The crew of the Golden Geode crossed their fingers as the ship struggled through a space storm.
There was no turning back to earth. They had to get to the closest planet, Saturn.
The ship’s hull quivered as they entered Saturn’s atmosphere that was also experiencing massive turbulence and white-out blizzards.
The Planetary Federation Way Station was their destination. Relying on the ship’s automatic pilot they landed on an open strip of land near the Way Station. The ship’s three-man crew and six passengers donned protective suits and helmets and climbed down the ship’s ladder.
The space suits had built-in guidance systems so the tiny group were able to find the Way Station despite being blinded by the furious blizzard. An automatic air lock door opened as they approached.
The environment inside was exactly like earth. Lining one wall was a series of hologram fireplaces and comfy country scenes. There was a well-stocked bar offering liquors from throughout the solar system.
The supervisor at the Way Station asked the Golden Geode’s captain if the supply ship was close behind him?
“No. As far as I could tell, it turned around before the space storm hit. We were lucky to even make it here. My ship has suffered some damage that will have to be taken care of.”
A look of concern passed across the supervisor’s face. He stroked his beard thoughtfully before telling the captain the bad news, “We’re almost out of food for the nine people here (counting myself), and with the addition of nine more people we have a big problem.”
The captain’s relief at landing safely and being inside a shelter slipped away like a thief in the night. Now he was faced with another life or death situation.
Just to complicate things, three of the passengers were criminals being transported to the prison planet Pluto. The other three passengers were their guards.
According to the Way Station’s weather service the blizzard wasn’t going away soon. The wind gusts were the fastest ever recorded since the station was built 50 years ago. No one was going anywhere.
The food was rationed among the eighteen people and lasted one week. Hunger was clawing at their guts after 10 days and the first fight broke out. One of the employees at the Way Station had been drinking booze on and off for two days when he assaulted the only female employee.
The attack was swift and vicious! He bit her arm and then sunk his teeth into her left breast. The woman’s screams aroused one of the guards and he ran to her rescue. He hit the attacker on his head with a billy club.
In his anger he didn’t stop hitting the attacker until he was a bloody mess and dead. By then everyone was awake and watching the gruesome scene. The captain and the supervisor pulled the guard off the dead man.
He had blood splattered all over his face and arms. They drug the body over to a corner of the main lounge and threw a rug over it. After questioning the female employee they decided not to take any action against the guard.
By day 14 everyone, but one of the guards, was so weakened they could barely walk. All they had was water, which they drank in such quantities it made them sick and spew it back up. One guard wasn’t losing weight like the rest.
Finally, one night when everyone was sleeping, but the captain and the guard, the loathsome truth came to light. The captain, who woke up from a nightmare, saw the guard lift the rug in the corner of the room.
He watched as the guard cut away slices of dead flesh and then cover the body back up.
The next day the captain told the supervisor what he saw. They both walked over to the body and lifted up the rug. Almost half of the rotting flesh was gone. Cut to the bone.
They gathered everyone together in the center of the main lounge. Almost all had to crawl to get there. A vote was taken. Not to punish the guard, but to do the same thing. When the rest of the meat was gone they decided to hold a lottery.
The loser was the next meal.
When the supply ship arrived two months later they were surprised to see the Way Station empty. Searchers finally discovered a man hiding behind the bar.
“You look good enough to eat,” the captain said, as they helped him to his feet.
As It Stands, I had the ill-fated Donner Party in mind when I wrote this modern version about cannibalism.