It Begins with RAVEN Jenn Reese
In order to flirt with Raven, I have to leave the engineering hub, trudge through the entire reclamation wing of the spaceship, cross the mess hall, and search the farm dome. If I’m lucky, Raven is picking or pruning or digging in the soil beds and is not off in some secret hidey-hole grabbing a nap or drinking a watery beer with her friend Dover.
Dover, who is officially on Raven’s work team, and therefore constantly in the fields, buzzing around like some farm drone bee.
Today I get lucky and find Raven replanting the tomatoes.
“You want something, Blue?” Raven asks. She calls me “Blue,” which is not my name, nor close to “Tess” in any way, but which I like better than my name, on account of Raven giving it to me.
I mumble something that is half engineering pun, half innuendo, and wholly nonsensical. Wisely, Raven does not acknowledge it.
Dover appears out of nowhere, her hair tucked under her faded ballcap. “Hey! Loved that vid you linked to Raven a few spins ago, the old-school rom-com? I liked your edits. I can’t believe she ends up with the dude in the original. Where’s the fun in that?”
Those edits were not intended for Dover’s eyes. They were for Raven. Only for her.
“What did you think?” I ask Raven.
Raven shrugs. It is the most beautiful expression of disinterest that I’ve ever seen.
RAVEN to RIVEN
No one sees what hits the ship. When you’re cruising at thousands of miles per hour, it doesn’t take much. A rock the size of a football might as well be an iceberg. It can rip through a fortified hull as if it were made of tissue.
It can rip through people, too.
I don’t have the time to go to the farm dome now, not with most of engineering gone. There’s too much to do, and too few of us left to do it. We’ve abandoned our primary scientific mission. If we don’t find a habitable planet soon, there won’t be any more missions, period.
Dover brings me a piece of fruit every morning and a carrot every afternoon. She updates me on Raven, who is still alive, but has been unconscious since the accident.
Raven fared better than the bees when the dome cracked open to the ink of space, but not by much.
I take what Dover brings, and I keep working.
RIVEN to RIVER
The planet isn’t perfect and we have no way to land the ship — It wasn’t designed to land, I keep telling them — but we’re out of options. There’s a big river, at least, and even from space, it’s so blue. Blue, like Raven’s nickname for me. I wonder if I’ll ever hear Raven speak it again.
I share this observation with Dover and out of nowhere, Dover snaps. “Raven called you that because she couldn’t remember your name, Tess. Because your name didn’t matter to her.”
Dover doesn’t visit the next day. I miss my morning apple.
I miss it more than I expect.
RIVER to ROVER
I follow the river, steering the rover towards the mountains we’ve named The Eyebrows of God. Dover is in the passenger seat peeling an orange, the fingers of her new mechanical hand working deftly despite the bumpy ride.
The air is sweet and thick, like we’re breathing through flower petals. After two months, I’m almost used to it.
“Open,” Dover commands, and shoves an orange wedge in my mouth when I comply. It’s one of the last few from the ship, so tart it almost cuts my tongue.
“She’s improving,” Dover says. The medical wing was largely untouched during the crash. A miracle. Raven managed to sleep through the entire nightmare.
“Let’s pick some flowers for her today, just in case,” I say. “It’s going to be a helluva shock if she wakes up to this. Can you imagine? Her whole world changed in an instant.”
But maybe it’s easier when change happens like that, in fiery crashes, in sudden crescendos. There’s no denying the new world when the new world is all that’s left.
“Open,” Dover says. She holds out the last orange slice but is looking towards the horizon. Not at me.
I take the offering, as I always do, and my mouth fills with sharp citrus.
ROVER to DOVER
The flowers are there when Raven opens her eyes, and so are we.
“Blue,” Raven croaks.
I immediately turn to Dover. “See? She does remember my name.”
“That’s not your name,” Dover says with a feigned sigh.
We bring Raven up to speed, as gently as we can, over the course of an hour. Then Dover stands, touches my shoulder, says, “You should stay. Catch up.” She nods towards Raven and starts to leave.
But not everything important happens in an instant. Sometimes it happens slowly, one small step at a time.
As Dover is pulling away, I grab her hand in both of mine, rub my thumb across the back of her wrist. I don’t ever want to let go. “Raven needs her sleep, and… I want to make you dinner.”
Dover’s grin is like the third sun in the sky of our new world. Our new home. She says, “It’s about time.”
Support Flash Fiction Online
Flash Fiction Online is a free online magazine that pays professional rates. So how do we make that happen? It’s due to the generosity of readers like you.
Here are some ways you can help:
Sign up to become a monthly donor and gain access to exclusive Patron rewards like manuscript critiques, insider submission statistics, the Editors’ Wishlist, free downloads of our current issue, and Ask Me Anything chats with the FFO staff. Read more…
Subscribe to FFO.
Never miss an issue! E-reader formats delivered to your inbox. Available from WeightlessBooks.com
Buy our issues & anthologies.
Consider a one-time gift that fits your budget.
Spread the word.
Love one of our stories or articles? Share it with a friend!