Breadcrumbs

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Short story - Previously published in the Oh My Anthology - December 2018.

The anthology theme was fairytales in space!

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“We’re lost.”

“We’re not lost, Greta.” Henry tapped the fuel gauge and watched the dial spin in a furious circle. He tapped it again, harder and frowned.

“We’re lost and we need to refuel. Great.” I slumped in my seat and stared through the glass shield at the endless black expanse. “Another hour and we’ll be space debris.”

Henry made a face, scrunching his narrow nose. “Stealing dad’s ship was your idea. He won’t come after us, you said. He doesn’t care about anything except his bottle of gin, too drunk to notice the ship is missing. And you were right. He doesn’t care about anything, especially keeping the ship’s tank full.” Henry cast the fuel gauge another disgusted look, and then climbed out of his seat. He paced the deck, fists clenched.

My brother was worried. Nothing new. He worried about everything, but most of all, he worried about me. About the way our father got angry, so angry, he punched the walls. Broke things. He worried he wouldn’t be there when dad stopped using inanimate objects to vent his rage and started using me.

Henry was older by three years, and since he’d just turned eighteen, he’d be forced to join the galactic fleet and serve his time. That left me alone and three years short of joining the fleet myself. A lot can happen in three years. Bad things.

“I didn’t have time to check the gauge before we left. You climbed aboard and told me to punch it, so I did. We’d still be on Garvine if I hadn’t gotten us out of there. You weren’t in any condition to fly.” I braved a glance at his left eye, the tissue beneath swollen, skin turning a dark blue.

The injury should have been mine. We weren’t twins but I felt that phantom pain as if we were connected on a deeper level. Maybe we were.

Henry had stepped in front of me. He shoved me aside and told me to run. The plans we’d made in secret, plans we never really had the courage to act on, suddenly became reality.

We ran, stole dad’s ship, and entered free space. Henry was now a fleet defector and I was a runaway. And now, we were lost. With no fuel.
How long would we drift before we ran out of supplies? A week? Two? We could send out a frequency and try to signal another ship, but we’d already traveled so far out of the galaxy, and there hadn’t been anything on the radar in hours.

I scanned the mass of star clusters, searching for anything that might resemble a planet. Nothing, just hot gas and their pin pricks of light. A well of guilt overflowed in my stomach. If we died out here, it would be my fault.

“I’m sorry, Henry.” My voice felt thick with unshed tears. A painful lump made it difficult to swallow, and my vision blurred, the stars becoming streaks of white light.

“Don’t say that.” Henry wrinkled his brow and sighed. He looked older than his years, features ragged with the truth of our situation and the responsibility of keeping me alive. It wasn’t supposed to be his job, that’s what parents are for. But, we’d been dealt a poor hand, a mother who left when we were young and a father who never got past it.

The red fuel light flicked on, and I bit down hard on my lip to stem the sob in the back of my throat.

“Warning. Warning. Low Fuel. Recharge the fuel rods.” The electronic voice sounded sad to my ears, and I almost laughed to think a disembodied voice felt any sympathy for us.

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