Reading Time: 4 minutes
(Image created by Anais Aguilera using Firefly.)

“Um. . .”

The word that is not a word, a masquerade of meaning, a veil over language to cover a truth that could not be expressed. Uttered. Vocalized. As in this instance, a moment in time where the expression served something other than definition. Becoming something else entirely, its own moment in time.

A pause.

An inference.

An interruption.

Seconds passed after Narlarr released the non-meaning from her tongue, her lips. She gazed down the corridor of the ship, past Wyx standing right before her. Wyx stood tall, helmet under her right arm, ready for another excursion into the great unknown of their current space.

“What is it?”

This has happened before. Many times. This shouldn’t be shocking or even surprising. We all hear about it, if not deal with it.

“What are you thinking?”

Narlarr collected her thoughts, glanced at the steel forming her surroundings, the vid screens embedded within showing the outside universe they coasted by. She wondered if she should even say it. She didn’t even want to think it. But Wyx definitely had to know, had a right to know probably.

“There’s someone else on board.”

Wyx raised her eyebrows. Narlarr tried to tell herself the gesture didn’t question her sanity, though she didn’t entirely succeed.

“Someone unaccounted for.”

Wyx howled into the ceiling above. “Oh, come on! Space legends! We’ve all heard tales of the unaccounted astronaut seen on board. They’re space tales, like a yeti or snowman on Earth.”

A legend. In this case, accompanied by death or tragedy. And there Narlarr stood looking straight at an astronaut. Past Wyx, at the end of the hall, an astronaut stood facing Narlarr and Wyx wearing a suit unlike any she had ever seen, darkened hues flowing as if pulled by their own current, the face plate dark and impenetrable. Standing motionless. Just facing their direction. Until the astronaut turned and continued walking out of sight, practically taking whatever Wyx was saying with them. Narlarr felt transported somewhere else, the walls no longer firm and supportive, simply sinking into another dark world. She reached though, stretched for that tether.

“Keep in touch, okay? Keep me updated. I don’t want weeks to go by and wonder where you might be, what might be happening to your mission.”

Wyx softened. She hugged Narlarr with her free arm, kissed her gently on the lips. Said something. Words that did not linger.

Touch. Time passed with Narlarr thinking about that. Feeling Wyx in bed with her. Holding hands as they walked the corridors. Feeding each other in the dining area. Spaces that held her presence, if not physically, than emotionally. Narlarr wondered about her space, behind, part of a crew, with familiar faces and people who bantered and tried to bring them back into their world.

But the sight . . . the sights, plural. Not all faces were familiar. Not all faces could be seen. Narlarr included a note in her latest report.

Walking, through hallways . . . eyes looking over her shoulder.

Approaching a corner . . . trying to peer past and see what might lurk beyond.

Hand on the keypad . . . tensing just before the steel clicks open.

Awaiting . . . the astronaut. The astronaut with the darkened helmet, the shifting form.

Narlarr tried to focus. Keep her vision on the particular person or task in every room she walked into. Eyes peering down onto samples taken from planets they had visited over the past few months. Eyes peering up at her commander and the orders passed along. Rooms shifting along with time, each holding their own traits to distinguish themselves. Seconds becoming eras, sometimes in a flash of light. Walls holding machines, walls holding food and sustenance, walls holding diversions.

Walls holding her. Holding her within its travels. Except Narlarr, her mind . . .

Narlarr walked the corridors. Eyes over a shoulder. Peering ahead. Always . . .  no, not always, but seeing the astronaut. Just out of reach. Hanging back or in front, capturing moments, pockets of time. The message seemed to be the same, whatever it may be. Lurking for a moment before moving on.

She approached a window looking out onto the space they passed, thinking of Wyx. Out there Wyx would be traveling, far away at that point. Narlarr loved that screen, how she could just see space as is or she could touch the screen and call up certain spots for a closer view. Maps, too.

But she—she thought she might be beyond maps at that point. Not that long before, she had peered down into a sample, one holding an alien microbe. And the effect—

It was like the microbe itself had behaved like a trapdoor, collapsing inward and down, pulling Narlarr’s sight

all the way into a region she couldn’t fathom, one in which she thought she viewed a brain of a sort . . . and an eye. An eye looking right back at her.

She walked in a daze afterward. Not knowing what to do. She would fill out the usual reports. She just wondered if anyone would see what she had seen. If they would label her mad, maybe make her into a legend like the astronaut.

The astronaut.

The astronaut that stood right behind her.

Narlarr shivered, hugged herself.

She didn’t want to turn around, did anyway.

And she looked at the astronaut. Looked as the astronaut slowly reached up to its helmet and pulled it off . . .


Wyx was back!

Wyx was standing right before her, smiling a warm smile, different somehow, a little worn, a little thinner, but there, there all the same. But time caused the smile to fade, for concern to cross Wyx’s countenance.

“What are you thinking about?”

Wyx was speaking to Narlarr. Narlarr wished she had an answer.

“Where are you anyway?”

“Um . . .”

And Narlarr could only see the astronaut’s visage, all the stars and microbes forming its face on what passed for flesh.


Edited by a Fallon Clark and Sophie Gorjance.

Patrick McEvoy has had stories included in various comic book anthologies such as Emanata, Continental Cryptid and GuruKitty’s Once Upon a Time and Gateway to Beyond. Illustrated stories have also appeared in New Plains Review, Shift, Best of Penumbric Vol. 6, Murder Park After Dark Vol. 3 and on Slippery Elm's website. A short story has also appeared on Akashic Books’ website. In addition, short plays he wrote were chosen to be performed at the Players Theatre in New York as part of their various festivals (Sex, NYC and BOO) in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2019. And he wrote and directed short plays for Emerging Artists Theatre's New Works series in 2021 and 2022. A play anthology called What May Arise was also streamed June 30-July 6th 2022 as part of the Rogue Theater Festival. He wrote and directed Directions, which appeared in the 2022 Dream Up Festival, as well as Coordinates, which appeared in Chain Theatre's 2023 Winter Festival. Photography has also been exhibited with Exhibizone: Scenic, HMVC, Greenpoint Gallery, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Molecule, riverSedge and Good Works Review.;;