James Babbs

Time & Space

Six days after we had discovered the ship was no longer functioning properly and we realized we were nothing more than a hollow metal tube drifting through the darkness of space Halverson turned to me and said Barlow?

Yes I replied.

Barlow, I need to tell you something.

Okay, Halverson I said. But first just let me give you a quick update concerning our current situation.

Okay.

Well I said. First of all, I don’t know where we are. I’ve made some calculations but there are just too many unknown variables so, the bottom line is, I don’t know where we are.

Alright said Halverson.

And I said. I can’t be sure about how much air we have remaining. We could have days or, even, weeks or, it could be just a matter of hours.

Well, Barlow said Halverson. I’ve been having an affair with your wife for the last year and a half.

What? I said. You’ve been fucking my wife?

Yes said Halverson. And your sister three, no, four times last summer. I just wanted you to know. He leaned forward and pretended he was studying the instrument panel in front of him.

Well, hell I said. What do you expect me to do with this information?

What do you mean?

What I mean, Halverson I said. Is that we’re not going to make it. So what purpose does it serve for you to tell me about the affair between you and my wife.

And your sister said Halverson.

Will you forget my goddamn sister!

Okay said Halverson. He leaned away from the instrument panel and started looking out the window. I just thought you should know, okay? I guess I wanted to clear my conscience.

Well, hell I said. That’s fine for you, now, isn’t it? I turned and looked out the window on my side of the ship. All I saw were long stretches of darkness and pinpoints of light scattered here and there, too far away for me to make any sense out of them.

Hey said Halverson. Let me try the radio again. Okay, Barlow? Let me try the radio.

Okay, okay I said. Try the goddamn radio.

Halverson leaned forward and pushed a couple of buttons. Halverson to Earth Base One he said. Halverson to Earth Base One. This is ship HCB2094. HCB2094 to Earth Base One. Come in, Earth.

There wasn’t any answer only a dead silence that permeated the entire cabin before falling down on top of us like a heavy weight. Halverson looked at me then began his transmission again but this time his voice sounded a lot more desperate.

Forget it, Halverson. We’re sunk.

So what are we going to do?

Well, hell, Halverson I said. I got up from my seat and started rummaging around. I threw a couple of boxes aside. Here we go. I lifted up the bottle and showed it to Halverson. I opened the bottle and took a long drink. I handed the whiskey to Halverson.

Okay, Barlow he said. Halverson took a drink and handed the bottle back to me.

The ship drifted and we kept drinking the whiskey. It could have been morning or afternoon or three o’clock in the middle of the goddamn night. We had no way of knowing what time it really was or how much of it either of us had left. I felt warm. I felt more than warm. My face felt hot and I started to laugh.

Listen, Halverson I said. You goddamn son of a bitch. I’m gonna kick your goddamn ass.

I lunged at him and we spilled onto the floor. I was on top of Halverson punching him in the face. I saw his nose and mouth starting to turn bloody. Then, the next thing I knew Halverson was on top of me and I felt my eyes exploding. I saw a white flash followed by a myriad of pretty colors. We crashed into the instrument panel and I heard the sound of things breaking apart. I struggled against Halverson and felt something cutting into my arm.

Shit Halverson said.

Fuck I replied.

Earth Base One said the voice suddenly blaring from out of the radio. Earth Base One to HCB2094. Come in, Barlow. Come in, Halverson. Hello? Anybody there?

I stopped and looked at Halverson. Halverson stopped and looked at me. I crawled over to the radio and pushed the buttons. This is Barlow I said. Come in, Earth Base One.

Well, hot damn said the voice. Hang tight, boys. We’re monitoring your coordinates and sending out a rescue team.

Okay I said. Okay.

Halverson got up and went back to his seat. I didn’t look at him. I didn’t speak to him. I turned and looked out the window. I wiped the blood from my face with the back of my hand. The radio was silent again.

I found the whiskey bottle and took another drink. When I was done I handed the bottle to Halverson. He took the bottle from me and held it in his hand. He sat there. I sat there.

We both sat there and waited.

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