How long ago was it now, since I awoke to my new life on this ship? It’s so hard to keep time here.
The first thing I noticed when I surged back to consciousness and my Pod opened with the pop of an unlocked car trunk was that I really needed to pee. The second: that my legs and pits could desperately use a shave. The third, after I wrestled free of the tubes that had provided life and nourishment in my comatose slumber and stepped onto the pristine, metallic floor: that my friends were dead and I couldn’t remember how we’d gotten here.
The boys were fine, sealed safe in their PreservaPods, restful smiles on their faces and somnolent boners bulging in their shimmering spacesuits. The girls, on the other hand, four of my best friends since freshman year—Katie P, Katie J, Jenny, and Rebecca—were goners. On the neon screens at the bases of their Pods glowed deadly pixilated skulls. It didn’t take much jiggering with the touch-screen controls to figure out what had happened. Together they’d recalibrated their nutrition settings to well below the recommended minimum, probably in an attempt to slim down in time for our arrival on whatever planet or space station for which we were headed. Magazine cut-outs of cadaverous supermodels were scotch-taped to the insides of their Pod lids. Instead of emerging from deep chamber sleep with the beautifully emaciated figures they’d dreamt of, they’d starved. I know I should’ve been sad—and I was, mostly—but I also couldn’t help but feel left out. How come I hadn’t been invited into their pact? I’d always been the chunky one in our group, the one boys settled for when the top tier hotties turned them down, never the lead in the movie of our lives, forever the friend who offered good advice and snapped her fingers in an awkward approximation of a sassy black woman.
In a way, the girls had achieved their objective. They did look like magazine covers, unmoving in the Tupperware fog of their Pods: all high cheekbones and leonine eyes, waists that could limbo through a basketball hoop, skin sagging in ridges over their ribs like concentration camp prisoners of the mid-twentieth century. I blew each girl a kiss and ejected their corpses tearlessly, cringing at the toilet flush sound as they launched into the infinite blackness.
I hugged myself, then, through the garbage-bag-looseness of my space suit. I’d thought it was imprecision of the gravity simulator, but no, I myself had shed a few pounds in my sleep. I peeled of the frumpy tinfoil-esque one piece and looked at my reflection in the mirrored floor. All the failed earthly diets I’d subjected myself to, the punishing exercise regimens, the skipped meals, grapefruit binges and protein shakes, they’d promised me results I now realized only a few months of artificially induced coma could deliver.