The journey wasn’t finished, but it didn’t start yet. I was to board some dubious plane and head east. Houston was just a dream, Russian spacedrome should be the venue. The scientist who accompanied and prepared me, promptly and abruptly corrected my inadequate Earthly language into proper for space traveler; instead of the journey I ought to say the project, instead of spacedrome, of course, cosmodrome. Also my Russian isn’t good enough –“Drink some vodka that is the best way to absorb it”. I am about to explain how NATO bombing disrupting our lessons, but this beverage makes my tongue to swirl, my brain out of order and my womb scorched. At least, the flight this way is fine, one couldn’t observe jet hiccups when in this blissful state. The rest of the journey, project, pardon me, through this land is at the back of the truck. The roads are terrifying, the scenery is one – the same, plains over and over again. Instead of Kazakhstan this part of the former Soviet Union, where the spacedrome, excuse me, cosmodrome is, should be renamed into Flatistan.
After successfully destroying my inner organs I thank for this drink, an excellent companion for this project. We had to stop at any and every village on our path to taste the local brand, which is the same, if you ask me, but nobody did, although any and every villager claims his vodka is the real one, unique in the cosmos and even beyond. I had to agree with some of that, each spirit is unique, but not in the way they consider. As the alcohol was streaming through my blood I wanted to thank our hosts for this kind of welcome, with my own performances of their national song – Kalinka, only one we managed to learn at our classes, before bombs started falling from the sky around us. With vocal cords more of a magpie then nightingale I had to take some more shots for stage fright. The idea was worth mentioning, but the song was obsolete as Shakira, Rihana or some local novelty with only a few items of clothes on is required. I wasn’t here for my singing abilities and I was relieved when the project journey continued and one of the scientists assured me we are not that far – only several more weeks on the road or anti-road as I was about to protest, but instead only one thing had to be done.
The organs inside my body weren’t mine anymore, they weren’t organs, if you catch my drift, and now my legs and bottom refuse to cooperate when we are getting out in the sunny, but freezing cold Baikonur cosmodrome. There had to be some welcoming speeches, luckily for me with vodka to warm me up. Some fellow beside me wanted to light my spirit, laughing to me:
“It is only -20, the winter is still 6 weeks away”. I have probably made the stupidest expression on any face, he was right, it could get much worse as I learned very soon. Inside our sleeping chamber it was only -5, with my red nose changing coloring into super red. At that moment it clicked to me how I was really stupid not to insist of Houston launch or even passing this once in a lifetime, exceptional and exhilarated opportunity to get out of my stupid room.
Following days as I was trained for space odyssey, but not famous, 2001, version, here and there, I figured out that I was only one, stupid or brave enough, to accept this fantastic offer. Apparently, lucky was 265356 number, since 265355 people turned down the offer, including several men on gallows, a few goats and one donkey, but second was up for it, a cruel thought to myself. There was no going back, only forward, whatever does it mean, as more and more people called me – another Laika. However I was too slow to catch anything or it was the booze – unbelievable quantities are drunk here, more by the scientists then regular, ordinary craftsmen.
Training sounded important and official, but it was just learning not to shit or piss into your own mouth during weightlessness which I learned in a hard way and just about, needless to say. For other important and necessary stuff, like navigation or fuel consumption, there was the computer, with commands in Russian. I had sped up my lessons, which meant drinking many more vodka with reading their best writers, but not famous one’s like Tolstoy, Pushkin, Tchaikovsky, they were not real Russian, according to my masters. Instead I was bombarbed with pieces of Stalin, numerous Putin’s propaganda bulletins and some church canons which were, of course, in Old Slavic, totally useless for my mission, any mission I could add up.
The day of the launch was approaching and my Earthly days were coming to an end, with guys around barking when I passed by, and not the locals but the scientists. We all have to face the music one day, at least I knew the day, and so there will be no surprise. Anyhow I should return, which isn’t natural for those who are going on the journey. This wasn’t the journey, it was the project as I adopted proper cosmodrome terminology. I felt at home, but at the same time, I had to leave it. Another mystery of life. Flowers made me cry, silly animals playing gave me heartache and I consider every man, woman and child around this huge compound as dear, dear friend. I shared with them all my belongings, a few pencils, several matches, pages of War and Peace; each person got a single one. I have imagined (John Lennon song was flashing through my head) that folks would sit together to read it, become friends, forget about War and focus on Peace to build everlasting Summer society of the human civilization, create many more space modules and join me up on the Moon. I wouldn’t like out there all by myself, nobody would.
Finally, or I should better say tragically, the day was upon me, an infamous day of my personal history, but pretty ordinary for everybody else, especially cockroaches which are very resilient to Siberian conditions – they probably take some old Russian recipe for everything – huge amounts of, you know what. The Sun was early in the sky, or it seemed that way to sorry old me. The crowd was gathering for this historical launch, again only historical for my sorry ass. However the numbers depleted gradually and then very rapidly. As I took another sip, the only way they could load me into the rocket, I observed a beautiful blue, cloudless sky, my home for several, who knows how many days or weeks. Every part of my body was feeling sorry for himself and it was opposite to One for all, All for one; every fiber for its part. Headache, back pain, muscle spasm, eyelash cramp, teeth vs. cheeks, fingers vs. toes, fingers vs. fingers and so on. Luckily bottle was in my hand and seconds later, the content was getting me back in that blissful, marvelous, fabulous state.
None of my new friends didn’t show up for my historic project, nor the scientists. Only a single voice can be heard, the voice of the countdown speaker. Even he left his post, changing to the automatic. The sky was still very blue, very beautiful, very same which I didn’t appreciate. I was sure it would be different once I got up there, into the clouds. Nothing better to do, I pushed some buttons out of curiosity. I came across a live TV feed. I now understood what was going out and why everybody left the launch – historic launch. Presidents Trump and Putin entered the ice escapades as a couple targeting the gold Olympic medal in the Juno competition. I laughed at that, realizing I am not the stupidest person in the whole wide world, but not realizing I am not anymore part of the whole wide world.
Suddenly the moon appeared on my screen so I focused on my task. Another sip, as I remembered the words on grandfather’s old neighbor: “Take a shot or two to start and finish your job. One can’t be expected to plough all day without drinking all day” and most of the night, which my grandpa added.
Lovely thought of a wartime veteran. He would appreciate this apparatus more than his grandson who was really clueless. So much, that he hit the wrong button. Instead of slowing down this mighty beast ready for moon landing he, or I should admit, me, hit the gas pedal and aircraft, I mean my ride, propelled itself into outer space, leaving the moon in the rearview mirror. That would be the case if rockets for space travels have any mirror, rearview or backview, which they don’t, but the rest was pretty much true.
As each story should have happy endings, opposite to many life situations, my shouldn’t be different. I managed to achieve something I wanted for ages, to find myself upon some unsuspected, beautiful, who else, and magnificent Aphrodite. The dream of every boy/man old enough to wear pants, but not old enough to know what to do with that thing beneath. The only trouble for sorry, old me is that I came across not actual Aphrodite, but her Roman contra part Venus, the planet in our Solar system.
At first, I was wondering how strange the moon looks, expecting that the auto-pilot is programmed to reach a proper location. Desert colors confused me as I was sure that our satellite is black and white. Then I saw it, coming from a huge distance, gradually getting out of the shadow with the beautiful blue planet just behind it. I was about to share a tear or two, but I was long out of them since sulfur emission. That would be my final look as another poisonous cloud would engulf me and my sorry ass once for all.