Three Buboes

by James McGirk

To hurtle through space we had to live on asteroids; to live on asteroids, flesh and bone were rasped from our bodies. Glass blowers found three cavities in the porous galactic stone and blew bubbles to contain us. Topped us off with nutritious fluids, and pushed us out—

It’s dark. I am the navigator but don’t know the coordinates. Was it a flaw or was it my fault? I don’t remember. We are hatchlings never to hatch. We sip bitter yolk and squirm in the dark. The others turned against me. I felt them plotting, but my terror fizzled out long ago. If I were to die it would poison us all. Instead they transmit memories: a bucket of squirming, limbless, helpless things gnashing their teeth as they die; a bacterium contaminating a sample in a dank spot; a broken shell; a low flame guttering that takes forever to finally sputter out.

It’s getting brighter. Rays of starlight perforate our golden coat. My friends squirm against me transmitting warmth. We twitch with anticipation. The light gets brighter. We droop down a gravity well. Our broth begins to bubble. We bath in radiation. Our broth is scalding. Translucent membrane turns opaque. Gold light turns white. The bubble pops. Crushed glass circles the sun.

A gloved tentacle taps the glass. “One of the cavities is intact.” The two astronauts carefully chisel the globe from the porous rock. The terrarium looks like a marble, fragile blues and green and white. “Did you ever read Goldilocks?” One asked the other, before he unsheathed his tentacle, snapped the glass and sucked our innards out.