Far Horizons: Tales of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Issue #13 April 2015 - Page 159

Rosie Oliver: Rosie is a mathematician turned engineer via being a scientist! She has had several short stories published in various magazines, including a robot-cat (C.A.T.) series by TWB Press, and is expecting another short story to appear in Ian Sales’ anthology, Aphrodite Terra. The except is from the first chapter of a novel that is work in progress. Website: http://rosieoliver.wordpress.com/ Chapter 1 “Dust to dust, void to void, ice to ice,” Priest Kylone intoned over the spacesuit comms, bending his staff to form an L. He positioned its horizontal bar inside the open grave above Raoul Larsson’s head. A fine spray of holy water spurted, some vaporising towards the blue-green orb of Uranus and some jetting down onto the shrinkwrapped body. With the ease of a native Mirandan, he skim-walked along the side of the grave, covering the body with a sheet of whitened ice. Alva stared at the sculpture of her ice-shrouded husband. She felt as if she was not there, while walking, seeing, breathing and being in a numbed nightmare. The ice let her see a hint of his blond hair and a vague outline of his blue one-piece silk. That was all. An hour ago she had touched his waxy translucent skin, caressed his hair and kissed his cheek. Now, he was beyond her reach. Someone hugged her. She looked down on silver gloves curving round her arms. With the third finger shorter than the index finger, it was probably a man. It could be one of the miners or her brother, Vaclav. It did not matter. He, whoever he was, meant well. She did not, could not feel his kindness. She wanted to, but she was numbed against feeling emotion. The hands gently pressed to turn her away from the PAGE 158 grave. She had to stay. She could not desert Raoul here in the ice. She stood still. “Come on, Sis. Let’s get you back inside,” Vaclav said. Tears slipped into her eyes. Her sight blurred. Raoul wavered behind a watery film, before disappearing from view. Her world shrank into a deep hole of wretchedness. Tears welled up from it and overflowed into thick rivers to stream down her cheeks. She sobbed, shaking her shoulders and squeezing her eyes ever tighter. Blue-green light from Uranus pushed its way through her eyelids, forcing itself on her awareness. This nuisance weighed like a heavy burden, one that she could not cope with now. She threw her hands up to her face to block the light. They hit her faceplate. She had to let the tears fall, flooding her face and dripping down off her chin to soak the collar of her silk. Her brother had moved his arms to steady her shoulders and keep her firmly, yet gently on the ice. She wanted Raoul to cuddle her in the flesh and say everything was all right. He was gone, lost to her, forever. She shivered, not from cold, but the lack of warmth from skin contact and comforting smell of humans. There was only the callous machine scented air and plastic feel of the suit. Yet it was here, protecting her from the vacuum of space and letting her feel safe.