Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Kviye returned from those infinite worlds and back into her chair to the sound of her instruments gone haywire. Or rather, she would have been lifted out of that same chair as if by the buoyancy of the summer sea if she had not been strapped in. The new panel had been extinguished and displayed only the familiar blank screen, while everything else that was still functional was blaring an admonishing “I told you so” at her.
How long had the ship been listing? She thought that she couldn’t have been floating in space for longer than a few minutes, but the chains of the moon were unmistakably pulling the skiff back into its solid embrace. Kviye looked behind her and found the panel from the device had almost made it cleanly through the wall of the engine room and out into the passageway connecting it with the cockpit. “Oh no,” she muttered and then checked the altimeter. The instrument that had recently heralded her greatest success was now counting down, at increasing speed, towards inevitable failure.
Unbuckling, Kviye lifted off her seat and maneuvered her legs so that she could push herself off the control panel and out of the cockpit. She undershot, and used her arms to pull herself towards the entrance of the engine room and the sharp shard of metal sticking through the wall next to it. Gravity, though still weak, was shifting perceptibly in the wrong direction. Inside the engine room, she found the device where she had positioned the spheres was indeed missing a door and was surrounded by concentric ripples of buckled metal that reached up to the ceiling. The assessment of the extent of the damage would have to wait, though it constricted her stomach in an uncomfortable fist.
The largest of the spheres, the one she picked up from Valyen earlier that day, lay at the bottom of the device, noticeably shrunken, along with three of the pebbles. She scanned the room for the missing ones but finding no trace of them tried to reassemble the array with what she had.
After a few minutes of fiddling with the black orbs, the whole time trying to brace herself against the wall to avoid drifting away and trying to ignore that the ship was gaining speed and bringing heaviness back into her body, she decided it was a futile effort and shoved the remaining ones in her pocket. Turning again and pushing her feet against the wall, she launched herself back through the door and towards the cockpit. About halfway there, she realized she overshot, and with a “no, no, no” that culminated in a grunt, slammed with her back against the control panel of the skiff.
The ship had made significant progress towards the surface of Tanfana, which made it easier for Kviye to scramble back into the seat and buckle her restraints. With some gargantuan effort from the little propulsion that the ship could muster, Kviye manage to face it in the correct direction, in the sense that she could now observe the ever-approaching expanse of the green moon. She pivoted the nose of the skiff towards the bay on which Zhakitrinbur stood and using all the functioning systems that she had left at her disposal, steered the ship’s descent in its general direction.
The dissolving of the black that had enveloped her was even more jarring than when it initially appeared, as if she had been drowning and went for a breath of fresh air, and now her head was again swallowed by the waves. With the return to Tanfana’s atmosphere, the ship shook harder, and the heat slowly crept through the hull and into the cockpit.
Sweat streamed down the back of Kviye’s neck as her fingers gripped tighter around the steering. An attempt to deploy one of the skiff’s exterior breaks caused it to rip clean off the ship and almost sent her into an uncontrollable spin had Kviye not managed to get a handle on the steering. Still, her angle of approach remained too steep and Zhakitrinbur grew in the distance with alarming speed. The whole world seemed to shrink into that single shortening line and its stubborn angle. Every other thought that bothered to try to enter into her head – her father, coming home to find the skiff and Kviye missing, her mother’s photo watching her struggle with the controls, the stars, in their glamorous endless glory – all had been rebuffed and pushed away.
Only one image kept worming itself into her mind and stinging her eyes along with the sweat that she couldn’t brush away for fear of letting go of the controls. Somewhere on the ground, Valyen stood and watched the whole thing; her slow and then rapid ascent that sent her clear out of sight; had she cheered, despite herself? Kviye believed that she did. Something subdued, like a single clap or a slap against her thigh. And now, faced with her agonizingly slow descent, that left behind a trail of fire and debris, would she have looked away? No, not Valyen. She was too practical. She’d watch until the last second so she could tell where the ship went down, so she could make her way there, alone if she had to. She wouldn’t be able to tear her eyes away, same as Kviye from the marshes that grew monstrous in front of her, looking for a soft damp spot but not one that would swallow the ship whole and deprive Valyen of her closure. Just look away. Close your eyes. Please, Val, look away.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.