“Watch this,” he whispered, staring out of the observation port and into the inky blackness. I stared out beyond him, dragging my eyes across the pock-marked surface and into the sky, searching for a clue, trying to see what he saw. He was spacing out, in the most literal sense of the term. His mind had gone, throwing him into the void. “There! Did you see them?” He turned to me, his eyes bloodshot, his sanity long evaporated. “Did you?”
He was sick, and I think he knew that, he was begging me to set him straight.
I turned my back on the vermilion sunrise. Some wonders break you down, over a long enough time. Six-hundred days was enough for Jones, apparently. He shivered, stretching to take my hand.
I turned my back on him too.
We were supposed to draw names from a hat, to see who came first, to see who would slowly starve on half-rations. We were supposed to draw names, but the Commander drew rank. Jones was first.
Another twelve days passed. I went to see Jones again. Spittle had dried around his lips – white flecks like saltpetre, his words the spark.
He was waiting to explode. “Can you see the birds, Jasmine? Can you feel them? I can feel them – they’re pecking me!”
He shrieked, struggling against the makeshift restraints. It wasn’t my turn to feed him, but the others had long since sunk into lethargy. He turned his head away, refusing the gruel I ladled against his lips.
Trying to exhaust my patience.
I took his portion.
The Commander made me take his living carcass outside. I released him into the blackness; let him be carried away on the wings of his hallucinations. The others drifted away too, one by one into the void or into themselves, into the blackness inside, succumbing to the birds.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but the Commander tasted better straight from the oven.
A little science fiction piece for this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge prompt Exhaust, as well as for the BeKindRewrite prompts Watch This, Spacing Out and Name from a Hat. Comments and criticism always welcome!