Threads of Pearl, Writhing
by Gwendolyn Clare
They tell you it won’t hurt—that part is the lie. It does. But afterward, you won’t feel any pain at all. Ever again. They believe the lie because they can’t remember what “hurt” means.
We don’t need the schematics to find our way through the space station’s air ducts anymore. After so many trips back and forth, we’ve worn a path into the film of dust and grease that thickly lines the ducts. We crawl on hands and knees, (we’re expert crawlers now, Angelo and me) and the metal feels slightly warm against my palms. A familiar sensation.
Angelo drops out of the air duct first, landing quiet as a cat on the deck of the control room. He reaches up to give me a hand, though I don’t need one. It’s cute in an old-fashioned, occasionally infuriating sort of way, as if I haven’t had plenty of experience with ducts and maintenance hatches since the station was infested.