Arrival, The

by: Chris Fradkin

It loomed ahead—the schism, the break, the seam, the—his eyes swept briefly to the left. She’s back, he said. His hands perspired in gortex gloves; he dialed the air-temp down. Like always, she’s behind me. Altimeter: 4 km. Too high—his hands grew tighter. She’ll place me if our instruments connect. He dipped to 1.5 and held her strong. It’s coming up, he said. A reflection crossed his field. Oh shit, he said, and banked it to the right. She shot past through his contrail, through the sun. He jammed the stick and sailed off through a cloud. Peace, he thought. He checked the instruments. Altimeter: 2 km. It’s perfect; I’ll just sail through in these clouds. Altimeter: 1 km. What’s going wrong? He pulled the stick—the frigging thing was fixed. Altimeter: 1 km and falling. He checked his chute—the straps were tight. The light was building brighter. He pressed eject and shot up through the sky. As he sailed into the schism, he watched her take his craft. The explosion jarred the wind that filled his sails. His lungs filled with relief as the lights dimmed down below. But in the distance she awaited his arrival.