Stories

Carnival Ship

This is a bit of backstory for my one published work, but it seems to read okay on its own.

The Golden Carnival lies in black outline against the actinide pinpricks of the stars. Its silhouette and the spiderwork of the airshield look worse for wear even though they’ve been left unattended for five years. Ever since the raiders killed her crew and left the husk of the ship on this asteroid.

Stefani calls me on my suit radio.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Sooki?”

“Yes Captain. This is where it all began.”

I turn on the gravity belt that would keep my feet pointing downward and allow me to walk. Then I check the pressure seals and air supply on my vacuum suit and step out the airlock into my past.

The utility station at the carnival entrance is in good condition; I hope this works. Two standard power cells should light the place up for about an hour. I say a silent prayer.

There are a few sparks from the airshield, but I didn't think it would work anyway. Otherwise the place awakens in a fountain of bright lights, looking just like it did when I first saw it as a child eighteen years ago.

I start at the Roller Coaster. There’s no way the thing still works, but it’s lit up as though it does. Rissa used to fling out bits of food and try to hit patrons as we rushed over them; I used to struggle to keep my stomach contents inside where they belonged.

Oddly enough I preferred the Spin Ride. If I closed my eyes it just felt like gravity; Rissa said it was boring. It still works so I take the two-minute ride, imagining Rissa lying across my chest and pressing on me with all three G’s the ride generated. That’s when the tears start.

I almost spot her in the Hall of Holograms, our images being stretched and squeezed and rendered in three-dimensional detail. But she’s not here.

We grew up working the carnival learning about life and work and fun, about machines and how to make them work when they broke, about how to operate a starship, about boys and how they could… well, learning about boys.

And through it all Rissa and I were a team. She was from the same world as me, sold to the carnival owners at the same time. We matured together and through some miracle were both sold to Stefani together. Life was a grand adventure, even for slaves.

In the Fun House I sneak into the back, carefully checking even though I know nobody’s watching. The blankets and tarps are still piled in the usual place. I remember lying back to back with Rissa, the warmth of her flesh bringing me confidence as the boys on either side of us introduced two curious girls into the ways of womanhood. They left afterwards, so Rissa and I enjoyed the afterglow huddled in each others’ arms.

Just like she wanted, this is the place. Where she first got laid is where she’ll lay forever; that sort of dark humour is so like her. I carefully place the urn holding her ashes.

“Good-night Clarissa. Rest in peace, my friend.”