They say that the most vivid dreams occur just before you come out of the sleep. For Estera, "vivid" did not begin to cover it; they were downright terrifying. Though numerous scientific studies had found that this period of cognitive intensity lasted a mere second before the enchantment wore off, Estera swore that the nightmarish visions went on for countless hours, a seeming eternity of imprisonment in a warped reality. Besides, despite being a mage with a PhD in astrophysics, she had long been skeptical of any "scientific" study purporting to have nailed down the precise mechanics of magic. She knew better than anyone that magic, by its very nature, did not want to be understood.
She had never gotten used to it, and this time was no different. The same blinding light, the same frantic pounding, the only difference was the one who finally opened her coffin to calm her down. "Shhh, you're ok, you're safe now." Calm washed over Estera at the sound of Janek's familiar voice. "It's alright now. I'm going to release you from your safety restraints and ask you a few questions, alright?"
Though most others probably found the perfunctory questions--"What is your name?" "Can you tell me where we are right now?"--and motor skills check boring and pointless, Estera was grateful, feeling more grounded in reality now despite the surreal location. "Where" was easy to answer, though even now she still found herself amazed at how far they had come: she, Janek, and 98 other crew members were aboard the Astral Dawn, a deep-space vessel on a mission to investigate a distinctly magical anomaly in a distant solar system. The Astral Dawn was the first of its kind, a sleeper ship and research station on which magical and non-magical technology worked in tandem. It was an historic mission, to be sure, though anyone back on Earth who would remember it were certainly long dead; the Astral Dawn had been gone for 100 years.
The last time Estera had awoken on this ship had been exactly 50 years ago, though to her it had felt like a mere few hours. Two crew members--at least one of them a mage--were required to be awake at any given time to make sure that things continued to run smoothly. For the entire first year it had been her and Janek, one of the ship's medical officers. He'd been quite talkative back then, Estera remembered, though she was certain she had made a terrible companion. Through most of the long days she kept to herself, asking herself again and again why she had signed up for this mission. Why had any of these 100 men and women signed up? She had thought that there had been nothing left for her back home, nothing to lose, no one left that she loved; but that first year she had been plagued with doubt.
She had barely begun to make peace with her decision when a year was up and another pair was emerging from their pods to begin their watch. Perhaps I'll feel better after a good night's sleep, she thought ruefully as the enchantment slowly washed over her. In a blink of an eye she awoke screaming and flailing once again, another 49 years and 49 pairs gone by. There was no use dwelling on the past now; Estera's decision was a lifetime ago. This time she was determined not to let her second year with Janek slip away from her.
Ok, so I admit that this is more like a fragment of a story than a true flash fiction, but honestly I had no idea where I was going with this when I started and I'm glad I wrote anything at all. I'm pretty curious to see where I can take this idea now, though. I have a few ideas, although I'm debating whether or not to continue this story in another installment in the future. What do you think?