“Into the Void” by Scott J. Couturier

We pooled our credits to come out here—
levied organs & tissues, begat offspring to sell.
A starship of archaic design, pushing
into unplumbed space—our fears quelled,
impending engulfing horrors of nova-fire
eluded by a reckless race into the void.

We heard of a paradise amid the stars—
a place where Old Colonies once flourished,
diadem of moons teeming with life that
ancient technologies now-forgot nourished.
We charted for a distant signal, hiss of sentience
suffused by background radiation unalloyed.

The dreams of the tank!—lungs filled with
azure liquid, skin wrinkling to a skein of knots.
Always I gasp & struggle when the suspension
fluid first pours in, accompanied by lulling shots.
Our computer too primitive to be aught but
beneficent: decks monthly dusted by dumb androids.

At last, after bleak ages of interstellar flight,
we awaken—or rather, I alone awake.
The rest have long-putrefied in their tanks,
carcasses suspended by faulty hoses’ snake.
Alone, I weep for my companions in escape
as viewscreens disclose a winter-wroth planetoid.

A quick scan reveals barest hints of life.
Down, down through an atmosphere thin
& wracked by orbiting waste, acidic flakes
of snow swirling amid the maelstrom’s din.
I see at last the way-station, perched on crags
of ever-during ice, a place all but the lost avoid.

Here lurk lonely merchants & mercenaries,
star-jockeys of fraught & antiquated wars.
Time dilation means those who arrive come
from all eras & extremities, via celestial doors.
They sit & drink, & pine for pasts unremembered
by history, confined to this austere asteroid.

Some are shivering mounds of gelatinous mold,
others ambient clusters of color with mind & voice.
Some resemble stones, or trees, or cloth falling in fold—
all sullen & grumbling, none stranded by choice.
Only rarely do I encounter a creature readily
described, in anthropomorphic terms, as ‘humanoid.’

No ambition but to recount weary tales of exploration
or battle, palates roused by a surfeit of sauce:
The bar is kept by an entity arcane, which weeps
tears of flame for each itemized conquest or loss.
Here I toast to my fellows, rotten in their tanks—
or rather fermented, juices meant to be enjoyed.

Scott J. Couturier is a poet & prose writer of the Weird, liminal, & darkly fantastic. His work has appeared in numerous venues, including The Audient Void, Spectral Realms, The Dark Corner Zine, Space and Time Magazine, & Weirdbook. Currently he works as a copy & content editor for Mission Point Press, living an obscure reverie in the wilds of northern Michigan with his partner/live-in editor & two cats. His debut collection of Weird & autumnal verse, I Awaken In October, is due out late 2022 from Jackanapes Press.