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News & Features » November 2017 » “7Horsehead Nebula: Aboard the Canary” by Breanna Fairchild

“7Horsehead Nebula: Aboard the Canary” by Breanna Fairchild

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, will one girl’s quest to escape the Andromeda galaxy end in peril? A story from Oddities Kaylie Jones Books editor Breanna Fairchild. For more from Oddities KJB, David Andreas’s Angel of the Underground is available now!

7Horsehead Nebula: Aboard the Canary
by Breanna Fairchild
2133 AD

Amelia knew there was no running away when she boarded the glorified tuna can called the Canary. With just the clothes on her back, Amelia agreed to become part of the expedition to avoid the death penalty back in Andromeda. Either way her former life was over. Death sentences were handed out like newspapers from a pageboy; at least what she assumed pageboys did back on Earth.

Still, she couldn’t help feeling uneasy. There was something about the specks of stardust somersaulting through the hydrogen that raised red flags. She glanced at the rest of the passengers, wondering what their thoughts were. No one had said it out loud, but everyone knew their chances of crashing were higher than surviving the journey. If they could find a planet to survive on in Horsehead, then the Andromeden Council would send more people to help populate. If they couldn’t, they were all supposed to die anyway.

“Whatcha thinkin’ girlie?”

“I can’t be the only one feeling on edge,” Amelia replied, meeting Captain Turner’s piercing blue eyes.

He chuckled, stroking his massive white beard. “I think excitement is the only thing this lot is feelin’.”

Unlike Amelia, Turner wasn’t a criminal; he was a scientist for the Andromeden Council. He had been the first one to suggest migration to the Horsehead Nebula, and once he garnered approval, he put together a team of the greatest engineers and smartest minds in the Andromeda Galaxy.

She turned to the thick glass, watching the kamikaze of stardust shatter in sparks of blue and white against the hull as the Canary delved further into the nebula. She shielded her eyes from the blinding rays of Sigma Orionis, and anticipation blossomed in her chest. Turner had said the star would be the first sign of Horsehead. The pinpricks of young stars were scattered among the hydrogenous nursery, sucking in any gas and dust daring to come close.

“Do you regret volunteering?” Amelia asked, her eyes following the hands of the crew members as they sorted through the information pouring onto their screens. Lights blinked from the power boards in front of them, blending in with the rest of the silver in the port.

“Me? Nah. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” said Turner, stretching his shoulders. “I’ll be happy when we finally land.”

If we land.

Amelia gasped when the ship took a sharp turn, and she pitched against the railing. She met Turner’s eyes, bracing herself as the ship scraped against an asteroid. Sirens wailed as an automated voice began shrieking warnings of impact and drops in air pressure.

Turner cackled above the screams. “Canary is the best of the best. She’ll prevail!”

Amelia closed her eyes, feeling as if she had been thrown into the prison bus once more, until finally, all movements ceased.

“Told ya she’d pull through,” Turner said, helping her to stand straight. “And lookie here . . .”

Amelia had never thought it possible, but as the cheers of those aboard the starship thundered in her ears, she realized Turner’s delirious talks about riding the dark horse weren’t so psychotic after all.

The swirling clouds of dust and gas looming outside cast an ethereal glow of pinks and purples, bathing the passengers in the shadow of the nebula. Many people were crying and laughing; clinging to each other as they gazed upon the place they had been promised freedom.

“Drop anchor!” Turner shouted to another bout of cheers echoing through the starboard.

Amelia’s jaw dropped seeing the ship approaching a planet with a massive bright star behind it. “What’s it’s name?”

“That, my girl, is Verdant. According to my readings, she can support human life with the help of her own sun.” Turner patted Amelia’s shoulder.

Amelia gazed at the planet’s purple exterior. Beyond the clouds of hydrogen gas, she could make out the ribbons of rivers winding through the lush terrain on Verdant. She could almost smell the drops of dew on the leaves of the trees and feel the rays of the sun on her face.

For the first time since boarding the Canary, she felt the shackles of retribution stripped away, leaving the renewal of her freedom.


When she’s not killing off characters or arguing with herself, BREANNA FAIRCHILD can be found binge playing video games or sleeping. From the Midwestern town of Marshall, Illinois, she likes to call herself an “accidental writer” due to her beginning stemming from a grounding ten years ago. She is currently an editor for Kaylie Jones Books in the Oddities department, and she is finishing up an Associate’s degree before heading on to Western Governors University for her Bachelor’s.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Nov 17, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,