“Women! In! Peril!”



Blurt #1—Awake Session 1. What is it like to wake up in deep space? Eh. Not glamorous. After 4 mos in Sleep State I crawled out bent w/crusty eyes & flat hair. Good thing there are zero mirrors Onship. Fun fact: 90% of us signed a petition to demand mirrors but the scientists knew the journey would ruin our bodies & said no mirrors you’ll be too ugly sorry.

Blurt #2—Can’t remember what I am supposed to do. Dr. Norton talked about stretching. Stretching & jogging? Grrr. Can barely keep eyes open. Feel sad bc according to scientific projections am now hideous & also brain is swollen.

Blurt #3—This is my first Awake Sesh & TBH it’s kind of a letdown? The Sleeping Beauties & I are lucky to be here for sure but let’s get real. All the stuff you thought would be cool Onship is NOT COOL. Like the hall of antigravity is v barfy & the observation deck is super boring bc there aren’t any comets and/or planets out the window. Obv there must be comets and/or planets scattered among the tiny white pinpricks but they are not like whizzing by with flaming tails & visible rings or oceans.

Blurt #4—TBH am feeling v lonely & sad. The scientists warned that in our first Awakes we’d be Mourning & Transitioning. They said writing these Blurts might help. On Earth Blurts are public but here they are more like a diary bc it takes so many years for a Blurt to reach home. Also v helpful is the button I can press to fill the air with smelly vapor & a sense of well-being. But if I press the button too much I won’t go thru Mourning & Transitioning to reach Acceptance.

Blurt #5—Dr. Norton was my favorite scientist at the Intergalactic Training Facility. He said Passengers must evolve from Defiant Earth Brain to Que Sera Sera Space Brain. That is the goal. Que Sera Sera Space Brain will help me become a productive member of Planet B & PLANET B is for BEST!

Blurt #6—Have not left the cryo-chamber today. The chamber has a bed for each girl in my pod. The beds are fanned in a circle around a glass tube that feeds us w food water air while we’re locked in Sleep State for 120 days at a time. I am supposed to be walking around the ship or whatever but just want to lie in my bed & be w the others.

Blurt #7—Each Awake lasts for 6 days & this is day 6. Have spent lots of time thinking about the ppl I left behind. Which is weird bc almost everyone I left behind is dead. So to avoid being super sad I think about the ppl I barely knew who are maybe still alive. Like the security guard who checked my purse at the Intergalactic Training Facility (Warren). Or the girl with extravagant eyeliner who answered the phones at my old office (Akiko). I make up a story to give them a future. Like Warren & Akiko could meet in a Starbucks. But how?

Blurt #8—Akiko is sad bc there are no phones to answer in the apocalyptic hellscape & she decides to leave Earth. Shows up at IGT-USA to volunteer as a Womber but they send her away bc her mom is still alive & having a dead family is mandatory. So Akiko goes to Starbucks & orders a caramel macchiato. Warren comes in to get like 12 different drinks for the crew at IGT. But Warren spills the drinks bc he’s distracted by Akiko’s crazy made-up eyes. Warren & Akiko feel such instantaneous lust they go inside the onesie bathroom & make out for hours & the guys back at IGT are like where the hell are our drinks? The End.

Blurt #9—The scientists said telling stories is good for the brain. They help our neurons make connections. 1-2-3. First Next & Finally. But sometimes I want to go back & ask them is it still good for your brain if the stories don’t make sense? Bc most of my stories just end suddenly like right there in the Starbucks bathroom & there’s no fucking point.

IDK why our stories have to make sense when the world doesn’t.

Blurt #10—Here is a story. One: We ignored the signs & let a third of the insects & half of the animals & most of the humans die in a single year. Two: They tested my lady parts to see if they worked. Three: I went on a spaceship. Three: I lived on a spaceship. Three: I stayed on a spaceship for two hundred years.

Blurt #1—Awake Session 2. I feel SO MUCH BETTER! Like the whole death & destruction thing on Earth was sad AF but why dwell on the past when the future is bright as hell? I’m #blessed to be going to a better place w plenty of experts who are like the cream of the human crop in terms of goodness & smartness & when The America finally arrives I will open my legs & we will have v good & v smart babies who will grow up in a much better world.

Blurt #2—OK OK. TBH have been pressing the happy vapor button a lot.

Blurt #3—One thing that’s awesome about #eatinginspace is there are 30 different kinds of pudding. Most are sweet & normal flavors (chocolate vanilla butterscotch) but it’s the savory ones I’m kinda getting into??? Like beef pudding sounds gross in theory but I can’t get enuf. Am reminded of those rich guys who used to slurp marrow out of cow bones & claim it was delicious & you know what I BET IT WAS DELICIOUS!!!

Blurt #4— . . . But then I remember it is my destiny to eat pudding for the next 200 years & then 30 flavors don’t seem like enuf?

Blurt #1—Awake Session 3. A development.

Blurt #2—The system has screwed up & given me a friend! I went in the cryo-chamber & found one of the beds wide open. Rushed over thinking oh no how do I close it? But the girl inside seems OK! Just v groggy (like me on first Awake). A bit younger. 18 or 19? Also she is gorgeous. Pretty like a doll w long black hair & pink poofy lips. Is rocking in her cryo-bed. Moaning.

Blurt #3—Friend has not opened her eyes much but when she did they were blue (& full of tears). She has near perfect figure. Skinny w boobs & butt. Am sure the Planet B boys will crawl all over each other to make her their wifey.

Blurt #4—Is actually crazy she woke up bc Awakes are designed to be solo. We get 6 days to exercise & use vocal chords & make spontaneous brain thoughts. I went to the cryo-chamber to visit the Sleeping Beauties & try to predict who will be annoying when they wake up & who will be boring & who will be my friend on Planet B.

Blurt #5—I’d love to play the prediction game all over The America but I only have access to girls in my pod. There are 22 pods Onship which means 22 of us are doing an Awake at any given time. Now it’s 23.

Blurt #6—OK. Went to check on her again. Not v nice interaction. When I approached (doing soft coo sounds) she lashed out w overgrown fingernails & made guttural noises like a puking hyena. She is v strong for someone who’s been in cryo. Fought her off & screamed EEEEEEEE! as I ran from the chamber.

Blurt #7—Is like she is more than a girl. Is Girl+. Has mutated into monster. But obv this is not her fault. On Earth we went thru so much trauma. The only way to survive is to become trauma monster. Like me. I pretend to be normal & follow the rules & do my Awakes & write these Blurts like a real person. But is just an act.

Blurt #8—Like I only signed up for this mission after my sister died. Bc what was the fucking point.

Blurt #9—Am worried. If there are enuf resources for 22 Awakes at a time surely there is enuf air & pudding etc for one more? Am worried about excess carbon dioxide 23 may create w her guttural exhales. Or issues w processing her urine & poop etc. But surely Sleeping Beauties poop during sleep? Fuck. Am not a poop scientist.

Blurt #10—OK. Have sent message from my PalmPong to Mission Control asking for guidance. Will take one or two years to hear back. In meantime will just check on 23. Maybe she has gone to sleep?

Blurt #11— Not sleeping. Out of bed & growling.

Blurt #12—Achievement unlocked! Have placated 23 with food. Laid out v nice spread of bowls on my side of the door & pushed them thru quickly one after the other. 23 dealt with them in propulsive way like my nephew used to do when he realized throwing mashed potatoes would get more attention than eating them.

Blurt #13—That gave me the idea to play the mirror game w 23 Displayed myself TA-DA! thru a little window in the door. Made happy clown face & big clown hands. Look! Am spooning up pudding w my hand! Yum yum! 23 is a genius. She went to town on the bowls. Pork & Pistachio seem to be her favorites. Side note: the cryo-chamber is now a total mess w bowls of upturned pudding & steaming pile of you-know-what in the corner. But 23 has calmed down. Is curled by the cooling vent sucking her thumb.

Blurt #14—The ship is designed to provide food sleep & shelter w zero effort from Passengers but now I think I need to do something & don’t know what it is. What would Dr. Norton do?

Blurt #15—He would ask questions. Like: why is 23 not normal? Her lack of speech & crazy eyes make me think she’s stuck in a waking dream. My bf used to get those. They are open-eye nightmares. You can sort of see what’s happening IRL but it’s all wrong & you can’t wake up bc your brain is trapped.

Blurt #16—Or maybe this is how all Sleeping Beauties act when they’re Awake? Am I the only normal one?

Blurt #17—If that is true then I will be the most popular girl on Planet B. So what if I have small breasts? At least I am not pooping in the corner.

Blurt #18—Maybe 23 has caught a new kind of space sickness that will infect us all eventually.

Blurt #19—Terrible thought: what if I arrive at the colony & find that bc of weird space sickness all men have devolved into feral beasts w zero manners? If this is the situation on Planet B I will be v disappointed. Am hoping they have invented lakes by then so I can jump in one & drown.

Blurt #20—Let’s say 23’s brain is an unsalvageable mess of scrambled eggs. OK. What to do? Stop feeding & let her die? No. Awful thought. Murder is NOT what I signed up for. If I could do it painlessly maybe. But only if she was totally unhappy & her womb was out of commission. Like the scientists said: “Wombs first! Ladies second.”

Blurt #21—Is different tho if Passenger becomes a threat. Right? Bc I promised Dr. Norton I’d uphold The America’s mission. Which is what? WHAT??? Oh just a little thing called SAVING HUMANITY.

Blurt #22—Peeked thru the chamber door & saw her picking her nose. Decided to try waking her up from nightmare. I crouched below the little window & popped up. Shouted BOO! Shouted GOTCHA! 23 watched me at first. Then came to the door & did the same. OO! she said. OOTCH!

Blurt #23—Peekaboo ensued. 23 did what I did. WAKE UP! I clapped my hands. YOU WILL LET GO OF THE DREAM IN 3—2—1! WAKE UP! And 23 repeated: EE—OO—UH! EH UH!

Blurt #24—When she got tired she hurled herself at the walls. Luckily I’m safe on this side of the door. 23 doesn’t know how to hit the button to exit the chamber so I’ll just sit tight & watch thru the window & see what happens.

Blurt #25—Might as well switch on the ole happy vapor again. Just a weensy hit. Has been a v stressful day after all.

Blurt #26—Hmm. Just woke from brief nap on the exercise mat & went to check on 23. Can’t see her thru the window. Pudding & poo still there.

Blurt #27—Have armored up! Put on hazmat-type suit I found in the Emergencies closet. (Surely this counts as emergencies.) Also found mop with heavy metal bottom to use as a weapon. Now! Am going into the chamber to find 23.

Blurt #28—If I don’t come back tell my people I tried.

Blurt #29—Success! Or at least: Not complete failure! I entered the chamber & inspected the premises. (Wearing hazmat suit was good idea as it kept the stench at bay.) Sleeping Beauties were sleeping peacefully in their cryo-beds. But 23 was gone! She must have remembered how to open the door. I left the room & sealed the door behind me. OK. We’d advanced to hide & seek. I checked the kitchen & head & obs deck & hall of antigravity & library. No 23.

Blurt #30—Had idea she might be on the lower level. They told us during Orientation not to go downstairs bc doing so might potentially mess with engines & computers etc. But she could be down there. Putting whole mission in peril???

Blurt #31—I grabbed my mop & went to the library. There’s a hatch in the bench of the reading nook & a hole below that leading who knows where. I lifted the cushion & unlocked the steel panel & entered the hole feet-first. I landed in darkness but a blue light sensed my movement & switched on over my head. A metal catwalk led in four directions. I picked one & moved forward.

Blurt #32—More blue lights came on as I walked. Below me darkness. Red & green lights blinking. Three ladders descending into depths. Reached a dead end. A wall. Put my hands on the curved metal. Icy. Magnetic. Yanked my hands back. Then heard a sound behind me. Growling. I turned around.

Blurt #33—It was 23. Naked except for a pair of soiled underwear. But instead of fear I felt sorry for her. I knew this state of awfulness. I’d been there too.

Blurt #34—At my absolute worst I told my bf to go underground. We got together at the beginning of the end but it was a mistake. After Angie there was nothing left & he tried to bathe & soothe me but I didn’t want to be bathed & soothed. To get rid of him for good I suggested he’d be happier in the subterranean communities. I knew the risks but kept feeding him the idea until he got the hint & took off. Later I heard all the Undergrounders suffocated or froze. I heard this & didn’t feel bad. I didn’t feel anything.

Blurt #35—23 growled. Seemed ready to eat me alive but I was like NO. I didn’t come all this way to be eaten. I brandished the mop between us. Gave her an EH? EH? look. 23 raised her hands into claws but I said NO FIGHTING 23! WE ARE WOMEN NOT MONSTERS! WAKE UP NOW! She

shouted right back HEY UH OW! which gave me an idea. I dropped the mop & waited. She dropped her claws & blinked at me w interest. I said v nicely: You want to take a shower? Then brushed past her & walked calmly down the catwalk. Halfway to the hatch I looked back & sure enuf she had followed me.

Blurt #36—In the library 23 popped up thru the hole & held out her hand for a lift & when I led us to the head she stepped close behind me like a little kid. Took her to shower stall & got in. Started the hot water so she could see how it worked. Then switched it to blow dry & got out. Was prepared to push her in if necessary but 23 hopped past me & shut the door.

Blurt #37—The showers on The America are excellent. Fragrant foam bubbles shoot out & mechanical arms reach down & scrub at you like you’re a piece of fruit at the factory. My old office supported a food lab & we got to take home misshapen steaks & vegetables for free. We never got to take the fruits tho bc they came out so uniform & perfect. Round red apples. Round yellow bananas. Round orange oranges. Each sweet & crunchy orb got scrubbed until its skin was smooth & shiny as chrome. The bots packed the fruit into canisters & slapped talking stickers on the front. The stickers said: Now in awesome new flavors! Try green kiwi & purple grape!

Blurt #38—Actually 23 has been in the shower a long time. I came to the library to blurt but I better go see if she’s OK.

Blurt #39—Shower complete! 23 looks terrific. Rosy & glowing. Kinda smiling with this sparkle in her eyes like THANKS I

NEEDED THAT. We went to kitchen & dined on meat pudding & drank our vitamins. Now 23’s face is droopy. I’m tired too.

Blurt #40—On no! In all the excitement I forgot to enter Sleep State. What a big fuck up. 23 & I need to get in our beds pronto. If other girls don’t Awake at the right time they will turn into potatoes.

Blurt #1—Awake Session 4. Alarms going off. Red & blue lights. 23 is gone.

Blurt #2—V worried about 23. But also constant EEE-OO-EEE-OO driving me bonkers.

Blurt #3—Should not have fallen asleep & left 23 alone!!!

Blurt #4—After dinner I took her to our chamber. But she flapped at her cryo-bed & emitted shriek-moans of horror. I never dream in Sleep State but maybe it’s different for 23. She looked at me w nightmare eyes & dragged us out the door.

Blurt #5—Had idea that I could sneak 23 into her cryo-bed if she fell asleep in a safe space first. So I took her to the gym mats & said Oh it’s time for a nap what a nice little nap we’ll have. 23 understood & was happy. Plopped down & patted the mat beside her. I felt touched. So much had changed since we first met!

Blurt #6—Realized I hadn’t slept w anybody since Angie died.

Blurt #7—23 snuggled into me. I tried to seem like I was falling asleep but at same time NOT fall asleep. V difficult. V sleepy & cozy on the mats. But knew I mustn’t fall asleep. Mustn’t mustn’t. Heard soft snores behind me & sat up. Looked at 23. A full-sized person! Too sleepy to carry her. Could barely carry myself. Had to crawl back to our chamber. Heaved into bed & locked in. Hoped 23 would follow my lead.

Blurt #8—& now the alarms are going off & the Sleeping Beauties look frozen & I would like to know why EVERYTHING on this mother loving ship has to happen to ME????

Blurt #9—Actually am not sure if I slept the full 3 mos. The countdown clock in the kitchen is blinking ZERO ZERO ZERO like all the power went off & something needs to be reset.

Blurt #10—Maybe 23 went down to lower level again? Maybe she got scared and accidentally pulled a plug? Does this ship have plugs? OK OK am going down to check.

Blurt #11—Inspected catwalk. Used my PalmPong as flashlight to look for anything amiss. Nothing amiss. Decided to climb down the ladders. The first led to a big tank. The second dropped into a storage room. The third wasn’t attached v well to the catwalk & the rungs felt rickety under my hands. On lower level I passed a huge bank of servers. Now am at a wall of blinking lights. At the center of wall is a control panel w a screen spewing lines of green text.

Blurt #12—FAULT FAULT FAULT. When I scroll back in the feed it says TRAJECTORY ERROR. OUTCOME FATAL. REASSIGN COORDINATES.

Blurt #13—Apparently The America is headed for a CATACLYSMIC EVENT. I memorized the coordinates of the FATALITY POINT which is 1.3382 light years ahead. Then noticed a small keyboard under a red plastic panel. I lifted the panel & typed: TURN OFF ALARM. And alarms stopped! Am hero!

Blurt #14—OK OK. Still need to save the mission. First I will look up the FATALITY coords to see where we are headed. Then maybe can enter new coords for Planet B? HELL YEAH!!!

Blurt #15—Have figured out the EVENT. But kind of wish I hadn’t? Ship is set to collide w a white dwarf. A collapsing star that will suck us into its density & destroy us. Point of no return = approx 88 hours.

Blurt #16—No one else can fix this. I must fix this. OK. Need to look up Planet B coords. Then can type them on keyboard & all will be OK OK OK

Blurt #17—Except WHERE ARE THE FUCKING COORDS FOR PLANET B GAHHHHHHHHHH

Blurt #18—OK found them. Were inside an informational booklet. No need to panic. Hope 23 couldn’t hear me screaming. I’ll just pop downstairs to the control panel & type in these bad boys.

Blurt #19—Hmm. System will not let me enter new coords. Screen said ERROR—USER NOT AUTHORIZED FOR ADVANCED COMMAND—CONTACT SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR.

Blurt #20—I mean 330 viable wombs are going to be blown to smithereens I thot mayb pword isin info booklt butisnot in th dum boklet & we aare gong to di

Blurt #21—Cannot believe what just happened.

Blurt #22—Was banging control panel & screaming when heard a noise. Went to investigate. Was 23!!! She was screeching at the bank of servers. Hiding downstairs this whole time?

Blurt #23—Could not help it. Felt emotional. Grabbed her in desperate hug & sobbed my eyes out. 23 hugged back & also sobbed. We were 2 peas in a pod of sadness.

Blurt #24—Felt a bit better & went back to control panel. Maybe we could hack into system? But screen kept locking me out. 23 went UNH UNH & pointed upstairs. NOT NOW I said. I’M BUSY. She kept grabbing my hand & yanking. Finally I grabbed her hand in mine & said STOP IT & banged our hands down on the keyboard.

Blurt #25—The green text changed & said: WELCOME BACK SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR. I was like Whaaaaaat? How did she get to be a system administrator?

Blurt #26—I lunged at the keyboard & typed SET NEW COORDINATES. At the same moment 23 ran past me. I let her go at first but the system shut me out. ACCESS DENIED. I ran & saw her hustling up the ladder so scuttled up too & chased her on the catwalk but at the library she slammed the hatch in my face. I spent forever trying to break thru. Now have given up. Am in total darkness. Alone. Less than 88 hrs to live.

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Excerpted from the story “Women! In! Peril!” from the collection, Women! In! Peril! by Jessie Ren Marshall. Used with permission of the publisher, Bloomsbury. Copyright © 2024 by Jessie Ren Marshall.



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