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Almost Shipwrecked

This has been one weird day and it's not even 0900 hours by the looks of it.

It was the engines, those blasted engines. Rogers was supposed to be in charge of them, and he got drunk one too many times and skipped on some maintenance that turned out to be crucial. So the ship blew and we all scattered, lucky to be in the life pods.

The blast blew us all in different directions. These things don't really have much in the way of steering. They're mainly designed for life support and storage for nutrient-rich foods so you don't starve during the few months everything is technically supposed to last.

So I drifted. And I'm pretty sure it was for months, seeing as my uni is bigger on me and God knows I wasn't dieting or anything. I was just rationing it all as much as possible. Plus the food packs taste pretty lousy when you get right down to it. It's not like I was aching for seconds or anything.

There's just the one window, and it's not very big but at least you can get an idea of where you're going. I turned the joystick when I saw the yellow star and estimated the Goldilocks zone as well as I could. The star looks pretty similar in size to ours but I can't tell without any sort of analysis and the pod didn't have anything for that.

It looked like there were two planets in the Goldilocks zone. I picked the one with the three small moons. But I admit that was a mental coin flip.

Getting down to the planet's surface was trickier. It was a short hop down, but you never know what you're going to find. I'm a payload specialist, or at least I guess I was. That's a fancy way of saying I was in charge of inventory. I wasn't a doctor like Mendez or an engineer like stupid Rogers or a leader like Ng. I'm more like a glorified box lifter upper and putter downer and counter and orderer.

So I did the reentry protocol, which is a fancy way of saying to strap yourself to something stationary, hold onto something, and say a little prayer, just in case. Reentry isn't just hot. Nobody tells you, but it's loud as all get out, too. In the big ships, like the Mystic, it's all controlled and shielded and nice. You watch the descent from your window and you think happy thoughts and check your strap-in gear a few times. But that's it, and the pilot turns up the cooler air and nobody gives the descent a second thought. Speaking of pilots, I hope DiNucci is okay. She was always nice to me.

In any event, I ended up here, right in the mud by a lake. It was a little doing to make sure the pod didn't sink, particularly with me in it. Fortunately, I'm guessing this body of water doesn't have a tide, but who knows with three moons?

I opened the hatch and staggered out. There's no sense in testing the air, not really. It either will kill you, or it won't. The pod doesn't have any sort of gear for lifting off and it barely has anything for signaling. I did set off the flares, the one for space and then the one for the ground. Fat lotta good they're doing me. The first one certainly didn't do anything, and now down here I gotta figure the odds are slimmer for anyone seeing anything.

Once the flare had gone off, I waited. I surveyed my surroundings. The planet had vegetation but whether any will agree with my digestive system is another coin flip. At least the air works and the water in the lake is clean. The rest of it will be a mystery. I don't have food packs to last me for more than a few days, whatever is considered a day around here, anyway.

Yeah, yeah, I know days are planetary rotations, but I haven't got a clue how long they take here. Shorter or longer? Eh, it's not like I can control any of that, so it's another thing on the big mental list of stuff that no longer matters. But day means there's night. Whatever happens at night, in terms of temperature variance or nocturnal frights or delights, I have no idea.

I could see movement in the brush. A critter scampered out; it was the size of a rabbit and it seemed to be just as skittish. Kinda cute once you get past the scales. I've got nothing to lure it with but the sound of my voice and nobody considers me a singing sensation or anything.

I waited for a while, to see if there was another scaly bunny or anything else. Finally I saw a shadow pass overhead from the larger of the three moons. That's when I heard more rustling and realized I definitely wasn't alone.

That's when I saw you guys. You're a lot shorter than I am, maybe coming up to the top of my thighs. You're scaly, too, but it's nothing unpleasant. You're curious and I get that. I just fell out of the sky. Anybody would be wondering what was going on. So I appreciate your curiosity, your concern, and what might even be your intelligence.

And I'd like to thank you for bringing over the bits of vegetation, the bark and the roots, and a carcass of one of those scaly bunnies. I can tell you're trying to take care of me and I am really touched by that. Not everybody would be into that, know what I mean?

Then you brought your little ones over. I am so glad, I cannot begin to tell you, that you offered them up alive to meet me, and not dead to try and feed me. I'm sorry if I scared anybody by patting one of you on the head. I don't mean you any harm. I'm not armed with anything more dangerous than the wrappers the food packs come in.

You're quiet, and that's kinda nice. I can't tell if it's that you can't speak or you won't. Maybe you think I'm nuts, just babbling here, but that's how it all happened and that's my story. Kinda nutty, huh?

No, no, don't give me your kid. Please, please, I have no idea how I'm gonna eat here, and you expect me to feed a little reptile-ish humanish child, too? Here, tell you what, I'll just pat your kid on the head and give him – her, maybe – back to you. Okay? See, I'm harmless. I'm not angry. Your kid is lovely in a scaly way.

Oh, another kid. Well, that's, I don't know what that is. Yes, yes, head pat, head pat, and back you go.

Sixteen more? Okay, sure, why not? Head pat, head pat, everybody gets a pat on the head and then back to your mom. Or dad. Or something else. I certainly don't know.

Oh, this one? You're moving kinda slowly. I bet you're an old timer. And this, for me? It's almost like a wreath. That gesture, you want me to put this on my head? Okay, sure, whatever. I might not live tomorrow, and you people might kill me in my sleep tonight, but at least I've got a hat to wear.

No, no, don't bow. Come on, please, will ya people get up? You're being silly. This is just nuts. Here, take the wreath back, Old Timer. I don't have to be your queen. That's okay.

We're cool.

About the Author
JR Gershen-Siegel is Lambda Literary Award nominee (2014, Untrustworthy, under SF/F/Horror). Her work is also published by Riverdale Avenue Books, Hydra Productions, Jay Henge Publishing, Theme of Absence, and Writers' Colony Press. Her current project is a trilogy of works about Victorian Boston, called The Real Hub of the Universe. She lives in Boston with her husband and twice as many computers than they need. You can find her online at janetgershen-siegel.com.