“Look at that,” Chief Engineer Niyazov said, tossing a calendar at my feet.
November, 2083. Big Deal. The picture above the boxed-in days showed a dilapidated outhouse in the middle of a country clearing.
“Your dream house?” I asked.
“No, McAllister. Use that NASA brain of yours. Or that American stomach. It’s Thanksgiving.”
I looked down at the calendar. He was right. I hadn’t been keeping track of the days since the collision that brought Niyazov and I out of stasis and endangered half the still-sleeping crew.
“Imagine, McAllister; a big, greasy turkey dinner. Much better than this fucking slop,” he raised a packet of meal substitute to his lips and sucked in a thick mouthful. He swallowed, holding eye contact with me the entire time. “Your wife. Your parents before they grow old and die. Your son before he’s a man of his own, matured without ever seeing your face. Wouldn’t it be great?”
Niyazov grinned wide, the greenish-brown slop clinging to the spaces between his teeth like algae on rocks. He got to me and he knew it. My grip tightened on the tablet in my hands and I forced myself to walk away.
The collision had damaged the ship’s power; reduced us to half what we needed. Our mission to Ganymede should have lasted seven years. Of course, if we hadn’t hit a frozen ball of methane, we all would have slept two of those years away and lived a productive five. Fate, though, had other ideas.
Niyazov and I woke up. The collision killed our forward momentum. We calculated how much fuel we could use to speed back up while saving enough to brake once we approached Ganymede. We had eight years of flight time. Food and water would be tight between the two of us, which meant everyone else had to stay asleep in their pods, half of which we couldn’t afford to power. Niyazov quickly turned nasty, claiming his fellow Cosmonauts were more valuable. I opted for a Darwinian solution; put the entire crew on half-support and redistribute power as some expired.
I went to sleep the first “night” and woke to find my comrades slowly dying. Oswald couldn’t be resuscitated. Since then, Niyazov and I had been in deadlock.
Worse, the ship was programmed to eliminate any crewmember who harmed another. We couldn’t physically fight for control. Instead, we goaded violence, baited suicide, crushed spirits.
The hallucinations were hard to ignore through the first sleepless week, but they seemed to have gone.
Still, I could almost taste my mother’s pecan pie.
Niyazov found me again. I could smell the sage. The thyme. My mouth watered.
The tender meat of Niyazov’s neck rippled in buttery waves as he taunted me.
Before I knew I had moved, I was on him, a warm gravy covering my lips. I imagined laughing with my child, hugging my wife.
The ship’s countermeasures activated, coursing deadly levels of electricity through us both. I couldn’t stop chewing. Devouring.