This is flash fiction I wrote for the January Science Fiction Microstory Contest. According to the rules it had to be no longer than 750 words, deal with new beginnings and include baggage, obstacles or people from the past that impede progress of the new beginnings.
Masha was dizzy. She tucked an unruly strand of hair behind her ear with a slightly shaking hand and bit her lip. It’s now or never. Bracing herself, she stepped through the door, momentarily blinded by the bright light and deafened by the roar of the crowd. She did a few habitual stretches, barely aware of her body’s movements while the commentator announced the competitors’ names.
The stadium was packed full of 100,000 screaming fans. Masha walked to her mark and checked her equipment. She flexed the steering wings of her suit, got the jetpack onto her back and fastened her helmet. Familiar routine somewhat calmed her down, making her forget for a moment that she was in the Grand Jet Championship Finals. AR kicked in as Masha flicked her visor on, painting the first ring she’d have to fly through a few meters above the ground. Weirdly, Masha could hear her heartbeat but not the screaming of the crowd.
“Today the champion will be determined,” the commentator’s voice was high-pitched with excitement. “3 million Galactic Credits and relocation to any planet within the Somara Federation will be their prize!”
A countdown started, and Masha got ready. On zero, she shot up and through the first ring, seeing the second one reveal itself above her. The third ring was below and to the right and had a smaller diameter. It made her flip her body keeping her left side up to enter it at the right angle.
She couldn’t see the fourth ring, which meant it was behind her. At this speed, turning around was a tough task, and she was dangerously close to the ground. Masha shot up simultaneously braking and flipped on her back speeding up again, but the ring turned out to be too close on her left, and she missed it entirely. Red alert flickered before her eyes, and she knew she’d lost a thousand points. Terrified, Masha barely managed to notice the next ring in time and had to take a hard right and up, but she touched the outline, losing more points. She could feel control slipping away.
“You are nothing!”
All the things her husband said to her populated her head. Her body tightened, and she barely made it into the seventh ring, touching the outline again. Everything was lost! Tears blurred her vision.
The eighth ring was in the part of the stadium that contained physical obstacles increasing the degree of danger. The other competitors were already rushing there.
Masha was trembling as she approached the ring. There was a wall behind it, requiring advanced and dangerous maneuvering.
“I can’t do it,” Masha whispered, closing her eyes.
Behind her eyelids, her daughter was watching her with wide open eyes full of sadness. Her body was bruised, and blood was running from her nose. Masha closed her fists. Jared hadn’t hit Alice yet, but she knew it was a matter of time. There was no one to protect her if Masha fucked up. She thought about the luggage she’d already packed and tucked into the attic for their relocation. About months of training, saving from her allowance, hunting for damaged equipment, repairing it, bringing it to the top-notch level that would allow her to compete. All the competitions she’d won to get here.
Her little girl deserved better!
Masha opened her eyes, focusing on the ring. She flew through it, shot up and to the right, avoiding another competitor, flew mere centimeters above the ground perfectly fitting into the ninth ring, evaded more obstacles, shooting through one ring after another.
Caught in the flow, she flipped and spun to get an extremely tough bonus ring lost by a competitor who’d just crashed into a wall. It was only a meter in diameter and lay at an angle that could make her hit the ground, but she straightened herself while flying through, took a hard left to avoid a wall, shot up when another one suddenly blocked her way and saw one more bonus ring that was flying away from her, changing directions haphazardly. Taking a deep breath, Masha increased her speed to the maximum, imagining Alice’s hand in hers. Strength and energy filled her body. With an impossible flip Masha shot through the ring, suddenly hearing the roar of the crowd and the commentator’s screaming:
“100,000 points! Masha catches the impossible ring setting the world record! The competition is over folks, and what a bang!..”