I recline in my seat, gazing at the once in a lifetime view out my window. Everything is fine. As normal as it can be while orbiting earth on the way to Mars. The impact is harsh and sudden. The ship is knocked off course. I’m thrown from my seat, my head crashing onto the table in front of me. White stars overtake my vision and pain shoots through my head. The lights go out. My heart beats fast. My air comes rapidly, too rapidly. The computer screen is beeping, flashing a blindingly bright red light around the control room. Time slows as my fingers fumble over the keys. Breath, I think, Be slow and Precise. Be calm. The keys click. The words form. The message is clear. This is Omega 1. Please advise. We’ve been hit by something. The ship is malfunctioning. Backup system failing. T-10 minutes to complete failure and ultimate death of all personal. The words burn themselves in my mind. Ten minutes till complete system failure. Ten minutes till death. The air has stopped filling my lungs. What little oxygen is left only seems to float around me. I force the breath. In. Out. Repeat. I look back at the computer. T-9 minutes. Instructions are typed back to me. Find the source. By our data it is located in the engine room. Seal the hole. Repair the electronic systems. Complete and await further instructions. Complete and live. I’ve been trained for any situation. I’ve been trained for this. I rummage through the drawer. The odds and ends that make their home within go weightless and float around me. No one is coming to save me. No one can save me. I knew that when I came here. Space is unforgiving. Space is out of reach. That’s why I’d wanted to come. To beat the odds. To beat every challenge space could throw at me. I thought I wouldn’t need to be saved. Turns out I was wrong and now it’s too late to change my mind. So if I want to live I’m going to have to save myself. I’m going to have to beat space one last time. My fingers grasp the pocket knife that hovers in front of my face. Purple swirls on silver metal. The initials are engraved on the back. SER. Sam short for Samanatha. E short for Eleanor. R the first initial of Ridenger. Samanatha Eleanor Ridenger. People only ever call me Sam. It’s the only part of my name that I really like. I like it because it's a boys name. Because it means scraped knees, and dirty shoes, and tangled hair, and climbing trees. I stuff the knife in my pocket and grab a flashlight. I remember pulling out the knife from beneath the pink flowered wrapping paper. It was so long ago that I forced the blade under the bark of trees to form designs with sweat dripping from my skin. My pictures dot trees behind that little white washed house that I called my home for so long. I grab for my helmet and click it on.
“Hello? Mission Control this is Omega, do you copy?” I tap the ear piece as staticky volume streams through. I try again. No luck. I’m on my own.
No gravity is fun, but being weightless makes it hard to move fast. I make my way through the passageway. T-8 minutes. Grab. Pull. Float forward. Do it again. Repeat until I reach the engine room. T-7 minutes. Everything looks as it should. No glaringly obvious puncture. That’s good, right? I survey the sea of wires that breathe life into the ship. NASA has drilled the meaning of each and every one of them into my mind. You never know what could save your life they had said. I fumble with the wires by fingers clunky within the constraints of my suit. I force the ends into their places. Its like weaving. The lights flicker and turn back on with a deep hum. Its working. I can feel that tingly feeling. That feeling that sparks my brain into overdrive. Hope. I start working faster. T-6 minutes. The computer screen blinks. I’m not making progress fast enough. T-5 minutes. I can’t find the source. My fingers are cramping. I push away from the engine I’m working on to another which is malfunctioning. T-4 minutes. I find it. A space rock impaled into the ship. It’s small. Hidden behind bulky equipment. In the engine it reeks its havoc across the system. T-3 minutes. I need something to insulate the space between the rock and the ship which is compromising the system. The room next door houses other space suits even though this is a solo mission. I grab an extra suit and reach into my pocket.
“No,” the word slips out. My hand thrashes wildly. Sweat pouring down my face. T-2 minutes. “It was just here,” I shout frantically searching my pockets. “No, no, no, no, no.” T-1 minute. I need the knife. Without it I can’t remove the insulated part of the suit which is the only thing with the capability to reseal the ship buying myself time to be rescued they the International Space Station. I use all my strength in an attempt to rip the material. It doesn’t budge. I don’t have a choice. I need the knife. I must have left it back in the control room. I wildly make my way back to the control room. T-30 seconds. It’s not there. I can’t think. Panic has taken over my mind. I can’t find it. I shove my hand back in my pocket in one last desperate act and that's when I feel it. The hole in my space suit. Just big enough to it my finger into. The air is sucked out of my lungs. Things weren’t so bad a second ago I realize. There is a hole in my suit. My suit can no longer be pressurized. When the ship is gone I will be too. T-10 seconds. I pull the knife out of my pocket. I’m a fighter. I turn around and go back through the ship. Grab. Pull. Float forward. Repeat. T-5 seconds. My arm reaches out and my fingers brush the extra suit and that's when it happens. I’m standing in front of the wall when the first chunk of ship goes. The huge piece of metal goes flying out into the dark. In slow motion the items around me are sucked into the void. Against my will I go with them. I’m spinning. Through my helmet all I see is dark. Tumbling. Head over heels. My breath is ragged. My oxygen is spitting out from the hole in my suit. Somehow I come right side up. Hovering thousands of miles above the earth. Its beautiful. All round and blue and green. I remember being a kid. Rolling in the grass. Stained knees. Muddy hands. Dreaming about being right here. Above the mess we made of our planet. Above the mundane and the normal. Into the land of adventure. The land of the unknown. Eight year old me would have given anything to be right here. I did give everything to be right here. But not like this. I take a breath but it doesn’t come. I’ve run out of air. I’ve run out of time. My lungs begin to burn. The little earth beneath me begins to blur. Everything is there. Real. Bright. Clear. And then in an instant it’s not. Everything goes black. And that's it. No more chances, no more tries, no do overs it’s all just gone. Just like that.
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