Hide and Seek
The world’s worst babysitter, I was playing hide-and-seek with the girls I could only think of as the twins—unable to remember their names, you see—when to my shock I stumbled across a third sister squeezed under the kitchen sink, her face a mirror of the others’ aside from being wet. At precisely that point, the other two I’d already found rounded the kitchen bar, saw her, and started screaming.
Two demotions and office relocations later, I found myself working out of Basement 7A--the same room to which my last few predecessors had been condemned before they left the company--utterly alone with just the sounds of the boiler room and a set of old coffee cans for company. I popped the lid on one coffee can and found only ash; popped the lid on the second and found ash with bits of bone; then popped the lid on the third, and in the ash found someone's titanium dental implants.
The words tumbled from me in a breathless cascade: “The ship computer woke me up hours ago and – well, it’s good to hear a voice – but I’m going out of my mind because I thought I was signing up for a full expedition, not a solo trip, but then I woke up and you can imagine my alarm at discovering I’m all by myself on board--”
“But sir,” the woman on the other end of the entanglement phone interrupted, “that’s why we woke you -- there were twenty people in cryosleep in that ship when we packed you all off a year ago, and we need to know what happened to the other 19.”
I was in the middle of clearing out a precious stash of canned goods in the abandoned Army facility's walk-in pantry when a cacophony of static and popping erupted from the dining room. "What the hell did you do?" I asked, entering the other room to find Steve standing ashen-faced over his once-inert Geiger counter, a screwdriver in his right hand -- and the tattered remains of a now-empty battery pack still clenched in his left.