaper (a misnomer), broadcasting their excitement filled adventure.
Miles stepped forward gingerly, placing his foot down with a single toe making contact first, they slowly rolling his weight forward and pressing the rest of it onto the floor of the spaceship. The gravity of this planet was similar to Earth, and since there was not a very long travel time between the two places, he had already adapted to it’s slight variation.
“Jesus!” He jumped, nearly sending himself to the ceiling as he pulled his foot upwards. A crackle had sounded just as he stepped, frightening him insensibly. He was after all, a highly thought of gamer, ready for nearly anything coming at him during the evolution of a game. As he calmed his adrenalin-rushed nerves, he smiled at himself, knowing that just recently he had survived one hundred and forty-two meteors coming straight for his fortress, some so small they had penetrated his observatory and he had stopped just inches from burying themselves into his face and body. Of course, that was just a game.
The tiny piece of screen LCD reflected the ceiling lights in several directions now that he had crushed it into tiny pieces. He also noted several pieces also lying with it, a haphazard collection of bits that mostly stayed right against the wall where they had fallen.
His hand rose and touched the clear plastic covering of the window. His sensitive fingertips knew it lacked the heat that would have been present had it still been functioning, if the LCD under it was still creating whatever illusion it had been programmed to project. He placed the palm of that hand flatly against it and still felt very little heat. He assumed that without the internal heat of a running screen beneath it, the plastic had assimilated the same temperature as the room.
It was also obvious that it was not a screen projecting a broken screen because of the visible bulge of materials hanging at the bottom of the window. The lightly fastened bottom of the plastic on either side of the now broken screen had given way to the weight and had come loose, allowing the bits to fall and tinkle as they broke against the floor. He easily ruled out that it was one of their manufactured disasters since it was obvious that one of their viewing screens had physically broken into small fragments. For this to happen, after so many millions of miles breaching the vast amounts of space on this spacecraft, would be totally unbelievable. Yet, it had happened to him.
He slid his face against the plastic, not to check the temperature of it, but to see if he could detect another layer of deception behind it. Having been fooled before, he suspected that perhaps yet another screen had been in place behind this one. He smiled at the cleverness of such a well-designed trick. In all of his gaming experiences, this double illusion was quite novel. Having your mind and eyes taking something for granted, until the trickery was revealed, was a very unused technique to fool the gamers.
For a few moments he stood still, realizing that such a trick had already occurred in real life, postulated and refined by the very makers of this galaxy-traversing ship. Of course it was a long time ago. In fact, it was so many eons ago that it was unimaginable to go back that far in space travelling. At that time, they were contemplating the small gap between Earth in it’s moon, a mere 250,000 miles or so.
He recalled looking through the history books. He was looking for some long ago forgotten references he could use in a new game, one that he was developing himself. He had been getting bored with everything he was seeing, the same old tricks and abused fantasies, causing the same old game plots. He wanted to create an experience that even he would be surprised when he finally got to the end of the game.
He ran upon the biggest hoax ever created by the primitive space engineers of their time. It had fooled millions, cost millions, and thankfully, caused the advancements of space faster than would ever have occurred otherwise. Shortly, the first trip to the moon had been no more than an extremely elaborate prank. There had been no landing, nor even a single person aboard the rocket that had blown them into space from Earth. Anything witnessed by multiple persons had been staged, paid for just as though it had cost highly for the research and construction of such rockets. Well, in fact, it did cost very highly, but not for the modification to a rocket to accept the three people, but to pacify all of the thousands of liars that had to go along with the hoax. It was a national priority and many had done their best for national pride. Some disappeared of course, unable to hold their tongues and opinions of perpetrating such a trick on their own patriotic citizens. It was just another cost to confine them until many years later when at last, the secret was out.
But the situation was hardly similar to today. The moon wasn’t even important any longer. Space Stations were located on every corner of the Earth, ready to produce starships as quickly as making a piece of toast for the morning’s breakfast. Materiel was continually running back and forth from asteroids, no longer bothering anyone with blast offs from Earth to supply vital minerals. In fact, this very flight was a departure from the old form of racketeering. From the relaxed cabin of today’s ships, one could just about catch a nap during the liftoff. There was some vibration of course, mostly from the release of the cradle that the ship was perched on prior to launch. After that, magnetically reversed plates on the bottom of the ships merely repelled everything attached to it, sending it into orbit, peacefully, and quietly.
There were many years that we wrestled with the old Star Drive. Nothing seemed to work, speed just couldn’t be attained without boomeranging around multiple planets, and then the sun itself. Sometimes it took years just to get headed in the right direction after spinning in between the planets and moons, and asteroids of this planetary system.
When the discovery was finally made, it was just in the nick of time. The cost of sending ships on one way voyages was disturbing national economies. Countries were forced to cooperate, and still there wasn’t enough money to compete with our alter ego, the Far Eastern Alliance. They had solved their hunger problem, allowing the masses of their population to work towards space development instead of trying to feed the millions of them, with poor food resources. Naturally, the European and American countries couldn’t allow themselves to be beaten once more.
With most countries on the brink of collapse economically, it was lifesaving luck that the secret to propulsion had been discovered. It was totally unexpected, and within a few years, ships were built that were capable of launching from land, elevating themselves into space, and traversing galaxies with the speed of a commercial on television.
Docks were built in the confines of desert and rough terrain, so as not to injure anyone when they landed again, silently. Plus, it was rumored that the new drive had a possibility of exploding. Isolation was necessary for the people left behind. No one knew just how big a path of destruction was likely, so they took the widest path they could when locating launch pads.
Even he was delving into history so old that he hadn’t been born yet. Millions of people had safely gone into unknown regions, returned, and spread the tales of exotic planets to all who were interested. The news media was even tired of hearing about it and said little. Their most expansive coverage was when a new landing site had been used on some unseen planet, in some distant galaxy, sometimes years distant, even with the anti-magnetic inertia drive.
He looked at the inner walls surrounding him, feeling safe that this particular ship had gone that way many years ago already. It gave him comfort that it had gone for years on a single trip, without a single death, or getting lost in one direction or the other.
One thing did bother him though, the food replicators. While he could accept the occasional stop on an asteroid for minerals to supply them, he had never read any story about this every happening. As far as he recalled, all flights ever leaving Earth, went straight to the destination and back. It was mostly for the population of travelers, not wanting to disturb them with such trivial necessities. But he had never found anything describing the ability of one of them as capable of lasting for years with a hundred or so people wanting to eat from it.
His stomach turned slightly as he considered other bodily functions that were necessary, whether you were Earthbound, or sailing through the universe. He was sickened at the idea that space was becoming man’s newest garbage and septic system.
The air lock was very tightly sealed from the other side prior to launch. This was once again the Space Agency looking out for its passengers. In all the years of travelling, no one had thought to produce an atmosphere tester capable of detecting just what sort of atmosphere was outside of the spaceship. It followed that there was no reason to ever leave the ship, and so they were sealed. There were also plenty of windows to observe whatever might be outside, as he had been discovering.
The crystals were so clear and set into the window openings so precisely that photography was producing quite stunning exhibits each time from a newly opened land surface. It was as though science was capable of determining the most special landscapes prior to ever having been there. Not even ordinary artists, with a thousand colors and brushes could paint such things.
Not only that, but the space agency processed all of the film for free, their vast experience with photography exceeding anyone else’s anywhere on Earth. Even when some travelers were denied their prints at first, they always got them back before they forgot just what pictures they had taken. With the little bit of cropping the Agency did to ‘clean them up’, you would have sworn that you had been standing right on the surface outside of the ship. The only real complaint was this delay, and although they seemed to cause this more often than not, the photos produced were always spectacular to the point of stunning.
But he wasn’t going to be taking pictures through this window. Somehow the programming had a sort of reversion programming built into it. Quicker than the eye could tell, especially those that still floated near the ceiling, the view was changed to exactly that of the view prior to our launching. He even remembered watching a particular pine as it drifted slowly out of view as they rose. He remembered counting the reddish branches that were dying for some unknown reason. But near the top every branch was green and healthy, right up until he was looking directly down at it, a circle of dark green that quickly shrunk and eventually disappeared as the rest of Earth had.
The coincidence began irritating his brain. He wanted to bust his fist through the phony plastic and yell at the technicians below who were perpetrating this hoax. Then he was going to strangle the man who had taken nearly all of his money, while grinning with a huge white row of teeth under his balloon nose. After that, if he could escape from the pseudo-launch site, he would go to straight to the media and expose the mass hypnosis done to masses of people.
He kicked at the clear plastic, hoping to dislodge it before anyone else awoke so that he could proclaim his discovery. It bent outward until pieces of screen under it became a pile at his feet. It was draining out of the crack at the bottom with each outward bending of the plastic. But it would not crack or split, or even come separated from the wall.
As he rested from this great effort, he thought that he should be standing outside, facing the ship and the people inside. He had a taunt ready, his thumb against his nose, his hand spread out and the fingers waving back and forth vertically to mock their belief in the lies readily accepted by the management and the government. Better still, he decided to stand there with his hands on his hips, legs spread wide in a steady stance, with a big grin mounted on his face. He only had to determine just how far to be standing from the window. He wanted to be recognized of course.
He kicked at the pane several more times, five or six revolutions with a break in between them. His light weight shoes, made especially for space travelling, wouldn’t even leave a smudge on the plastic. One barefooted effort, painful and quickly rejected, had left the only scar on the clear material. But even as he panted from the effort, a trickle of oily beads ran down the inner surface, obliterating the greasy smear for a while, then it disappeared at the bottom along with his footprint.
With his nose right up against the wall next to the window, he tried to see where it had gone, but it was not possible. Somehow it had either absorbed into the material in had ran over, or it just evaporated. He expected it to drip from the bottom edge of it, but it didn’t seem to get that far. His eye was so close to it that his nose was pressing against the wall almost painfully, yet all he got was a blurry vision while his eyes tried hard to focus on it.
His anger peaked quickly, but only for a short time. He hit it with his hand now, not expecting to do it any damage. His feet had been useless after all. Then he withdrew his face and gasped quickly. A single instance of burning singed his nostrils and he threw himself backwards. Landing on the floor, he remembered looking up at the others feet as they were slowly descending towards him. It was the last thing his eyes saw.
As they looked down at him, they surmised that he had been a victim of shock. Just as they had passed out and drifted towards the ceiling, he had collapsed and sunk to the floor. In horror some of them began floating upwards again, this new shock shrinking their awareness as they passed out once more. Not as dangerous as a breaking screen in a hostile environment, a person’s death was not a new experience to some of them.
They knelt around him, the most medically trained of them placing fingers at his throat and searching for a pulse to count. They found no such beating, and pronounced him dead. It was clear to them that he had died due to a failure to detect the difference between reality, a computer program meant to scare them, and rumors long perpetrated about the falsity of the space program. He had died believing that the screen had actually been broken, and they had never left Earth at all.
They were saddened, but it was to be short lived. His violent efforts to open a window that was thoroughly sealed, with multiple screens and mechanics within it, had been fruitful at last. As his kicks had dislodged it to a great extent, his mere fist had allowed a very tiny, a very minor trickle of gas from outside into the spaceship. It had burned his nose as he was closest to it at the time. Eventually it would spread throughout the ship and it would never return. It was a hallmark in space history, albeit a sad one, the first ship not to return after a galactic adventure.

Barbara Blackcinder

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Suits of Amour

I had asked the man what would possess him to step into the toxic pool. It was in fact so toxic, that merely a quarter-sized exposure would condemn him to an extremely painful death. Yet despite this danger, he had proceeded, allowing the liquids to flow around his protective suit, around the seams that always seemed in danger of failing, and just below his face visor, itself clear enough to see the dangerous and vaporous chemicals wafting up from the surface and making waves of current in the compromised air in front of him. Clearly he chose not to see such ripples of death altering his vision as the oxygen mixture curled in response to the temperature fluctuations as the vapors mixed, transformed, and destroyed anything within its lethal touch.
His confidence was greater than his fear of the man-made suit. He counted on the reliability of it, fostered by the many previous excursions into various chemical baths, even though some of these had resulted in deaths, horrible maiming’s, and physical mutilations of the face and body. The chemicals were known after all, and the suits themselves designed to chemically counter any offensive effect of the liquid poisons. But after all, the suits, as well as the chemical pool, were made by the limited hands of man, and were subject to faults, errors, and miscalculations at every turn in their development. Further still, the pond of toxicity was also created by the efforts of man’s tinkering with nature, and its own properties may be mistakenly assessed.
Upon any step he realized that insult could become incapacitating. He might step on the unseen rock or a shard of something sharp and menacing, hidden under the translucent liquids of swirling colors, or by the very depth that would soon envelope him. Yet he proceeded step by step.
And he was successful in his mission to clear the pathway that would drain this pool into a container capable of the withholding of its dangerous existence, isolating it from the creation of dead blobs of molten flesh that squirmed only due to a wind blowing over its wrinkled surfaces, the muscles under it no longer capable of movement, nor even holding a solid form intact.
Of course this result was not an instantaneous result of exposure. Instead the chemical, once dropped onto the skin, bore its way through the layers of the skin, through the sinewy strength of muscle and connective tissues, and onward to the target of its chemically determined destiny. There it melts the very structure of the bones, the calcium to which it has been attracted, and destroys it in a biological frenzy of death.
Soon it has dissolved all that was present and has continues on its way along the pathway of connecting bones, devouring chemicals both inside and outside of the bones, melting them into the flaccid pool of goo soon to by lying on the ground or other manmade surface where the interaction had occurred.
Worse than the death itself, was the burning and scalding of the body from the inside, seeping like lava through the bones of the limbs, as it proceeds to the core of bony structures where they too are de-calcified. But the horror is probably completed for them before this, as the pain has overcome any resemblance to thought in the brain, becoming mere screams of agony, and even awareness of pain itself declines as it courses through the body. All that is left is the collapse of the body that had once used the intact bones to steady and elongate itself vertically, now dissolved away.
But there were antidotes after all. A nearly inert substance that countered such an extreme reaction long before the chemical could reach the calcium of the bone. It could even stymie the actions of it had it reached the bone, although not prior to the pain of dissolving calcium. Remedies always seemed to be available, as long as they were readily accessible, and in sufficient amounts to be a solution.
I snickered as I stood in the outer compartment, my suit deflecting the outer world just as his suit had done. That I had had the conversation with him told of its successful protection of his body. He would probably continue his escapades through chemical wastes, each success another step in his confidence, just as my own steps would encourage me.
My enemy was truly invisible, even more than the air that brushed against the inner surfaces of my respiration system, the lungs, the structures of the blood, and into the tissues through the surfaces of the capillaries. The oxygen could be contaminated with various chemical and biological materials that had the same disastrous effect on the mechanism called a body, just as the chemical bath my friend has exposed himself to. But our bodies have adapted to many of these intrusions, mostly man-made, and we survived countless exposures to them so far.
This hazard was rather exclusive in its nature, not affecting the body as a toxin so much as being strictly a hazard of exposure. In a way I guess you could say it took away oxygen just as his chemical would dissolve the calcium, once plentiful in his body, but that was about the only similarity I could see, other than death as an aftermath of course.
I fingered my patches, tucked in a Velcro-sealed pocket across my stomach, where it was the easiest to reach in the case of emergency. But like my friend back on Earth, it had never been necessary for me. His suit and mine had been successfully created to defeat such an instance of panic and the disaster of contamination in both environments.
I still worried about the burning pain I would feel if this occurred, allowing that it would be for a different reason until the inevitable death, should I panic rather than react according to instruction and practice. While his chemicals would literally burn through him with combustion and interaction with each other, I would merely be burned by the absence of heat as the frigid cold of space stiffened and froze my tissue while the healthy atmosphere of my spacesuit emptied into the silent and absent world of space, and I would become a hard and bonelike structure teetering vertically forever on the surface of the moon until some alien wind pushed me over to lie forever in that newer position, a relic of over confidence.
Suddenly I wished that singly-occupied spaceships hadn’t been developed in the interest of the cost of space travel. At least if I panicked from the pain of frost invading my body, or if occurred where I was instantly paralyzed or blinded, someone else could have slapped a patch on my suit for me, hopefully before I assumed an icicle stance on the surface of the moon. That this environment was created by natural causes rather than man didn’t help in my apprehension, death was just as natural.

Barbara Blackcinder

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Death’s Pathway

It’s hard to accept when something dies
staring out through white swept eyes
No motion where there once was life
Gone from this world of endless strife

But who’s to say what occurs next
Surely not some arrogant text
Claiming to right to define what comes after
through many a interpreted bronze-aged chapter

No one can tell because no one has returned
Books that deny this should all be spurned
as bad influences that just push a myth
or a horned beast with a steely sythe

Life is surely a journey with an end
With no prophesies for around the bend
Nothing stating where death will send
And from these fallacies we must mend

Barbara Blackcinder

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Waiting For Eternity, Not Looking For It

With hearts full of yearning, it’s not much we ask
Within your scope, it’s an extremely minor task
Just a infintesimal speck in the back of your mind
Just a little bit of happiness that we’re hoping to find

In your world with so many possibilities
We only seek an end with a heartfelt and hopeful please
In my mind I cannot find the comfort that I seek
It seems to flow around me, an undulating leak

But the path it follows goes around me still
It just peeks at me, and I know it always will
It gives me hope, but mostly just despair
Why is it that you are never ever there?

Millions swear that you are ever present
That you touch us, that you are heaven sent
but I see no evidence, just the kindness of man
And yet I’ve spent decades looking, again and again

So I am asked why it is, that I finally deny
this supposed vision, raining from the sky
when so many tears are evident in this place
and never have you ever really brightened a face

It’s all an illusion that you have existence at all
If you are omnipresent, then you’ve dropped the ball
Failed in your duty to support your creations
and only threaten us with eternal damnations

Well if I ever believed in that threat called Hell
I recall and reject it with the other myths as well
All are dillusions in the minds of a creative animal
Resulting solely from the fortunes of Nature’s fall

So don’t tell me to have faith after this many years
Too many millions of children have fallen through the tears
Too many innocents lost despite a faith without end
Still praying for hope that Nothing will ever truly send

Barbara Blackcinder

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