She held her head as high as the collapsed ceiling would allow, like a drowning sailor trapped in a dwindling air pocket, turning her lips as far up as possible to sip precious oxygen. A distant knocking impinged on the dull thrum of her own escaping life, pressed hard against her blocked eardrums. It was a staccato, nonsense rhythm that competed with the pressure of her own death, and she found it annoying. Why this disturbance now, during a losing battle for continued existence? As if she didn’t have enough to worry about.

As the last of her strength ebbed, and she felt her will failing, she recognized a pattern in the tapping. It was a code, an old signal that she’d memorized in some far-distant youth. A call that required a response, a response that she wasn’t sure she could remember but knew that she had to offer. She felt one of her arms drift with a languid, maddening slowness and bump into something solid. A bulkhead, or a deckhead; she’d long lost her sense of up and down. Without gravity it was all meaningless anyway, but her floating arm had found purchase, and her gloved fingers splayed to press against it. She formed a fist and, with the grim determination that only impending death imparts, began to bang out a half-remembered salvation.

2014.10.04 – 2023.05.28

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