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he wrenched a handful of the fluorescent flora from the wall, held it above his open mouth and squeezed. Drops of metallic-tinged water dropped into his mouth. The mouldy taste did not put him off and, when he had squeezed one piece dry, he quickly tore up another. Vance spent almost thirty minutes squeezing enough moisture out of the lichen to slake his thirst. Afterwards, his mouth tasted a little odd, almost spicy, but the dusty feeling in his throat subsided. Once his thirst had been sated, Vance sank to the ground. Curling up in one corner of the cave, he fell into a sound sleep amidst the glowing plant life.

There was no way of telling how long he'd been asleep. The weakness in his limbs as he stood made it seem he weighed three times his true weight. Vance struggled to his feet and licked his parched lips.

Tearing off more algae, he drank to relieve the dehydration. After he had squeezed the last piece dry, he stared at the dull blue lichen. Holding it up to his nose, he sniffed. The odour wasn't particularly bad, which was usually a good measure of whether something was edible or not. He took a bite. The shred of lichen balled up like an old boot lace in his mouth as he chewed. Grimacing, Vance swallowed the masticated vegetation. It sank down his gullet and seemed to sit in his stomach. Vance could feel the fluffy blue stuff tickling his insides. He was about to take another bite when he suddenly lurched forward, retching for all his might. The chewed piece of lichen popped up and into his throat, and then with a string of bright blue bile, fell from his mouth. He coughed up the vile vomit still in his throat, some of it running from his nostrils. Vance could taste the tang of metal, as though he'd licked the bulkhead of a freighter. After spluttering for
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