She lay there on the ground, breathing deeply, sifting the alien sand through her fingers.
Why doesn't this atmosphere hurry up and kill me, she thought, taking another deep, rattling breath.
The shuttle lay nose-buried in a dune with colorful featherlettes protruding from its dome. No dust had settled; rather, little fey motes had streaked away from it in terror until it stopped groaning, and now clustered on the crumpled landing gear.
Well, her lungs were about to seize up. About time, she thought.
She was tired of it; tired of all the wonders. Her eightieth exploratory landing, her twelfth planet discovered. And still her bones were tired, and she couldn't get a date, and her dog had died a hundred years ago.
Racing light is for suckers, she thought. Fuck the wonders! C'mon already, oblivion!
"What is this. . . oblivion?" something said in her ear.
"Buddha wept in a cantina!" she shouted. She leapt to her feet, coughed, and her knees buckled. Man, she thought, if there were more chlorine in the air, this would all be over. . . .
There was nothing there but a voice, perhaps a twinkle in the air. Hallucinogens in the atmo; great! Now she could sink into delusion before she died; that should make it easier. . . .
"You will not transition," the voice said carefully, as if language was something new and delicate to manipulate. "You cannot achieve your goal of discorporation here."
Hell I can't, she thought. Her lungs were blazing and her pulse fluttering. It sure felt like dying. . . .
"No, our world will adapt to you momentarily. Your form will not lose your essence." A pause, and then, like an invocation. "It is so."
With one last rattle, her breathing cleared. She felt something surge through her bloodstream. The sky went from off-pink to a faint, faint blue. The featherlettes danced in a sudden light breeze, and the fey motes shifted in their swarming and their lights dimmed.
Crap, she thought. Please, I would just like to die.
She felt a presence shake its head. "I am apologetic, but no. You must earn your end here."
She felt the presence fade. The sun shone brightly, and off to her left, the featherlettes wilted, and something like an apple tree began to spring up.
Fuck the wonders, she thought. Maybe I can hang myself from it in a couple of days.