The terribleminds Flash Fiction Challengefor June 27, 2015, was to randomly choose a song and use the title as the title for a story. The story didn’t have to be inspired by the song and we had 1,000 words to play with. I googled as suggested and discovered Mega Ran’s song titled Splash Woman, so I started from there. The story was started on June 29, 2015, and completed on July 2, 2015. We had until noon on July 3 to complete it.
It was a song in 2010, but I don’t know what it was about. Suzie called it chip-hop and referred to it as nerdcore. It had a lot to do with those retro computer games she used to collect. Whatever it was, she seemed to like it, even if the only words she seemed to know were ‘Splash… splash….’.
I guess I couldn’t blame her for being seduced by something that suggested water in such abundance it could be splashed about. Where we were, we didn’t have that luxury. Out there, everything got splashed back into the recycling so we could drink it again… and again… and again. Those were the joys of colony transport—and why so many of us tried to sleep through it.
Not that anyone is allowed to sleep through all of it. We each had to stand at least one shift on the journey out. Most of us chose to stand it with the rest of our family. The family-memories recordings helped, but they were nothing like the real thing. Those year-long watches were a time of balm and bonding. By the end of them, we were tired of the confines of the ship, of being locked in space with nothing but the stars passing by, but we were always reluctant to get back into our pods.
Fortunately, the ship’s AI had protocols for that. In three hundred years of space travel, there had been less than a dozen attempted violations—and those reminded the rest of us why the sleep periods were important. I tucked Suzie into her pod, after downloading her Jarbo collection and giving her my Mikros files. She said it was cheesy, but her eyes told me she was glad to have another piece of me to take into the night. So was I.
“Goodnight, Suzie,” I said, and the computer let me sit by her pod until she was under.
I watched as it tucked her away, and then climbed into my own pod, not resisting as the sleep rolled over me. When it woke us next, we’d have made landfall, and the construction phase would be done.
At least, that was the plan.
I woke suddenly, and experienced a surge of panic as I felt the burst of acceleration that told me the pod was being jettisoned, along with all the others and the cargo. The ship was going in, or down, like one of those ocean liners of old, and it was making sure everything was clear of the crash.
There’d be no knowing where it would hit, and that meant we’d be without some of the essential infrastructure we’d been counting on for the early day—and that was only if we were landing on the world we’d been sent to. Holy Hell!
I fumbled to activate the pod interface, opening the data ports to the ship, requesting location, status and data files. I prayed I wasn’t the only one to do so. There wasn’t enough space in the pod’s data banks to store it. The ship would divide it between us, duplicating as much as it could. I opened a comms link to Suzie.
“Splash, splash,” she was singing, the notes soured by an undertone of panic, but she accepted the link.
“I love you,” I said.
“I love you, too, daddy.”
We left the link open, comforted even when the pods rocked and shuddered as we hit atmosphere. And even then we kept falling, falling until the pod’s emergency navigation and drive kicked in. I focussed on getting our location from the data, felt the AI break the connection as the ship began to break apart above us.
“Daddy…” Suzie said, and then the line went dead.
I called her name, tried to keep my voice reassuring, called it louder when there was no response, screamed it when I saw the comms link had closed. The rest of the ride down made the entire trip out seem short.
We came down on the beach. The ship came down on the plateau where we’d been scheduled to land. That was why all comms had been terminated. Fortunately, the pods had not deemed fit to terminate the rest of us—and those little thrusters gave them vertical take-off and landing capacity. When the lid slid back above me, I was met by misting rain and the green-tinged smell of salt.
“Suzie?” I called, sitting still just long enough for the dizziness to pass. “Suzie?”
I panicked all over again, when there was no response and stood up so fast, that I fell down, out of the pond and onto the sand. I opened my eyes to the scarred and blackened undersides of two pods, and opened my mouth to call out again. I was thinking the worst, imagining lost pods, lost children, never seeing Suzie again, or hearing her sing that ridiculous song, when I registered that I was lying between two rows of neatly landed pods. Closing my mouth, I looked left and right, seeing pod hulls stretching in both directions, just as they had in the ship. I heard voices, other colonists emerging into planet-fresh air, the first rain they’d felt in years. My ears caught the sound of waves, and I thought, Suzie would love this.
And speaking of Suzie, where was she? I opened my mouth to call again and finally registered the two bare feet dangling above me. They were swinging back and forth, attached to two legs, the ship-suit rolled up to mid-calf. Drifting down to me in the misting drizzle, I heard her voice and caught the familiar strains of an old Earth song.
“Splash. Splash” she sang, as I stood up beside her.
“Splash. Splash,” as I wrapped my arm around her waist and she wrapped her arm around my shoulders.
“Splash. Splash,” I let my voice join in, remembering, as we both looked out past the orderly rows of pods to the storm swell beyond.
“Splash. Splash,” indeed.