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Bullet Ride

by Jeremiah Tolbert

Our reentry pods skip across the over Africa to South America in a handful of seconds and Jessie is screaming like she did when we snuck off to ride the Dubai coasters while my parents negotiated treaties with her parents in Geneva. The Mission Control people are chuckling over the comm, so I guess it's not uncommon for return trippers to treat the whole thing like just another amusement park ride.

I hated the coasters. The only reason I ever rode them was because Jessie would let me feel her up afterwards. I hate this just as much, and I am pretty sure I just wet myself or worse. My heart is bouncing off my rib cages like a raver on E-plus.

"The problem with you," Jessie said to me below the coaster while I puked my lunch onto the sizzling-hot pavement, "is that you just can't let go. You need to conquer your fear of death and make it work for you."

Hence our trip back from the L5 station as bullets fired at the Earth's atmosphere inside goo-filled pods.

She's going to fuck me when we land.

So it's probably worth it.

"Parachutes to deploy in t-minus eight," a woman's voice says through my comm. "There will be a slight bump."

I feel the bump, only it's more like a maglev train crashing into a brick wall. Jessie stops screaming. The silence scares me more than the screaming.

I'm surrounded by impact, g-resistant gel, so I can barely move my fingers to text: Jessie?

No answer. I hit my panic button.

"Remain calm," says the woman's voice. "Your reentry pod is functioning normally." I can hear frantic argument behind her, but I can't make out the words.

What about Jessie? I text as fast as I can. The pressure is letting up. I can feel gravity's pull at my feet again, and the pod is swaying gently.

No answer.

I'm not dumb. I know what's happened. Jessie was my best friend, maybe my only friend. But all I can think is, Shit. Now I'm never going to lose my virginity.

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