Today's Reading

1

More than anything else Senna remembered the bitter silence. At some point during the night, everyone around her on the ship stopped breathing. The soft, human sounds of sleep had mixed with the reverberation of space outside the passenger craft, a lullaby of organic white noise that helped her drift to sleep, but once it was gone, the absence was far louder. Unmistakable.

It was like how she imagined the dead of winter, still and adrift, though Senna had never experienced a true winter herself. Her entire life had been lived in outer space and, more than that, in almost total confinement.

She had taken a pill and gone to sleep surrounded by life, then woke among the dead. Senna had rolled over, tossing restlessly, and felt her hand brush something cold and almost rubbery on the sleeping mat next to hers. Startled by the sensation, she jerked awake, and under the reddish glow of the emergency lights above, she found herself staring down into the open, glazed eyes of her best friend, Mina. The blood trickling from between Mina's full lips was as crimson as the emergency lights blinking overhead.

Senna gasped, and it was the only sound in the entire ship.

Oh my God. They're all dead.

"You can't leave me," she whispered to Mina. The fear made her tremble; the shock made her grab Mina by the shoulders and shake. Her bones were thin and birdlike, and her head swiveled back and forth as Senna tried to rouse her. Nothing.

A door opened across the room, and Senna whirled to face it, torn between the sudden knowledge that she was alone and now the worse fear that she wasn't, that whoever was responsible for all this death was still alive and with her. That she was next.

"Senna," she heard him say. "I didn't know you were awake."

Why was she the only one left alive? And why wasn't he surprised by it? She didn't know what to say. What could she say?

They're all dead, every last one of them, except for you and me.

"Hello? Lady? Earth to blondie."

She blinked, hard, gazing around not at the interior of a doomed passenger craft, but at an impatient barista glaring down into her face. Grabbing her chest, Senna nodded and waved at him, but the memory took its time fading away. One year ago. It still felt like she was living inside that moment, crushed on all sides by it.

I didn't know you were awake, Preece had said. To her, it still felt like she was deep, deep asleep. Dragged under.

"S-Sorry," Senna stammered. She hadn't been outside Marin's apartment in weeks. The neon haze of Tokyo Bliss Station hurt her eyes. A halo lingered around the barista's head, the self-driving coffee cart lit with an amber glow. "How much is it?"

"Ten for the drink," the barista replied. He was tall and thin, tattooed from the collar of his shirt and apron to his mouth. A series of scrollwork arrows pointed to the ring glinting in his lip. "Three for the cup."

Senna frowned up at him. "Three? Really?"

Rolling his eyes, he shrugged and handed her the mottled brown cup, frothy yellow liquid steaming inside. "Fine, no charge for the cup. Bring something reusable next time, okay? Anything else I can get you?"

Senna stared down into the drink, the familiar color and smell threatening to bring another wave of painful nostalgia.

Anything else, she mused. A new brain? A tranquilizer?

"No," Senna told the young man. "No, I'm . . . That's all."

"Just remember the cup thing," he muttered, tapping the scanner on the coffee cart counter, waiting for Senna to hold up her wrist and flash the VIT monitor that ought to be there. But Senna still didn't have one. The barista noticed, the specter of his shaved-off brows looming low over his eyes.

"She will." Marin to the rescue. "She'll remember for next time. And I'll take a sweet drip."

The barista sighed. "Line jumpers pay double for their cups."

"Fine."
...

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