There were two girls ahead of her, holding hands. They leaned their helmasks together like a couple from another lifetime might have rested one’s head on the other’s shoulder.
For once, Mia’s helmask was not bothering her; the sun was hiding behind a rare cloud. She was enjoying the freedom the shuttle could not offer, and she imagined removing her helmask to feel the wind on her cheeks for the first time in her life.
Mia stopped. What was she seeing? This must be her imagination because she was just thinking about it—no one would be that stupid.
But it turned out they were. The two girls who were walking in front of her had deviated off the path and sat down on the dead grass next to a dead tree. They lifted each other’s helmasks off.
Mia couldn’t stop staring even when their lips met and they kissed so hard, so passionate, anyone would think it was their last time. Mia saw a lot of tongue and—was that slurping?
As she watched, Mia couldn’t help but fantasise about her and Mr. Fit’s first kiss, and she giggled—like that was going to happen.
It must have lasted a minute, perhaps two, until one of them struggled. With a noise made when a plunger unblocks a drain, the girls pulled apart. The smaller one’s cheeks, which were flushed and lusty when she first sat down, were now pale, slightly green, and hollow. She looked like she was choking on food, but she wasn’t eating. It was the air.
Her body fought the toxicity, and her girlfriend fumbled for the helmask, but the oxygen tanks had become dislodged from their holders, and the wires that fed into the helmasks were tangled together. As she tried to extract one oxygen tank from the other, she started struggling and choking, and her cheeks went pale, and her eyes bugged wide, and her hands grew frantic as she worked the helmasks.
Mia just stood there, utterly transfixed at what she was seeing.
The pictures shown to her as a small child really did accurately depict what happened when you breathed the Earth’s air.
Her brain kicked in, but as she took a step forward to help, the taller girl had untangled the helmasks and shoved one on her partner before putting one onto herself. They breathed deeply, gratefully, and looked at each other. They laughed so loudly Mia could hear them through her own helmask. She watched as the girls jumped up and skipped back onto the path while holding hands.