What You Bring

The Milky Way spun about its warm core, far from Ariadne’s cramped cabin aboard the Trillion Rising Suns, and she felt very far from center. “Let me out dammit! Do you hear me?” She’d been at it for the better part of an hour and her voice was well past hoarse. Her throat felt like a coal furnace chimney, and the bellows in her lungs compelled her to give it a rest. No one was listening.

She collapsed heavily onto her cot, and the feel of the cool, coarse sheets against the small of her sweat-sticky back gave her chills. She gripped the bed frame and planted a stray foot onto the floor to steady the vertigo.

A fresh start, they’d advertised. Nothing among the stars but what you bring with you.

One of her fellow passengers apparently brought with them a highly contagious strain of norovirus that was now working its way through the ventilation system. Half the ship had their heads in the toilet while they shit their pants, and the other half had to smell it and try not to listen. Everyone was locked in their cabins, which left Ariadne without what she had brought with her: alcohol. Sure, she’d kept some close at hand, but that was drained dry within 3 hours of lockdown, though she’d thought she was rationing. The rest was in the hold. Locked away like it was liquid gold.

And to her, it was.

She hadn’t been sober in years and she’d intended to keep it that way. Her heartbeat in her temples felt like tiny lumberjacks trying to chop their way out of her head. She could picture them, burly and barrel chested, laughing maniacally as they swung their steel mauls with gleeful malice. They shouted obscenities from the backside of her eardrums, called her awful names.

“I don’t fucking care,” she said aloud. “You’re gonna die. I’ll fucking kill you. Fucking little lumber-fucks.”

But there was no one there to hear.

What she thought was the sound of laughing lumberjacks turned out to be her bed springs. They rattled and squealed. Her hands were shaking, and shaking the coils.

“Let me out,” she croaked, but there was still no one listening. Only minutes had passed.

Ariadne had wanted a fresh start, but she wouldn’t get one. She’d brought her demons with her.

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