Written by Ricardo
“Where the hell is Nina?” Sam screamed at Paula, throwing her off and making her exert herself a little more to pick up the pace. “Where is she? Did she fall? Oh god, tell me she didn’t fall.”
Sam’s heart was already beating at an inhuman rate, but with the fear of losing Nina he thought his heart was going to burst out of his chest. His legs gained an abrupt burst of energy and, in that moment, he felt like he could have leapt onto the far-off green planet they seemed to be running towards.
“No!” Paula shouted back. “Her heart rate is still on the system, there’s not many of us left,” she paused to get her breath back, “most of us fell, but she’s still alive. She’s probably going for the escape pods too. I just hope she can make it with that body.”
“She’ll make it!” Sam shouted, almost offended. The escape pods. That’s where they were heading. He didn’t need the map displayed on the screen on his forearm, he’d walked the length of this ship more times than he could remember. And right then what he hated most about the world was not the emptiness behind them, or even the thought that Nina could be down there, it was that the doors he had installed last year were the newest models by Archon’s Security. He’d tried them out himself before fitting them with his own Tarantula rifle. Nothing was getting through those. Thankfully the walls were still as shitty as ever though.
“Give me your pistol!” Sam shouted at Paula, who had drawn her sidearm and unloaded the cartridge with alarming speed. He took the cartridge and threw it overarm toward the wall they were approaching. He took the rifle from his back at the moment the cartridge left his hand and fired off a single shot. Sam was thankful he was still a little drowsy since, if he’d been on top form and as fast as usual, the blast would have blown him right back into the depths of space. Sam went first into the escape pod chamber, thrusting his shoulder into the honeycombed wall and breaking through, followed by Paula only a fraction later.
They were far enough ahead to take a second to gather themselves. There were two pods left, and besides Sam and Paula there were was only one person there – Khaj, the technician. Sam had an insatiable urge to shoot the useless bastard directly in the left eye. Why was he here rather than Nina? What reason did he have to live over her?
“Sam,” Paula knocked him from his wandering thoughts and grabbed his arm, pulling him into one of the pods. “We’ve got to go! I’m sorry, but we have to go.” Sam knew it. He couldn’t stay even if he wanted to, survival was all his body cared about right now. He’d have gotten into that pod whether he liked it or not. It was only when he saw the glow of Nina’s eyes through a slender gap in the wall that he jumped back out of the pod. Paula grabbed his ankles, forcing him to lurch uneasily and slam hard onto the floor.
“NINA!” he shouted as a small robotic feline leaped into the chamber and toward the pod, the silver metal paw landing in his palm as his fingers closed around it, with Paula pulling him back into the pod. The end of her tail caught in the door and scraped it slightly as it slammed and sealed shut. All forty thrusters fixed to the outside ignited at once, propelling the pod from the shell of Andromeda, Sam’s father’s space station turned space cruiser, and then his, and now it belonged to the infinite grasp of the universe.
In that moment Sam couldn’t have cared less. As he held Nina in his arms, tears slipping off the top of her shiny head, she consoled him with gentle words. All he truly cared about was safe and still real, still in his grasp. And as their shuttle hurled toward the distant green planet that he felt he could jump to, he knew he still had a shot at redemption. He could still make it to humanity’s colonies. He could still get Paula back to her home planet. But most importantly, he could still get Nina back to her old body. He could still make up for what he did. He could kiss her again, even just once more. He could get her back.
It was when he was drifting off to sleep with Nina in his arms that his fingers traced up and down the robotic feline’s right leg. That’s where Nina liked to be tickled – on the inside of her forearm. And it still had the same effect of making him smile like an idiot.
Then Nina whispered in her old voice, “I love you”.
There’s something chilling about Ricardo’s tale of love, death and hope. Maybe it’s because space is cold, or maybe it’s just because it’s an incredibly tense piece of work that gets us worked up in such a cold sweat. We’ve chosen a neat little excerpt from Ricardo’s ‘Love After Death’ as it’s gripping and pauses in just the right moments for great effect. If you enjoyed Ricardo’s work, make sure you check out, ‘The Start of Something Beautiful‘ and ‘Careful Driving‘.
Featured Image // Sweetie187