#TeamSFHorror - Part Four: Stygian Black - @JesseSprague

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To Distraction - Part 4 - krazydiamond


Hetfield's snarling vocals punched through the swirling drain of Maria's final moments. The noise was overpowering, an explosion of wailing guitar and pounding drums that smashed into her eardrums. An acutely timed shock to the system since she wasn't breathing.

Hale gasped, sucking air into her lungs. Her arms flailed, catching on the wire and tube hookups. The feed tube ripped free, sending a shot of agony through her sinuses.


"Music off," she rasped, clutching her throbbing face. Silence fell with a guillotine strike, with Hale's sobbing breaths to fill the void.

She curled up on her side inside the pod, the scent of cigarette smoke in her nose, shadows clinging to her lashes. The VRI should have ended. Too far, the file went too far, dragging her to the very brink of actual death. It was different than the Harvest file, not an alien body, or alien physiology but a human body slowly shutting down. Muscles twitched and ached in her back where Maria had been stabbed through. Something was wrong, so very wrong

Something beyond the obvious problem, which Hale had to deal with before it spiraled completely out of her control.

Hale rolled out of the pod, bracing herself against the side. Metal bit into her fingers as she gripped the side hard through the black spots shredding her vision. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Breathe, through the shakes, through the pain burning in her joints, and beneath her eyes. Hale forced her eyes open, waiting for her wavering vision to focus until she could pry open the maintenance panel of the VRI pod. The clear feed tube fed down into a canister of clear fluid. Half empty from her recent jaunts but five back up canisters waited to click into place when one emptied.

Her shaking fingers pried the last one free. She cringed when the delicate pieces of the machine groaned and snapped at her brutishly handling. To her relief she hadn't broken the feed belt completely, only the moorings holding the single can. She didn't want to think about the consequences if she managed to eff it up, not when she couldn't seem to stay away.

An addiction.

The clear liquid told her nothing, the bitter smell unfamiliar, but her suspicion was strong. She clutched the cannister to her chest, leaning heavily into the wall as she made her way from the room. The lights of the Ulysses were too bright. She stopped often to turn her face into the wall, pressing hard against the unyielding surface to reassure herself she was out. She was awake.

She didn't bother with her useless bunk or the equally useless readout console. A distant part of her shivered, trying not to think of all those flat-lining numbers. Not real, not real, not real, she chanted the words in her mind.

Something scuffed along the ground behind her.

Hale froze, gripping the canister so tight her fingers ached. She turned, nice and slow, her head still spinning all the while. Nothing, not a robot, not a shadow, nothing. Her lips trembled as she exhaled. Not real, not real, not real.

She waited, ears straining over her wheezing breaths, but there were no other sounds. She continued on, stopping for nothing until she reached the medical bay. How the music played? At the ear splitting volume she needed to wake? She couldn't think, couldn't concentrate on the mystery of it, not before she figured out the one she held against her chest.

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