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Lael Rosek

Ishkabela Journs: The Sting of Death

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Ishka couldn’t make any sense of where she was. It was home, and yet, it wasn’t. Something about the scents that assailed her nostrils was off. Most things on Leya-I didn’t give off strong odors like this, especially plants. In desperation, she looked around the meadow of sun-kissed Kazuri for some clue as to why she was here. 

Scant moments ago, she’d been floating in space in an EVA suit with her oxygen supply nearly depleted. She paused. Was she dead? Is that what this was? Al-Leyans didn’t believe in an afterlife, but if she could imagine one place she’d like to spend eternity, it would be the beautiful landscapes of Leya-I. Though she had wanted nothing more than to escape, that had always been more about the people.

Fighting against the sudden surge of apprehension and uncertainty, she took one step forward. And then another. And then another. Before long, she was wandering the field of lovely plants, her feet scarcely touching the ground as she did. She didn’t know how much time had passed, but she didn’t really care. She was home. For the first time in years, she was home. 

A sound at the other end of the field caused her to tense and instinct took over. Her distant ancestors had once been easy prey for any large animal that sustained itself on flesh, so it was only natural that her fight or flight response would engage in the presence of the unknown. She didn’t truly know anything about this place or what to expect here. What should have been a haven was a strange land to her.

She listened, expecting her keen hearing to pick up the sound again. As she strained her ears, she made out the subtle, rhythmic shift of the grasses that alerted her to the approach of someone or something. Not knowing its intentions, she shifted her stance to brace for a fight. With no weapon to help her, she’d have to rely on her strength alone.

The feeling of what she believed to be a hand on her shoulder caused her to jump and she instantly grabbed the hand, using the creature’s momentum to flip it over her shoulder. She barely registered the surprised yelp as the creature landed on its back with a resounding thud. Moving quickly, she sat atop it, pinning it with a hand at its throat, the other hand ready to deliver the killing blow. 

“Ishie?”

The familiar voice and pet name made her freeze. Only one person had ever called her that. Her hand briefly tightened around the being’s throat as she grappled with what she was experiencing. No. No, it wasn’t him. He’d died years ago. This was some imposter. Her temper flared. How dare someone impersonate him.

“Who are you?” she growled.

A soft smile crossed the man’s lips even as his hand came up to the one gripping his throat. “Ishie, it’s me,” the man rasped.

She growled louder, warring with what she knew to be true and what her eyes were showing her. Despite the fact that her grip was likely cutting off his air, he made no move to stop her nor did he give any indication that he was afraid. 

Tears sprang to her eyes, sliding down her cheeks, as she released the man’s throat and stood abruptly. She ran her hands through her hair, tugging hard at the strands, even as the man gasped for air beside her, rubbing his throat.

“Wake up,” she muttered. “This is an asphyxiation-induced reaction. Your brain is trying to make sense of what’s happening. Wake up.”

Again, she felt his hand, and she tensed. “I’m here, Ishie,” he rasped. “I’m here.”

She turned to him, anguish twisting her expression. “No! You died!”

The man didn’t respond, allowing them both to lapse into momentary silence as she processed what was happening. Taking a deep breath and exhaling it, she broke the silence, her native Esperanto flowing with ease.

“What is this place?” she breathed.

A smile that she couldn’t quite discern the meaning of slid across his lips as he studied her. “Home, Ishie. We’re home.”

That simple statement held so much meaning that she wasn’t certain she could unpack all of it even given an eternity. There was something about the way he said it that made her believe him without question. For the first time since encountering him here, her gaze met his. 

What she saw caused her chest and throat to tighten, the tears beginning anew. She could scarcely draw breath, each exhalation requiring supreme effort as she wrapped her mind around the fact that she was looking into her uncle’s eyes the same way she’d used to before.

How is this possible?

“Uncle,” she whispered.

She dropped her mental guard entirely, allowing herself to fully feel his presence even as she stumbled forward to embrace him in one of the tightest hugs she’d given in her years. Burying her face in his shoulder, she smiled as the subtle yet familiar scent of the many blossoms he’d enjoyed tending to invaded her senses. It felt like an eternity that she stood there, embracing him and refusing to let go. She was almost afraid to, convinced she’d lose him again and she’d never get him back.

It was soft at first but gradually grew in intensity. A beeping sound that didn’t match her current surroundings had her pulling back and she furrowed her brow in confusion.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

Her uncle smiled sadly, cradling her face in his hand as though to bring her attention back to him. “Hear what, Ishie?”

She shook her head. “That beeping. I--It sounds familiar.”

Gradually it grew louder and she realized that the world around her was becoming fuzzy. In a panic, she reached for her uncle only to watch him disappear right before her eyes. The rest of the scene faded away rapidly and she found herself again staring through the visor of the EVA suit out at the black of space with a splitting headache. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she did her best not to sob because it would only deplete her oxygen faster.

“Please,” she whisper-prayed to whatever deity was listening. “I want to go back to him. Please.”

But no one seemed to hear her. She remained stuck in the EVA suit, waiting for the Atlantis crew to eventually find her. 

======================

Lieutenant Ishkabela Journs
Assistant Chief Medical Officer
USS Atlantis
I238110RH0

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