Flames sparked and hissed at the air. For a moment, Alana wasn’t sure what she was looking at. She felt cold and wet under a blanket of darkness. Other than a few small fires burning around her, she could see nothing. She groaned as she shifted. Her left arm felt wrong, agonizing.
“What the hell happened?” she muttered to herself as she tried to stand. She winced, falling to her side. Her knee was badly bruised and in the dull light of the fire, Alana realized she was bleeding. Her head ached and her body screamed in pain. “HELP!”
Her scream echoed in the night, but no one answered. No one came. She swallowed. Her throat was dry, and it hurt.
“What the hell happened?” she repeated. She cried for help a few more times but only silence answered her call. After some time passed, Alana realized she had to help herself if she were to survive whatever happened, wherever she was. She honestly didn’t remember anything that would explain her current situation. “What the hell happened?”
Alana found a small piece of pipe, ripping a piece of her shirt off to create a splint for her arm. Then she picked up a larger piece of pipe. She tested it’s structural integrity and fashioned a sort of crutch. Putting it under her good shoulder and stood up awkwardly. She smiled as she made it to her feet, exhaling with relief.
Standing, she had a better view. The small fires burning were from a wreckage of some kind. She limped around. In the dim illumination, she noticed supplies were scattered everywhere; some burned, others were destroyed. She hoped there were some worth salvaging.
“What the hell?” she murmured as she dug through the half destroyed cargo. “I don’t understand what is happening.”
She felt lucky to find a backpack to carry the things she saved rather quickly. Stuffing a first-aid kit, three MREs, four packets of water purifying tablets, two empty drinking bottles made of metal, and a blanket into the black bag. She sifted the piles around, throwing other good supplies in.
At last, the sun rose high enough for her to see she was in the middle of a crater. In the light of day, she saw the wreckage belonged to what she thought was a space ship.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” she said to herself. “I remember graduating. I remember the job interview, but… I don’t know what’s happening.”
Alana’s brain strained to connect the dots. She had graduated with a dual masters in quantum physics and biochemistry from MIT. The next week, she had nailed an interview with a group of billionaires avid about space exploration. A few days later, she remembered taking a test to become part of an elite program, but she couldn’t recall anything more recent. Her head pulsed.
“Where are all the bodies?” she asked aloud. Shaking her head, she limped around, looking for signs of life or death. “How am I alone?”
She searched the area, barely managing to walk without tears streaming down her face. There was no one, and there was no sign of anyone having been there. She looked to the top of the ridge around the crater.
“Think about it later, Alana. You’ve got to get out of here.” Talking to herself was not a good sign, but she needed to hear someone tell her what to do. “You need to get to the top of the crater by nightfall. And you have no idea how long until then. And you’re super slow so hurry up already and go.”
She slid her splinted arm through the shoulder straps, fighting the urge to scream. When it rested on her shoulder, she slid her other arm in. She picked up her makeshift crutch and took the first painful step out of the burning wreckage. Her body ached under the weight of the bag, and though she wasn’t sure, she felt like the gravity was stronger somehow. Or maybe she was just weak, hungry and tired, she reasoned. Still, she decided she would not stop until she made it to the top of the ridge, and to her credit, she did not.
“You can do it, Alana,” she whispered. “Just another three hundred feet.”
While not much of an athlete, Alana had always been physically fit. Running marathons, hiking mountains, swimming in the ocean, and horseback riding had been her favorite physical activities that had kept her in shape. She wondered if they would keep her alive too.
The minute Alana made it to the top, she dropped her bag and collapsed onto her back. She panted, her vision blurry and spotted. Only then did she notice the sky. There were four moons, all different sizes indicating different distances from the planet which Alana realized in that very moment was not earth.
“What the fuck?”