Behind the Curtain Flash Fiction Contest, #btcurtain

“Sixty seconds to heliopause, Commander.”

“Thank you.” She clicked off her headset and took a moment to breathe. The viewscreens showed nothing special about the virtually empty space ahead, but in less than a minute, she’d join a group of explorers schoolchildren would learn about for generations. Just as she’d marveled at Magellan and Armstrong, they’d hear stories of the first person to leave the solar system. The seven other people on the Witten deserved their own accolades, of course, but history didn’t play out that way.

They’d come a long way since that day four years ago when the President introduced them to the world. “At long last, mankind will pierce the curtain of night and we will take our place amongst the stars.” Poetic words, as come from the lips of all politicians, but she had never been able to get that imagery out of her mind. As a child, she’d always been the one to peek behind curtains, around corners, through windows, driven by her curiosity to make seen what had been hidden. This journey was the ultimate trip into the unknown, and as the timer ticked to zero, she grinned, feeling like the luckiest eight year old ever.

Until the screams.

The ship lurched forward, which it wasn’t supposed to be able to do while the Boost was engaged, bouncing about like an airplane encountering turbulence. But there wasn’t supposed to be anything out here to cause turbulence! Her equilibrium lost, her stomach emptied. She quailed at the sight of her vomit mixing with the blood of her second-in-command, his head cracked open when it bounced off the ceiling, and struggled to bring the ship back under her control.

It went on forever, until it stopped.

She’d practiced assessing chaotic situations for years as part of command training, and she rapidly absorbed the horrors surrounding her. Only one of her crew was still living, barely. She unstrapped from her seat, unable to let him die alone, without comfort. For an instant, his eyes cleared, and she saw his terror, as if reflected from her own. He struggled to speak the last words she’d hear anyone say.

“They’re all gone.”

As he died, it was her turn to scream.

It wasn’t until ten long years passed, and the return trip to Earth, that she learned the truth. She was behind the curtain, and she truly was alone.

400 words


24 Responses to “Behind the Curtain Flash Fiction Contest, #btcurtain”

  1. Truly terrifying to be the last one, especially after being promised it would all be great. Great entry 🙂

  2. I like the easy way you refer to the futuristic elements, just like the character would!

    New reader, by the way, reading through the Behind the Curtain entries. 🙂

    Visions of Other Worlds

  3. Fantastic description, made me feel quite queasy too…thus drawing me right into her terror. Loved this!

  4. I like the science fiction take on the phrase “behind the curtain”!

  5. Really enjoyed this, a great sci-fi take. Reminded me of Alien, actually, something about the whole idea of it…

    • Thank you! I hadn’t intended the comparison with Alien, but it’s obviously there. Of course, in my mind, Ripley was a lot luckier than our protagonist here… 😉

  6. megmcnulty Says:

    Wow – the ending makes this – it’s such a powerful contrast to the start. Great story!

  7. So scary!! Reminds me of Rip Van Winkle, the way time will slip from their grasp. Wonderful : )

    • Thank you! Yeah, if we ever can travel to the stars, the price will be high (even if there is no “behind the curtain”!)

  8. moonduster Says:

    Really well written story; you drew me in from the beginning and then such a sad but powerful ending!

  9. So glad someone decided to do a sci-fi twist. Thanks for entering, Eric!

  10. Ooo, loved this! And the creepiness of being alone for those 10 years, and waiting to see everyone on her return, and the desperation of forever alone.. *goosebumps* Well done!

  11. Love the scifi. A gripping story!

  12. Such a great take on this prompt. Truly has gone beyond chilling to terrifying when you think of the absolute loneliness.

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