Marooned – a Flash Sci-Fi Story

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Terra kicked open the door and scrambled out the buckled side of the space shuttle. She slid down the wing, fell off the end, and sank up to her waist in a slop of rotten fluids and wobbling flesh. The stench made her stomach heave.

Smoke spewed from the flaming engine as she waded to the edge of the awful swamp and up a curved slope of something white, slippery, and yielding. She was almost at the top when the shuttle exploded, the blast flinging her over the rise of the hill. She went tumbling down the far side, where she landed once again in a heap of biological waste. At last her stomach gave in and she vomited.

She wiped a hand across her mouth and looked around. The stellar cartographers hadn’t been kidding when they’d labelled this planet a biological refuse heap. As far as the eye could see, everything was putrid fluids and discarded flesh.

How was she going to find help around here?

A few miles ahead were two rows of something like high ground. She started wading towards them.

After an hour, she glimpsed movement to her right. Daring to hope, she scanned that direction for signs of life. Maybe this place drew scavengers who could take her home. At the very least, it might have animals she could eat while she waited for rescue.

A geyser of old organs sprayed into the sky, propelled by gasses from the rotting swamp. So much for life.

Terra trudged on. As she approached one of the ridges, the swamp grew shallower. She emerged dripping onto what passed for dry land – a high pile of old and mouldy meat. Where did all this come from?

The answer came a moment later, as a shadow passed over her. She looked up to see a vast haulage ship. She waved her arms frantically and screamed for rescue, but the transport just kept going.

She was soon glad that it hadn’t stopped. Its underside opened and millions of tons of waste cascaded out, streaming down the other ridge. Then the doors closed and the ship ascended out of sight.

The ground beneath Terra seemed to move – probably just the waste shifting after the recent arrival. Wearily, she kept on up the hill.

At the top, the loose waste had slid away to reveal the pinnacle of something larger. It must have been the body of a vast beast, because its leathery hide covered dozens of meters before it was covered by other waste.

Terra sighed and sank to the ground. She’d been counting on rescue, but who was going to find her here? She was on a planet no right-thinking creature would set foot on, alone and doomed.

Seeking a brief moment of solace, she reached for her hip flask, but it wasn’t in her pocket.

Cursing herself for leaving it behind, she looked back at the smoke from her ship. The wreckage was hidden from view by that first domed hill she had crossed.

The white dome moved, revealing the black disk of a vast pupil. A giant eye stared at her. A moment later, the other ridgeline rose, revealing a giant webbed hand. It waved.

A low sound of greeting filled the air and shook the ground.

Terra gaped at the sight.

At least she wasn’t alone.

*  *  *


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