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Science Fiction

‘That’s about far enough,’ he thinks to himself.

 

He strains forward and punches the manual engine shutoff. The low rumble of several hundred gallons of fuel igniting instantaneously to maintain literally gravity-defying propulsion subsides and dies.

 

In the deafening silence that immediately follows, Jasper’s buttocks ease out of the sunken cushions. The contrast is startling; a few minutes ago, his body was submitted to the sensation of weighing three times its usual weight. By some small miracle our protagonist stayed conscious as the Gs delivered their heavy toll, rolling him back and into the padded seat.

 

Right now though, as blood regains a ‘normal’ distribution within the body, it feels as though ropes he never even knew were fastened to his limbs are coming undone. As the burden is shed, he recalls the memories of a much younger boy using the swings in the park next to his house, and the sensation of rounding the top of its trajectory: the frightening moment of no longer being stuck to the swing, followed by your stomach somersaulting into your throat, before being pulled back down to earth.

 

Except that this time, Earth is too far to pull Jasper back down, which leaves him stuck on the somersaulting stomach bit… He gags twice, retches once, and projects a spew of vomit into the cockpit. The recoil resulting from expulsing his insides across the room pushes him back softly into his seat, and he watches in rapt horror as the mess that used to be his breakfast splatters against the empty seat across from him, and ...bounces back?

 

A blinking overhead message flashing ‘incoming message: mission control’ pulls his eyes away from the blob that is now his seatmate. He ignores the light, for now. Looking down, he clasps the lock on his seatbelt and squeezes both sides: the intuitive system disengages, releasing him from his final constraint.

 

Manoeuvring carefully enough to not disturb his new co-pilot, Jasper makes his way to the small porthole and looks outside.

The Darkness of space stares back.

 

 

And then, coming into view: a soft glow, a gentle curve, blue against black.

 

The sphere that appears, framed by the minuscule porthole, inspires a surge of unspoken words spilled upon a blank slate. A person’s mouth opens to sound a ‘wOw’ that couldn’t possibly encompass all these feelings, but instead never takes form beyond the mind because vocal chords are too busy fighting back a sob.

This is not a sob of sadness, nor is it a joyful sob. It is a heaving born from understanding that the phrase ‘from ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ is just a suggestion on the scale of our existence, because God had intended for us to compare ourselves to the world he had created, not the universe beyond it.

 

This otherworldly feeling is brought about not only by looking at the planet but also by seeing the space around it. Planetary models back on Earth tend to compress the solar system for practical purposes, and so the actual size of heavenly bodies and distances separating them can never be accurate even on a scale representation because astronomical dimensions are, well... astronomically disproportionate.

 

The unconscious is seldom ready for that empty space. Despite all the satellite images seen or planetary models studied, as the normal individual presses against the window pane, it is that unconscious part of their mind that jumps to the forefront to press against the eyelids and ask: “Where is everything?”

 

As Jasper peers down below, his mind isn’t occupied by the grandeur of his surroundings, the crushing loneliness of space, or the futility of existence.

He thinks to himself that the vomit is starting to stink up the place, and that he should get this over with. He takes one last look out of the porthole at a green spot bordered by deep blue. It’s a beautiful day back in French Guiana, and he kids himself that he can almost make out his village a few kilometres south of the Space Centre.

Pulling away from the view, he reflects that he would be mopping down the control systems room right about now on a normal Tuesday.

 

He moves past the blinking light, pressing the button beneath it before making his way further into the cockpit. Voices over the intercom fill the room: “Mr DuPont do you copy?” fumbling with the microphone followed by, “Mike! Give me that. Please stay seated Mr DuPont and follow our instructions, we will get you back down in no time.”

 

“No.” is the only word that Jasper speaks in that moment. It enrages him that even in the position they find themselves in these privileged asshats think they can boss him around.

 

“Please comply with us Mr DuPont, the charges you face will be greatly lessened if you cooperate.”

 

Bad move, Mr Mission Control. This man doesn’t have much to lose, and he resents you strongly. “If I come back down, will I get to keep my job?”

 

A few tentative seconds pass by. “Well, yes we might be able to arrange for you to resume your janitorial duties at the Space Centre. The Agency would be very grateful if we could just clear this incident up by getting you back on the ground.”

 

Our antagonist listens to the man’s pitiful change of tact and smiles, his resolve doubly strengthened. He might not be an educated man, but he will not be manipulated by another ‘Chief Officer of pissing on Jasper Department’.

 

He reaches the back end of the room, where a sleek, black pedestal juts from the floor. Mounted on top of this dark slab is a big red button. No keys, no safety codes, no regrets.

 

“Mr DuPont? Do you still copy? There are a lot of people over here that are very excited to meet you, you’ve garnered a lot of interest! Please get back to your seat. Would you like to talk to your family and friends? We can get them on the line for you during your descent and re-entry!”

 

Mr Mission Control’s voice becomes background noise after that. Friends and family are an alien concept to Jasper DuPont.

Humanity has never done anything for him, and it will never get the chance to.

 

The particularities of how a janitor impersonated world-class astronauts, duped an entire space organisation, and kept the scam up long enough to be launched aboard a nuclear-armed space station are unimportant.

 

What matters right now is that he is a little man with a lot of power, and he presses the big red button.

May 01, 2020 22:46

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2 comments

Clynthia Graham
18:15 May 05, 2020

Spectacular, "This is not a sob of sadness, nor is it a joyful sob. It is a heaving born from understanding that the phrase ‘from ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ is just a suggestion on the scale of our existence, because God had intended for us to compare ourselves to the world he had created, not the universe beyond it."

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Tim Grimo
06:27 May 06, 2020

Thank you so much! I was really worried this sentence would be incomprehensible but I’m really glad if it came through for you!

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