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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2256540
A spaceship is damaged and finds a planet for the survivors.
For Thrice Prompted
Word Count: 1,405
Prompt: Take a famous poem and rewrite it as a fantasy/sci-fi story


The words were circling in my mind as I surfaced. Turning and turning in the widening gyre. They came from Yeats’ poem, of course, and they had some prominence in my mind anyway, repeating at moments when they became appropriate in what was happening around me. But in my barely conscious state, as I was still trying to gather the shreds of my awareness together, they began to make sense.

Certainly, things seemed to be turning, so that, as I struggled to rise from the floor, I found myself thrown down again by centrifugal force. In the flickering light I could see others falling and rolling in similar fashion. The whole room was turning. But why?

And then I remembered. The explosion in the starboard fuel cells that had sent the ship spinning through space while the world inside her became a chaos of people falling, gear flying through the air, and a maelstrom of dust and debris blurring sight. Whether I had been rendered unconscious by some random object colliding with me or merely by being thrown into a wall or ceiling, I neither knew nor cared. The important thing was to regain control of the ship.

I tried again to get to my feet, this time taking into account the sideways force acting upon my body. And I succeeded, unsteadily at first but increasingly able to move forwards in the right direction as I became accustomed to the whirling world I had woken in. As far as I could recall, I had been on the bridge when the explosion occurred and I staggered around, searching for the helm.

Then it was there, a chair securely fastened to the floor with desk and screens in front of it. I grabbed the back of the chair and pulled myself into the seat. Around me I could sense others reaching their posts through the chaos and I wondered briefly where the helmsman was. Not that it mattered now; I must stop the thing spinning or we were all dead.

Someone found the emergency lighting control for the lights stopped flickering. I could see now what was happening to the ship, a picture formed by the universe spinning though the screens in front of me. The exploding fuel had acted as a booster rocket on the side of the ship, sending her turning end to end and wildly off course. The course could wait. It was the spinning that would keep us helpless passengers in a doomed ship if I could not find a way to counteract the force of that initial explosion.

The words echoed through my mind again as I checked the damage and the port fuel cells. Turning and turning in the widening gyre, but this time they continued. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. I smiled grimly at how appropriate to our situation were the words. Our ship, the Aurora Falcon, was a world in which anarchy had indeed been turned loose.

It was time to stop this wild ride into hell. The port cells appeared undamaged but the only way to be certain was to use them. I fired the navigation jets in the nose and the speed of gyration slowed dramatically. A few more cautious squirts and I had the ship under control again. Still way off course but at least her interior world had settled down and no longer resembled a tornado in a bottle.

A hubbub of voices rose out of the strange silence that followed the storm. The crew were coping admirably, calling out damage reports and attending to the injured. They knew their tasks in such an emergency and I was left to grapple with the problem of where we were and, perhaps more importantly, where our altered course was taking us.

Star sightings and several computer calculations from the results ended in an approximate position, far from our intended destination. We were in uncharted territory but that was no revelation. This was a voyage of exploration, after all, and we were only continuing our brief in an unexpected sector. What worried me was the fuel lost in the explosion. There was no doubt that there was not enough left to retrace our route and get back to inhabited regions.

Our prospects for survival were not great and I was not ready to choose between the few desperate options left to us. I buried myself in damage reports, casualties both injured and dead, and organising repairs where they were possible. We had been badly hurt.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned

By the time I was ready to take a determined look at the options remaining to us, our situation had become much clearer. The residual fuel was enough for limited maneuvering only; long voyages were out of the question. We could turn around and go as far as the fuel would take us towards our departure point and then drift in the hope of being found by a rescue expedition. Or we could look for a habitable planet in the near vicinity on which to land and prepare for a long wait.

Both choices were unappealing. To go back until our fuel ran out would leave us in the same situation we were in now, lost and with the likelihood that the ship would run out of life support systems before rescue arrived. But the chances of finding a habitable planet in this unknown sector were slim, to say the least.

I put it to the vote of the crew and watched as the situation deteriorated into squabbling, politicking and illogical argument. It was no good. Someone, meaning myself, would have to make a decision and go for it.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

It was the sudden appearance of Eden that saved me from the terrible decision. Directly in our path it appeared, a speck at the very limit of our sensors, a tiny dot that might have been placed there for the very purpose of our rescue. In a flood of hope and belief, we named it for what we wanted it to be. As it grew closer with every day, we watched it with mounting expectation.

When the system it belonged to came within range, we were able to calculate that it was where it had to be - in the goldilocks zone relative to its sun. Closer, and we confirmed that it had an atmosphere. The very next day we could see in our strongest scopes that it was blue. The white streaks coalesced soon after that. Atmosphere studies revealed that it was breathable, quite close to Earth’s mix, in fact. When green and brown continents could be seen, we were sure. Not only was Eden habitable, it had life already.

Our desert island was found.

The remaining days were taken up with preparations. The Falcon had no heat shields and would burn up as it entered the atmosphere, so we would have to use the lifeboats. In good order and time, we boarded them and departed the doomed ship as a flock of black birds leaving for a greater world.

As the Falcon began to glow with the friction of its descent, the lifeboats spread out to avoid any disintegrating debris torn from the ship. We headed for our pre-arranged landing spot.

On Eden, the dinosaurs looked up at the sky as a blazing comet lit the night with a fire brighter than the sparkling stars. Smaller meteors fell with the comet, like attendants to a magnificent monarch. A new world in the throes of its youth was about to be changed forever.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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