Tasia woke when her heart began beating outside her body.
She clutched her chest frantically. Felt the breath leave her body. She gasped. Unable to catch her breaht.
Only when she felt her heart inside her chest did she realize she could still breath. That she felt her heart.
Thump. Thump-thump. Thump.
But the beating outside herself did not cease.
She inhaled deeply. Greedily. Not until she stilled her racing heart to a casual trot did she sigh.
On her bedside table waited a pocket watch. A remnant filled with gears and clockwork. Inside a ship floating through space, the watch was obsolete and a waste. Tasia loved the watch.
A dim glow from around the room, at the tops of the walls, mimicked a night’s sky glowing with moonlight.
Still evening, Tasia surmised. To be sure she checked the pocket watch. Pressed the button on the crown. The lid popped open. Barely passed midnight.
Tasia scrubbed her face with a free hand, her eyes heavy, lids wanting to close. Then she wound the watch before replacing it on the side table and swinging her legs over the side of the bed and standing.
All around Tasia the beating persisted. Like the low hum of a deep sleeper.
She would never go back to bed at this rate.
I have to see it. Just a look and then back to bed before my shift begins.
The door leading out of her quarters opened with a delayed hissed as she approached. It was late. Maybe it was early. Whatever. Either way, the door’s mechanism seemed just as exhausted as she.
Outside Tasia’s quarters the air refused to stir. A delicate quiet that Tasia’s presence seemed to threaten.
She moved quietly, padding forward on bare feet. Thankfully scalite had a warmth to it. The metal seemed alive. As if touched by the sun on a warm, clear day.
Memories of birds soaring on salty breezes penetrated the sleepiness trying to drag the girl back to bed. When was the last time I saw Earth’s sun?
Five tours since she’d felt sand between her toes. Since she felt the sun on skin.
Tasia reached out a hand as she moved through the ship’s corridors. The scalite was ribbed with swirls and striations. It reminded her of a fingerprint. Or scars. Blemishes that marred skin but were defining figures. A unique pattern that defined rather than set apart. Never repeating. Jonah said there were patterns in the metal, just so minute human eyes couldn’t discern. He didn’t see the beauty in the randomness. How the uniqueness of each panel called up curiosity. Jonah was right about one thing… all the panels enclosing the ship soaked up the beats, shared the rhythm, handed off the waves.
She smiled softly. To herself.
The panels gave way to a port window that overlooked dark emptiness, a blank backdrop only made interesting by holes poked through the canvas, tiny fragments of light breaking through. Out there the quiet persisted. It oppressed sound with its infiniteness.
Tasia left space to its lonely self and continued to where she found a ladder leading down through the ship. She swept herself down through the hole, hand over hand, feet searching for rungs.
The corridors down on this lower level, away from the cargo hold, led toward the ship’s core.
Down here the beat grew more indomitable. Not louder. Simply less avoidable. Just like her own heartbeat. When she concentrated, Tasia could always feel her own heart synced with the ship. Wasn’t that the point? Only a crew connected to a ship could operate the vessel.
Many hearts. One heartbeat.
Tasia always got claustrophobic this far inside the ship. Enclosed by so much metal. Safe from the vacuum of space. Smothered by that safety.
At the ship’s core lay an spherical chamber with multiple doors. Or rather doorways. The chamber stayed open. Heat radiated from inside. Closer to this chamber Tasia felt a slickness across her back. Her simple tanktop slung her to body closely, making her feel even more vulnerable given she only wore a pair of panties.
She entered the chamber and the beating surrounded her.
At the core of the ship, in the center of the spherical chamber, lay the ship’s heart. Literally a pulsing heart as large as a grown man. A dragon heart. A bloodred organ from a beast, capable of traveling across the galaxy, opening up a hole at one end of space and another at a distant end. Scientists knew not how the technology worked. Radicals on earth called the phenomenon magic and unnatural.
Tubes stuck out from the heart, running along the curved bottom of the chamber and the ceiling to various ports around the room. Feeding the ship power.
The ship’s heart pulsed in time with the beating, a thrumming that seemed powerful enough to banish the silence of space. The heart seemed that important. That powerful.
Tasia reached out to the dragon organ. The outside felt as hard as stone but warm to the touch, like a ruby left in the sun. Except the heard was malleable, to an extant. It pumped and contracted with the beats in her chest. A red glow illuminated the chamber, radiating from the heart.
Tasia stared at the organ, watching her fingertips travel over the organ’s surface. Like scalite, nonuniform, angles sharp. On the surface of the ship’s heart she swore she saw her reflection staring back at her and when she did she felt the heart’s beat quicken, as if the ship knew she’d snuck away from her quarters and to this place. It was like being regarded by an eye and not a heart. A piercing gaze.
Her hand slowly drew away to cup her other hand over her chest.
The heart’s rhythm slowed again, settling from its brief stir. Tasia too felt centered now. At ease. She knew now she’d sleep. Only a few hours more until her shift and the ship and her crew had a long way to go still.