Bewildering Stories

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After Leaving the Planet Exegis

by Thomas D. Reynolds

Five minutes after takeoff,
just as the ship
clears the atmosphere,
the fuel runs out.

Gaunt and alone,
pilot Jack Pierre
stays at the controls
for another hour,
even as the ship
grows silent,
begins to drift,
and the lights dim.

Next to him
on an empty seat
lies the flight suit
of copilot Ben Spears.

The mumbled voice
he strains to hear
is his own breath
fogging his helmet.

The ship rotates
so that soon Exegis
becomes visible
on the view screen.

His tortured run
back to the ship
after the others died
replays in his mind,
as does the bargain
he made at the controls,
knowing the ship
would never reach home:
to die in space
in perpetual drift
or accept the fate
of his absent crew,
those whose seats
stand vacant
and flight helmets

  He leaves the controls
to wander the ship,
stumbling in the dark
and shivering from cold.

Even when his fingers
and face grow numb,
the bargain
is never questioned.

The ship continues
its haphazard drift,
and Exegis again
disappears from view.

Copyright © 2005 by Thomas D. Reynolds

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