Rough Landing, a story for the Giraffe Call (@ellen_million)

Written to ellenmillion‘s prompt here to my Giraffe Call!

The trip had been, by turns, terrifying, nauseating, and strange, but, stuck in the cargo hold, there had been nothing they could do but wait it out. The door to the rest of the ship did not open from the inside, and the food was delivered via a very well-designed dumbwaiter that would not move upwards if laden with more than it had come down with.

The measures that had been designed to keep involuntary passengers under control very likely saved their life when the freighter encountered trouble. The first they knew of it was the sound like metal screaming and the sudden sensation of moving very quickly in the wrong direction.

They scrambled for their bunks, the thin mattresses and straps designed to be just about the minimum required protection against re-entry pressures, holding on to their lash-in straps. They tried not to scream, tried not to cry, but the world had just gotten even stranger, and few of them stayed stoic. At least one of them prayed.

The impact was awful, a bone-jarring, tooth-shaking crash. The secondary impact – what they would later learn was the rest of the ship crashing to the ground – bounced their portion of the ship again and shook loose what cargo that hadn’t shaken loose the first time. Kegs of rum and whisky rolled everywhere, followed by the heavy cases of Schirsner ore. The best Donegal dust-silk landed on top one set of bunks – bales and bales of it, but at least it was softer than the whisky kegs.

Nur got to her feet first. She was the oldest of the cargo hold’s sentient stock, just past her fifteenth birthday. She’d held together on the journey by minding the younger kids, telling them stories, singing them songs.

Now she started counting heads and pulling kids out of bunks. “It’s all right. We’re going to be fine. Someone will find us soon. It’s a big freighter. Someone will notice. It’s all right… Where’s Tod?”

She gathered them together, injured or no, scared or crying or wetted or no, in the clearest place in the center of the cargo hold. The whole thing was listing at a shallow angle, but it was, at least, not moving. “We’re going to be okay,” she lied to them, like she’d been reassuring them since they’d been loaded into the ship. “Just like the Swiss Family Robinson. Have I told you that one yet?”

If you want more – and I definitely have more in mind for this one! – drop a tip in the tip pack below.

Giraffe Call rates apply: $1/100 words.

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