Bunk Room 942 wasn’t quiet for long. Ammona scrolled through a media feed on her PTD while she lay on her back, left arm behind her head. She tried hard not to listen to the conversation Hian and Barrett were having, but it wasn’t easy.
“So, where you from?” Barrett inquired, while he attempted to play Tetris with his belongings and the locker he had chosen.
“Not really from anywhere,” said Hian, “My parents were military when I was a kid.”
“Not anymore?” Barrett asked, pushing a dark jacket into his locker.
Ammona scrolled past a news video about the Prime Minister of Celestial Affairs. The caption said there will be more restrictions on civilian spaceflight after a series of passenger craft accidents. They no longer seemed like accidents, said the caption. Of course millions of people were commenting on the video. Ammona kept scrolling.
“Nah, they’re retired now. That’s one thing military gets you: early retirement,” Hian answered Barrett.
you make it to the ship? A message from Drea popped up on the PTD. Ammona closed the media feed and flipped to her messaging app.
totally. stupid dude in my bunk room tho. truly hope i have 0 classes with him. She typed back, and tapped the Send arrow. saw some cool magnorcycles in the cargo hold. She added, and hit Send again.
“That sounds like a good deal.” Barrett was busy replying to Hian. Ammona heard the computer voice outside acknowledge someone else, and moved to sit up on her elbows. As always, she was curious about who the last of their bunk mates was going to be.
“Sometimes,” said Hian, and then fell silent as they also realized someone was coming through the door.
“Hey there folks,” a dark-haired person stepped through the door. He was tall, probably over six feet. He looked like a boy that Ammona had been to high school with, but she didn’t think it was him. This person’s face was narrow, his eyes set back, his nose like a beak. Ammona thought he looked like a very intelligent bird, though the way he stood reminded her of a cat. She shook off her initial judgments and sat up all the way.
“Well, hi!” Barrett greeted him warmly. “What’s your name?”
“Romero,” he replied, pulling his backpack off his right shoulder where it had hung carelessly a moment before. With one fluid motion, he flung it up towards the other top bunk, across from Ammona. The bag landed on the pillow, perfectly cushioning its fall.
Show off. Ammona thought. Her PTD buzzed, and she realized she still had it in her hand. She looked down at the screen to see a reply from Drea.
the journey won’t be long. find stuff to do, you’re good at that. you’ll barely see him.
She’s right. Ammona admitted to herself.
“I’m Hian, and that’s King,” Ammona heard herself being introduced.
“Hi,” she looked up. “Nice to meet you.” Romero met her eyes, something she wasn’t used to.
“Nice to meet you, too,” he said. “I think we’re about to take off.” Ammona looked down at her PTD. She quickly typed a reply to Drea.
you’re probably right.
Ammona closed her PTD.
“It’s about time,” said Hian, “I got on board way too early.”
“When did you get here?” Asked Barrett, as he shut his locker and returned to his bunk.
“Pretty much first thing this morning,” replied Hian. Romero climbed up to his bunk and sat against the wall.
“I didn’t know I was going until the last minute,” said Romero. “I’m pretty sure they held the ship for me.” There was laughter in his voice, and he chuckled to himself after he spoke, like he had made a joke. Ammona could see something behind his eyes, boldness, and entitlement. For a moment she thought to herself that this was very much like her, when she was younger and she had not yet experienced the crushing weight of adulthood and brokenness. She shook off the feeling and focused on what he had actually said.
“They held the ship for you?” Ammona couldn’t help herself. Who is this dude? She wondered.
When Romero laughed, his whole face became a laugh. The laugh wrinkles near his eyes compacted into a sea of future crow’s feet, high cheekbones raised themselves when he grinned into the full laugh. Hian and Barrett laughed too, seemingly for no reason. There was something catching in it. Ammona was annoyed and intrigued. “I’m just kidding,” said Romero, “Well, half kidding. There was another kid they were shuttling down here, but it was just he and I left when we got on board.”
“I see,” said Ammona, “Lucky you made it.”
“Luck doesn’t have anything to do with it,” said Romero, grinning. Ammona didn’t know what he meant. She looked down at her PTD. No reply from Drea yet. She wondered what her best friend was doing.
The sound of an electronic bell rang on the console attached to the wall, near the door. Ammona looked up, and so did everyone else.
“This vessel will depart in 5 minutes.” Said the panel’s speaker. “Please remain on your bunk or in your bunk room until it is safe to roam about the ship. Do not delay in returning to your bunk.” Another bell played on the console, and the screen flashed red with words in white. Ammona couldn’t read it from her vantage point on the top bunk, so she assumed it said the same thing the panel had just said. The bell played again.
“This vessel will depart in 5 minutes,” the speaker began the recording again.
“Oh, hush,” said Hian, “We all have ears.” Barrett laughed, and Romero grinned.
“…or in your bunk room until it is safe to…” the speaker continued. Hian rose from their bed and went to the panel. Barrett followed and stood behind them. Nosy as always, thought Ammona. They both tapped the red screen in a few different places. Hian tried some gestures.
“Do not delay in returning to your bunk,” the recording insisted.
“I don’t think that’s something you can disable,” Romero began, “I’m pretty sure the security on an Academy transport ship is pretty tight.” The recording faded away after the last bell sound, and Ammona laid back down on her bunk.
“Don’t count on it,” Hian said, and the two of them kept trying.
I hope this thing takes off soon. She thought, and checked her PTD for the time. I should’ve checked what time that recording played. I don’t even know if it’s been five minutes yet.
The other two had still not returned to their bunks, but Ammona said nothing. Romero was also quiet. He had fished out his PTD and was typing on it. Habitually, Ammona pulled out hers and checked it again. Still no message from Drea. Maybe that was her fault.
“What about this button on the side of the panel?” Ammona heard Barrett ask.
“Either non-functional or the functionality’s been shut off,” Hian’s voice replied.
The whole ship moved suddenly, and Hian and Barrett both almost lost their footing.
“Don’t delay in returning to your bunks,” said Barrett, as he lowered himself to his bunk.
The whole world was moving then, as the spacecraft lurched out of the Orb’s docking station. Everything shook uncontrollably, as if the planet gods had turned the craft into a tuning fork and tapped it against a celestial object. Vibrations, that was all Ammona could see. She had to put away her PTD. Her whole body was shuddering. Everything she saw looked a little fuzzy, moving back and forth through a million tiny iterations of itself, quivering like a child in a snowstorm. Yet nothing was cold to Ammona.
Forgot what this was like. She thought, and noticed that all her bunkmates had fallen silent. Something, something about being hurled through a canister into the darkness and hoping it all works out. Ammona thought of Drea, of the funny things she said sometimes. She thought of how she might not see her for years. She thought of how Drea hated space travel. She’s scared of so many things. Ammona thought, and she tried not to be angry with Drea. She knew in a way that Drea felt abandoned, but something in Ammona felt abandoned, too.
Sure, she thought, as she became used to a shuddering world, as the vibration became normal and her physical components chose to accept it. She’s the one who is too scared to go out on adventures. She’s letting her fear trap her. That’s why she feels abandoned. But I feel abandoned by her, because she chose a safe cage over me. We are so weird. Ammona shook off the thought and looked at the ceiling several feet above her.
The world still shook as the spacecraft took off, and Bunk Room 942 was quiet for a moment while its inhabitants waited patiently to travel through a starry void.
Previously, with Ammona:
Collage and story created by Corissa Haury
Glossary of Acronyms
PTD – Personal Tech Device