The man leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on a console, trying to pour himself one more drink from an empty bottle.
Nothing came out and he squinted into it, seeking proof it was really dry.
He wasn’t particularly worried over the shards of shattered glass that spread all over the floor when it hit the wall behind him. He was worried about being out of whiskey. Drought would be a real problem.
He rose to his feet on unsteady legs and made his way to a cabinet hanging on the wall. Damn this floor is unsteady. They don’t make them like they used to.
At least he found more booze, and he cradled the bottle.
Talking to bottles might not be a good habit, but there wasn’t anyone around to hear him, so who cared.
He started drinking when he left station TL52 earlier in the day. He had been paid well and carried nice new cargo that would pay even better. These were good reasons to celebrate. Especially since bad memories tended to seep into his mind, ruining any good mood. Using alcohol to chase his ghosts away seemed reasonable. The first drink was lonely in his stomach and wanted company by a second one, and so it went.
As soon as he sat down, the proximity alarm blared.
What the hell, space is huge. How can there possibly be someone out there?
He braced himself for the collision, but remembered to protect the fresh bottle, just in case he’d survive.
A moment later, a woman stood in the middle of the room. She crossed her arms and lifted an eyebrow.
“What did you do that for? Space is so big and you just had to run into me?”
She glanced around the room and wrinkled her nose.
“Oh my God, I’ve been rammed by a trash barge. I bet you have rats too.”
It didn’t seem that bad. Sure he had some empty bottles, shards of glass, and plates with mouldy food, but there were worse places.
“How did you… Where’d you come from?”
Why was speaking so difficult? He tried again.
“Oh, I get it, you’re a hallunication. Because I’m hrunk. Right?”
At least the alarms fell silent. Maybe he died in the collision and this was either heaven or hell.
I think I’m alive, but I’m not sure.
“Oh you’re hrunk alright.”
To his surprise, the unlikely woman giggled. “A drunk hunk, that makes a hrunk. What’d you do? Bathe in scotch?”
Scotch? Sounds good.
He took a swig and squinted at her. His eyes probably weren’t trustworthy; women always seemed pretty when he was drunk, and they usually turned out to be hideous the next morning. Still, this one appeared to be beautiful for real. She shouted at him again, nothing new there.
Some nonsense about rats.
It made no sense but he shrugged it off.
All women were crazy anyway.
Drawing his gun and pointing it at her was more difficult than it should have been. The weapon swayed from side to side, but it was probably her moving.
He attempted to rise from the chair to demand information, but doing so turned out to be too much work.
Why is the stupid room spinning? Another drink might help. Maybe that’ll make her go away too, or at least be quiet.
When he put the bottle down again, the woman held a hand out to him.
“I’m Maria Callaway. It’s nice to meet you.”
How is it nice to meet you? I mean me…
He looked at the hand as if it was a peculiar artefact. Maria Callaway sounded like a name, but it was wrong. Her name ought to be sexy. The thought made him grin and gave a big enough boost of adrenaline to get to his feet.
He should shake her hand, but when he looked at his right hand it held the precious bottle. He couldn’t drop that. The other held his gun. Why had he drawn his weapon again? Not important. Getting it back into the holster was too much work and he tossed it on a console.
The hand looked like a fragile object he might accidentally break, and he took it carefully.
“I’m Stephan. Stephan Forks. Uh, sorry ‘bout your ship.”
This time he realized he slurred. What way was that to talk to a beautiful woman? She should be in his bed and not on his bridge. He closed one eye, reasoning it might be easier to focus on her if he didn’t use both of them, and examined her slender body, pale skin, long black hair, and big green eyes. It was easy to imagine kissing those perfect lips and touching those perfect breasts…
Yeah, she was probably beautiful for real, and not just because he was drunk.
“So... what’s a ship like you doing in a woman like this?”
It didn’t sound right even in his own ears and he grimaced, muttering, “ship, woman, what’s a woman doing in a ship... eh, who cares, too much work.”
Maria answered dryly, “Yes, I’m starting to wonder that myself.”
“Meh, you’re not real anyway.”
He returned his attention to his old friend in the bottle. The walking and talking hallucination might go away if he ignored it. Strange how solid she seemed though.