Funny, the way time slows down when you're staring death in the face. The sound of a torpedo striking your deck is incredible. The sound, the light, the heat. Vacuum. Rushing to fill the spaces around you where air was but a moment before. Unconciousness. The calm before the storm. And then... rebirth.

-- and I am falling no not falling flying flying toward the hole in the sky toward the water but the water doesn't have stars or wind or the noise the noise the noise and oh God, they actually hit us, those bastards actually shot us, and they're shooting to kill, you don't shoot the bridge unless you're shooting to kill Jesus help us, and... calm. I have to calm down, the hull is breached and we're all going to die and rust-orange fluid is leaking where the wall used to be, the ship is bleeding, it's dying and it's bleeding like a living thing and oh God CALM, dammit.

If you're lucky, the explosion might kill you. If not, the hard vacuum of space will finish the job. You will be bodily ripped from the cabin that was, only moments before, intact. It's been said that you will survive in the vacuum of space for about thirty seconds. It's been proven that you will remain concious for about fourteen.

Falling, I'm falling, why haven't they sealed the breach yet, grab on to something, anything, oh God was that hair? I think that was someone's hair and a mess, I think it was their face, their face, oh Jesus they were too close, too close to the hull and I'm not going to make it...

Thirty seconds.

Detrius, expelled at speed from its container. An infintesimal speck in space.

There is no God. There is no God, there is no soul, I am going to die out here, cold and broken and alone. Who is going to be left? Who is going to tell my family? Oh God, my family...

Six years ago, that night was... we were swimming. It was cold, yeah, but she went in first and I wasn't going to let her show me up. "Hey Frank, cold?" She was always a tease. "Who, me? Aww hell no." I could barely keep my damn teeth from chattering. Breasts floating above the moon refracted and drifting on ripples. I thought I might love her then.

Twenty-eight seconds.

Ears pop as the pressure equalizes. Air in your lungs expands. If you were holding your breath on decompression, they may rupture, like a pair of balloons that ventured too high into the sky.

When I was fourteen, I lost my virginity. My first time was in the back seat of a high-school senior's car. I thought I was on top of the world until her boyfriend beat me up.

Twenty-four seconds.

Saliva boils in vacuum.

Four months before the lake, downtown Seattle. Stumbling from one dive of a bar to next, always drunk. I ran into her then, I guess. Literally ran into. Knocked her flat on her ass. "Oh, shit! Sorry!" I must have helped her up, I don't remember. I must have helped her up. Saw her eyes. "Sorry, lady. My... my name is Frank." She has this look, she looks right into your soul. She used it then; must have liked what she saw. She dusted off her ass and smiled. "Sandy." I scratched my head and took a chance. "Hey, you busy? Let me buy you a drink." She nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, okay."

Twenty-one seconds.

The skin and underlying tissue begins to swell because of the difference in pressure, though the tensile strength of the epidermis prevents a human being from physically exploding in vacuum.

"Marry me." "Yes." We were wed after eight months, it was maybe the best thing that had happened to me for a long, long time. "You may kiss the bride." And later that night, "There's no going back now, Frank." Straight to my face, blunt. God, I love her. "I know... I know. I think I'm okay with that."

Eighteen seconds.

The beginning of a bad sunburn forms as the skin absorbs unbuffered solar radiation.

Twenty-two years ago. I was eight. I fell out of a tree, broke my arm in two places. Funny, I remember falling, and running into the house after, but I don't remember hitting the ground.

Thirteen seconds.

Unconciousness as oxygen-deprived blood begins to reach the brain.

Drafted. The pirates came out of the asteroid belt without warning and without mercy. By the time the sun rose on Earth the next morning, Mars Colony was a smoking ruin. Drafted. A solar navy was erected almost overnight to fight a new war. The pirates must have been laughing as the first-wave assault died on the beaches of that new Normandy, maybe more ships falling to the hazards of combat in an asteroid belt than to the pirates themselves. Maybe two hundred men came back from that first attack, out of four thousand. I was still in bootcamp.

Ten seconds.

Nitrogen gas dissolved in the bloodstream begins to coalesce into bubbles. Divers call it "the bends."

Sandy... Sandy... Forgive me, baby.

I cheated on her once. Just once. Three days before I shipped out, second wave. I thought I was going to die, we all did. Prostitutes in a sleazy hotel an hour from base. It felt good, I guess, calmed my nerves, but I felt dirty. Never again. Never again.

Eight seconds.

One last phonecall. "I love you." "I love you." "Come back to me in one piece, okay?" "Okay, babe. Be strong." There were no tears. Thank God for that. I probably would have broken down and bawled in front of eight thousand guys.

Five seconds.

Two-hundred fifteen ships launching, one every seventeen seconds. Forty-five more launching from the moon on rendezvous paths. Twenty-two hours to fly over what was left of Mars Colony, just a smoggy blot from orbit. Two days to get into position for the assault.

Three seconds.

Injuries begin to accumulate. The body begins to shut down.

We had a kid, that first year we were married, a baby girl. Sara. She's beautiful. Has her mother's eyes. Her smile too, now that she's older. Another one, a brother. Justin. My babies, my beautiful babies.

One second.

Oh God keep them safe keep my family safe don't let them ever know this kind of life in this kind of God damned war just please don't let me die for nothing, keep them safe, keep them safe, keep them...

I love you, Sandy.