Sunday, 13 June 2010


Frenton watches the planet grow larger. Its atmosphere a thread of glare around the green circumference partially lit by the distant sun. Scattered lights in the black tell of the colony below. Frenton tries once again to pull his hands free, then his legs, struggling with a renewed energy marked by the visible changes in the planet as he is drawn deeper into its gravity well. His arms and legs are firmly fixed, the suit that provides him with his only air and security from the vacuum has been welded to the rock.

He gives up again. Becomes still. He blinks to try and activate the suit comm unit, then probes the switch panel with his tongue but nothing works. He is tired and exhausted. He has had nothing to eat since he was cast adrift. No sense of time although he knows that he has drifted in and out of consciousness. The orb has featured heavily in his dreams, of falling into its atmosphere and the fast burn that would vapourise him. Sometimes he dreams that he cannot breath, that the air has been misjudged and he is to be lucky enough to die an early death. But still the planet grows larger.

He does not even know the planet's name. It looks unreal to him. There is no sense of presence, no tug of gravity that would tell him that any of this is real. Only the feel of the suit material and the immobility of his limbs. He turns his head but he cannot even make out any part of the asteroid he has been fixed to.

The world starts to fill his vision. As it grows he starts to realise that he has not been fired straight at the planet. He is off-centred. A longer, slower journey. He starts to do calculations in his head but he cannot make sense of them. The planet is roughly Earth-sized. Its rate of growth must be of use in calculating his own speed. But he has no real data. Only a glimmer of hope. That maybe they got their trajectory wrong. Maybe he will not fall into the planet but will be slung around it. Perhaps even noticed by one of the emergency support satellites for the colony. Rescued.

It is too good a thought to be true. Even if a mistake had been made he would only drift until his air ran out. Instead, he finds himself wondering if it is true that a human can die by biting off their own tongue. He is not sure he would have the will power and the thought of drowning in his own blood is no more appealing than the real options.

He starts to imagine the roar. The buffeting of the atmosphere against the rock. The drag that will bounce him, aero-braking, heating, burning. He finds himself willing it to happen. A last chance to feel something other than the weightlessness of the past however many hours or days. He an see nothing but the planet now. It cannot be long

And yet it does not happen. Almost imperceptible except to his painful study he realises that the planet has started to recede. That maybe the wild hope of earlier has become true. Then there is a jolt. He spins. No, he realises, now it is happening. The planet rolls away from him. He is turning away from it. Instead he is looking at blackness. And then the ship. The pirates are right up against him. Maybe they want to watch every last moment. There is a short glare of thrust and the ship comes closer, arms stretched out and ready to grab him. With horror Frenton realises that they are rescuing him. That this has all been an extended torture. A proof of what they will do. He does not know if he has the will to resist a second time.

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