Ammona, Part I [Short Story]

It is the end of a long work day at the cafe. Serving everyone their triple-shot-sugar-free-vanilla-light-foam latte for eight hours a day, forty hours a week, felt like a drag after three years of repetitive words and motions. She arrives at her apartment door and punches in the unlock code on the panel.

“Please state your name.” The little electronic screen speaks in an automated female voice.

“Ammona King.” She enunciates for the computer’s voice recognition so it can translate her name. The words sound exaggerated.

“Access granted. Please enter. Welcome home, Ammona.” The female voice plays a digital mantra over a tiny speaker. The door slides open, and reveals the entryway into her apartment.

“Thanks.” She mutters. I know she can’t hear me. What a ridiculous thing to program into an access panel. Ammona knows they try to make apartments on the base station seem more like home, but sometimes it feels downright silly.

“Hello?” She calls, as she removes her boots in the hallway.

“Hiiiiiiiiiii!” Drea’s voice elongates her greeting somewhere towards the living room. “Welcome back!” She shouts.

Ammona shoves off her left boot with her right foot, and then does the same with the left foot, right boot. It feels good to get rid of them. She lets out a prolonged sigh, allowing all the stress of the day to push itself out through her lungs.

The pristine hallway, made of aluminum and falsely dyed decorative walls, is a surreal place to come home to. By now she is used to it. Three years ago when I arrived at the Orbital Relay Base, the place felt sterile. I usually regard it as ‘clean’ these days. 

After she kicks off her boots, she drops her bag to the ground. The small hallway table has a repository bowl for her ID badge and wallet. She grabs her smartphone out of her back pocket to check the Internet, and makes her way to the living room.

She stands in the doorway, watching Drea play a game on a giant screen wall. Her roommate is racing against several other hover cars. In the upper left hand corner, Ammona sees a marker that indicates where Drea is in the race.

“Sixth place, huh?” She teases Drea. The other girl doesn’t look over to acknowledge Ammona’s friendly ribbing. Instead, her brows furrow into a scowl. “What is that, out of nine? Ten?” Ammona prods, trying to get a reaction.

“Shut up.” She snaps, pressing buttons with a ferocity Ammona could never match. “You wouldn’t be able to do any better. I am playing a race above my car’s highest level.”

“Now why would you do a thing like that?” Asks Ammona, grinning while she stands in the doorway and replies to some messages on her device.

Drea says nothing, but concentrates on crashing past the car in 5th place.

“Excellent.” Ammona encourages. I feel like I should after making fun of her. 

“Good thing you’re being nice now.” Drea counters, as the race ends with her in 5th. She chucks the game controller across the room. It bounds off some cushy pillows on a clean green couch, and lands in between two of the seat cushions.

“Don’t break the controller.” Laughs her roommate.

Drea looks up from the couch, her brown eyes pinpointed on the tall girl in the doorway. Her sharp face looks like a living knife. She points at Ammona.

“You got a courier-delivered letter today!” Drea grins. “I wasn’t going to tell you after that bit about sixth place, but you saved yourself.” She bounces off the couch and pushes past Ammona to get to the kitchen.

“What?” Ammona demands. “What courier? When? What letter? Where is it?” She follows Drea into the next room, and watches her rummage around in the fridge. Ammona follows and peeks over the refrigerator door. “Drea!” She insists. “Where is it?”

Drea lifts her head from the bottom shelf where she was retrieving some real imported Earth yogurt.  She waves the yogurt container at Ammona. “In your room, on your desk.”

Ammona bounds up the stairs to the bedrooms as Drea’s voice follows her down the hall. “I wanted you to see it later, but it might be important.”

You’re damn right it’s important. Ammona thinks, as she jumps the stairs two at a time. It’s my letter from the Academy.

She enters her bedroom without a second thought, looking for the letter. The room is messy. She kicks away some sweatshirts and socks on the floor, and looks down at the desk.

There it is. A bright yellow and blue envelope, larger than it likely needs to be. Who uses paper any more? She wonders.

Traditionalists. She answers her own question. It must be from the Academy. I thought they would send me an email. More thoughts rush through her head as she reaches forward, and grabs the envelope.

She looks for the tab that will let her pull it open. It slides right off. She tips open the top of the envelope, careful not to disturb the design. Her fingers are cold. Her hands shake. She notices; it’s hard for her to feel for the piece of paper inside. She reaches inside the envelope nervously, the tension in her body visible. She breathes in, and out. She pulls the sheet of paper halfway out of the envelope.

“Well?” Drea is in the doorway. “What is it?”

“I don’t know yet!” The words are sharp, quick. “It’s from the Academy.” She tries to calm her impatient voice. “I haven’t looked.”

“Look! Look!”

“Hush.” Ammona replies, as Drea looks over her shoulder. The paper is partially out of the envelope, flat, pristine like the aluminum walls around them. Ammona’s heart is pounding. She slides it out the rest of the way, and reads the letter as fast as she can, eager for the news.

Congratulations, it begins, and Drea doesn’t need to read the rest but Ammona does. Drea shrieks with happiness.

“I knew it!” She dances around the room.

I didn’t. Ammona thinks. This is welcome news. I can’t believe this. I can’t believe it.  Her heart feels full, and happy, and heavy all at the same time. So many things will change. Nostalgia hits her, a packed fist tight and ready to fight from the years it’s been dormant.

“What will happen to our place?” Ammona says aloud.

Drea stops her dancing and looks over at her roommate. “I’ll probably try to find another roommate.” She shrugs. She always was so honest. Ammona’s heart squeezes in her chest. I hope I’m not so easily replaceable. 

Drea approaches her. “Stop looking so pouty. Don’t be sad. Be happy! This is what you’ve always wanted! Your grandfather was in the Academy. You can continue a legacy your mother would never have dared to. This is fantastic! We need to celebrate!”

It is what I’ve always wanted. Ammona thinks. I’m just anxious about change, as always. She looks at the rest of the letter, and soaks in the words of acceptance. The practical matters she must attend to in order to finish her admittance to the Academy become rapidly apparent.

A deposit of a few thousand yuan is needed to secure my spot. 

I must send a letter of intent to register as soon as possible. 

There will be an admittance day at this campus location on this date that I must attend. 

All of these items flash before Ammona’s eyes, and she begins to plan. She slides her device out of her pants pocket, and looks at the calendar app. I can easily get several of these days off. She notes that the campus is across the solar system, on Pluto Colony. I’ll need a few days to go and come back. I need to look at the shuttles to the Colonies to find out how much a ticket will be.

“Ammona! What are you doing?” Drea’s voice calls from downstairs. “Morgan and Rona are coming over. I’m messaging Hyatt right now. We need to order some food before everyone gets here.”

“Coming!” She yells down. So much to do. So much to think about. In a few weeks I’ll be headed to Admittance Day. 

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Walk on The Edge of Space [Short Story]

By Corissa Haury

looking out to space
drawn by Corissa Haury

The gilded edges of the trophy felt cold and clean in Rayna’s hands. She clutched it close to her while she walked, unable to believe that she had just won it. Something about her own self-doubt usually held her back, but this time she had an object to prove her accomplishment.

“Where should we put that?” Jaren asked, at her side. They were walking back to the apartment together after the competition. The hall was clean, with a slate grey floor smooth as newly poured concrete and coated with a high gloss. The walls around them had a white, sterile clarity. It almost hurt the eyes to look around the fluorescent hall, but there was also art, posters, graffiti, and screens that flashed news headlines or ran an old comedy show.

Rayna shrugged. “Probably with all my other junk on my junk shelf.”

Jaren grinned. “Of course you will.” They both heard the sound of an old sitcom as the two of them passed. Someone had just made a joke; a laugh track played in their ears, and faded away as they continued. “You shouldn’t call it a junk shelf, it’s your souvenir shelf.” She gestured towards the end of the hallway. “Look, it’s the Moon side of the station. Let’s stop for a second.”

The women approached the end of the bright corridor, which emptied into a seemingly endless area. To the left, there were shops, apartments, escalators, people, screens of all sizes, and a large open place where hundreds of people mingled and sat around tables or on couches. Ahead, the two of them could see where the tunnel pointing towards home, continued.

“All right, but I want to get this thing back soon.” Rayna agreed. “And then I want to get some food.”

To their right, giant curved glass wrapped around the belly of the station like a belt. It stood a hundred feet high from floor to ceiling, disappearing into both. The huge panels of glass were cut off at the top and bottom by the beginning of other decks above and below.

“Wow.” Said Jaren. “It gets me every time.”

Rayna laughed. “Really? I’m so used to it by now.”

“Spoiled brat.” Jaren grinned. “It’s too bad you’ve never been to Earth. You should see some of the places there. It’s truly amazing.”

“I can’t fathom a horizon that ends.” Rayna shuddered. “I’d feel so trapped.”

“Space ends, somewhere out there.”

Rayna made a face and stuck her tongue out in disgust. “Blech, I’d hate to see that.”

They fell into silence as they approached a set of empty lounge chairs on the edge of the windows. The two of them had paused at the edge of the giant window-belt, and looked out at the moon, a few miles away in space. It was a planet unto itself.

“You can almost see the skyscrapers.” Rayna said.

“Ironic that they call them skyscrapers still.” Jaren looked out to space, to the void of sparkling stars and twinkling places they’d never been. “They should call them space-scrapers.”

“That doesn’t make any sense, Scrapers are another thing.”

“Well, that’s different.” Jaren sighed. “I do really miss Earth sometimes.”

“Don’t you have to go back for Christmas?”

“Maybe. I don’t know yet.” They fell silent again. Rayna could sense that Jaren wasn’t telling her something, but she knew better than to prod and poke. Being nosy was one of her less useful traits. She examined Jaren’s face, looking up into it and realizing that she didn’t want her to go away for Christmas.

“Well, I won’t be mad if you stayed.” Rayna smiled up at Jaren, trying to see if she could elicit a response, to distract her.

“You’re never mad when I stay.” Jaren broke out of the long stare at the Moon. “Come here.”

Rayna drew close, and the two young women wrapped their arms around one another. Rayna held the trophy in one hand and leaned her head on Jaren’s shoulder.

“Don’t go away for Christmas.” Rayna said. “Screw your parents, they’re just going to tell you how you should stay on Earth and you shouldn’t be in love with a woman.” She looked out at space and wondered how humanity could still be so self-obsessed in the face of such a beautiful, empty void.

“They just don’t know better.” Said Jaren. “They’ve never been to The ORB, or even left the Earth’s atmosphere. They refuse to leave because they’re comfortable where they are.”

They looked into each other’s faces, both people searching for meaning in the lines of their skin, in the patterns of wrinkles they both knew around their eyes, in the softness of their facial hair, in the glitter of light in their pupils.

“Well, I’m comfortable where I am.” Rayna broke the quiet and squeezed Jaren close, trying not to tear up at the idea of being apart from her for the holiday. “Please don’t go.” She looked away, back to the Moon. She knew Jaren would see pain if she continued their stare.

Jaren pulled Rayna closer, too, and squeezed back. “Don’t worry, my love.” Said Jaren. “I won’t go anywhere without you, ever again.”

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Stasis [short story]


By Corissa Haury

I feel his fingers grip mine for the last time, before we plunge into dreamless hibernation. Before we crawl into the hard-coated, white shells before us. Others stand around while I hold his hands, while I kiss his lips. His soft kiss, affectionate yet powerful, holds my mouth there, as if time suspends for our kiss the way it will suspend our bodies in a few moments. Emotion floods over me under the bright lights of the laboratory. The sound of the oxygen in the shells hisses through corridors of plastic to make its way into the tank, so I can breathe in stasis. It pierces my mind and hovers on the edge of everything else I experience in this room.

It’s easy for me to be frightened, but Alex said this is the best way. I let his kiss linger on my damp mouth as he pulls away, towards a man who helps him into a strange suit. It crinkles, like a plastic bag, and I wonder if we’ll make it to the other side. The woman who will help me comes to my side, offers to assist. She can tell I feel afraid.

“Come with me.” She gestures to a small room, where I can’t see my husband. “We can have more privacy.”

“No, I don’t care about privacy. I want to stay with Alex.” I assert.

Alex looks over from the gear he adorns. He’s down to his underwear, steps into the wrinkly, loud legs of the suit. I smile at him. He smiles back. Something in my heart feels wrong. This makes me more nervous.

“87% of all cryogenically kept bodies will experience little to no change.” She says to me. “You needn’t worry.” The cold room we are in reminds me of a hospital center. I look around while I undress, wondering who in this day and age still says needn’t.

She reads too many books. I think, looking down at the goosebumps that cover my skin when I expose it to the cool laboratory air. What does ‘little to no’ mean? What percentage is that? It sounds like Internet garbage. Thoughts crowd in my mind, fight to break free of their physical prison. The time-frozen shells gleam in the bright light. The floor is white linoleum tile, sterile. There is no particular smell in the room. I smell myself a little, but I can always smell myself. Chewing gum, sage, marijuana, sweat, cigarettes, french fries… They’re all there somewhere on me, at some time. I am left remembering my father and his incessant reading. He used to say ‘needn’t’, I think. Does it come from ‘need not’?

“Legs in.” Says the girl, and I wonder at all the tubes, buttons, and beeping machines, the heart monitors, and brain activity scanners, and machines I don’t know of. Nor will I. The sound of the crinkly plastic brings me back to my own motions. Step in, pull up. 

“Please place this heart rate monitor on your chest.” She peels the back off a sticker shaped like a nipple, with two circles inside it. There are flat metal coils, Aluminum? I think, that lap one another over and over within the circles.

I take the sticker from her and stick it to my bare skin between my breasts, careful not to stick it to my bra. Ugh, my bra. I don’t want to wear that shit into the future if I don’t have to.

Do I have to wear a bra?” I ask the woman. She looks up in surprise.

“I suppose not.” She replies. “Although the material of the suit might feel scratchy on your nipples.” She says this academically, her motherly tone from before completely drained to a droll tonal quality. It’s hard for me not to giggle at her, nervous, excited, wondering. I look over at Alex. He’s ready to go, for the most part. He looks so eager, so interested to try this new thing. I wonder if he knows how frightened I am right now. Why didn’t I tell him how scared of this I am? I’m an idiot. Might feel scratchy on my nipples, huh? Fine. I’ll wear the damn bra. 

“Then I want my shirt.” I demand. “I’m not going into this thing and coming out all scratched up by a plastic bubble in a hundred years.”

The woman sighs, and turns around to get my previously discarded blue t-shirt. It feels light, gentle, cottony. I bought this a few months ago. I remember how much Alex likes it. How much he likes touching me through it, because he says it’s soft. I look back at him, and he is looking at me.

“You sure you want to wear that shirt?” He asks. “It might not be hip in the future.” He grins.

I do giggle now. This feels so absurd. I put my shirt on.

“I don’t care.” I throw back. “I want to be comfortable in my stasis.” I make a fake pouty face, push out my lower lip. Alex laughs. It feels good to relieve the tension, the waiting. Why can’t it be 100 years from now,  and we’re already laughing together under the future’s skies? I think to myself as the attendant helps me zip into my plastic suit. Everything but my face is shrouded in protective blue wrinkled material. The wrinkles run like veins all around me through the blue fabric. Once I’m inside it, it reminds me more of a tarp material than a plastic bag. Sleeping in a tarp for a hundred years… Classy.

Alex gives me one last kiss before we descend into stasis. His affectionate gesture reminds me what it means to be human, malleable to the world and to history, never ready for the change the days bring to us. I leave his warm flesh for the cold pool of liquid inside the hard white shell. My life-sustaining prison, guarded by people like the woman who just put me in here. I close my eyes as she zips the plastic bag shut, and the sleeping drugs take effect.

Who will check on us after these doctors are dead? My last thought haunts me as I drift away. I fall into darkness, hoping the next 100 years will go by quickly in my dreamless, drugged sleep.

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