Pinch of Starlight
by S Shane Thomas

Listen to my narration here

Vince Clemons blinked his way into consciousness. The warm feeling on his cheek turned out to be blood. The man felt suddenly disoriented, the shuttle’s propulsion system had failed when he approached the planetoid. He could hear a mild hiss coming from somewhere within the cabin. Vince used his sleeve to wipe blood from the control console. He peered into the myopic display at the shuttle’s system performance. Propulsion, communications, and life support had completely failed. The starship he called home would takes days to reach. Vince Clemons would run out of air long before he starved.

Vince wiggled his toes, then flexed his knees. It felt like he had been seated forever. Pins and needles tingled through his lower limbs as the man rose unsteadily to his feet. A glance at the clock told the injured man that he had been unconscious for hours.  Clean, sterile, pads blotted away half dried blood. A thin layer of liquid skin sealed the gash. Then he noticed a tear that he could not seal.

Starlight shone through a pinhole that must have been punched through the hull during the crash. Dread filled the man. Would he die here alone, exposed to an unbreathable environment? Long range scans showed gasses unfamiliar to Earth’s atmosphere. These strange gasses had been leaking in since he touched down. Vince’s breaths became shallow and panicked. He would die in this shuttle, no doubt. Tears sprung forth without invitation as he pressed his back against the hull and slid into a seated position. The man lost track of time, sobbing and taking mental note of all the things he would never do.

Sounds from outside the shuttle snapped him from the boat of self-pity. Vince rose and made his way to the viewport. He blinked back surprise. Before him, the face of a creature with a plump barrel for a body, and eye stalks pressed against the glass. Their reports had been accurate! Not only did the planetoid have potential living conditions, it harbored native life. His thoughts of doom completely forgotten. Vince ran to the hatch, heedless of the unknown threat in the atmosphere and cranked on the latch. It didn’t budge. He couldn’t get outside.

The eye stalks stared at Vince and he stared back. Would they always be separated by this pane of glass? The atmosphere would kill him slowly he knew, but Vince wanted to have first contact. He had nothing left to lose. He peered at the creature and focused upon it with an intensity he had never before possessed. Then, the commingling of the shuttle’s atmosphere with that of Planetoid BF8733 took effect, although Vince never made the connection beyond casual suspicion. The turn of his day’s events left no time for reflection.

In the blink of an eye the barrel bodied creature stood inside the glass, inadvertently transported by the strength of Vince’s will augmented with just the right mix of two atmospheres. Vince gasped and tried to blink it back into place, but the creature held less reservations. It withdrew eye stalks into a clammy body and latched onto Vince’s left leg with a sucking force that shredded through his flight suit. Vince swooned, plopped on his butt, and nearly fainted. Thankfully his attacker died from oxygen exposure before more than a pint of Vince’s blood had been drained. The battered man kicked the parasite off in disgust.

His head swam. He would die in here. Vince imagined this as his cell, impenetrable, inescapable… except for how that meaty log of a blood sucker got in… How had it gotten in? Vince peered at the viewport. He wrapped hard on the glass until his knuckles stung. Then he chuckled at the new sensation; a relief from his head and leg pain. Then it came to him. The mingling atmospheres caused his will to encounter the creature to happen. He had teleported that alien into the shuttle.

Vince’s stomach rumbled. He reached for rations, and then grimaced. His gaze turned to the dead thing on the shuttle floor. It had tried to eat him, so Vince would do it the same honor. He tore the shuttle apart trying to find a way to cook his quarry, but remained empty handed. Then he gazed at the twinkling star, as big from the surface as the sun was from Earth. One spec of that star would cook my little meal. Vince focused on the thought and time froze.

In a fraction of an instant Vince saw a tiny molten pin prick of star fire that swelled with unbelievable speed until it nearly consumed him. Vince realized his own folly, he would be incinerated by the expansion of the highly pressurized thermonuclear reaction in another heartbeat. The battered, concussed, bleeding, hungry man wished for the safety of a rescue shuttle.

The explosion seemed rather distant. One second flame nearly engulfed him, then he leaned against the cool glass of a viewport and watched an explosion shred a hundred miles of the planetoid from… from where? He turned slowly to see the shocked, frozen expressions of a rescue team.

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