View Full Version : A Short Story by Elandruss


Elandruss
09-28-09, 03:40 PM
I did this for an English course a few semesters back. Not being on meds then, you would be correct to assume that this is a "Night-before-it's-due" piece ^)^

Space Flight


On the day a nation turned it’s head to the sky to watch as the first great metallic beast broke those surly bonds of Earth, John forgot momentarily his concerns with chasing bugs and warding away cooties. He found himself completely enthralled by the spectacle, and knew that one day he would have a great part in pioneering the last great frontier: space.

“I’m Walkin’ on Sunshine, Woah-oh! And don’t it fee...” BZZT. John secretly loathed that man who thought building such an infectious song into an alarm clock was a good idea, he thought as he groped about for the snooze button. Truth be told, though, he had felt as if he were walking through a dream for a week or so now. John was never what anyone would have called the nervous type, but most people would say that a few butterflies the day or so before they did what he was about to do were fairly reasonable. John had, after all, in the past year undergone some of the most rigorous training the United States government had to offer. From physical training that would put a Navy Seal to shame, to advanced classes in Mathematics to Biological Science, as if his Doctoral degree in Engineering hadn’t been enough, John was in the best physical and mental shape of his, and quite a few others, lives. And all to what end? To be sent careening headfirst at the great void of space, with nothing but a few layers of metal and foam to keep you alive. Fantastic. Obviously no sane person would want to go through with this, let alone sign up for it. Thankfully, no one ever said sanity was a requirement. But the time for meaningless speculation was over; he was past the point of no return, all that was left was to strap himself in and press the button. Of course, it wouldn’t be quite that simple, he mused, otherwise he could’ve been considered the most over-qualified individual on the planet. The night before had been a nice change of pace: Beth had thrown him a little shindig, a gathering of close friends ready to see him off. After a quintessential American barbeque in the back yard, they had sat around retelling stories of their youth, back when there were so many open doors. In a dreary way, it reminded him of a funerary wake, as if it was their last chance to celebrate before the reality of the morning came rushing up to meet them. And then, once the guests and friends had gone home, John and Beth were left to their own.

They had never had the perfect relationship, he thought as he laid out his uniform, but, in the past few weeks, things had changed. Silently and without discussion, the tone of their partnership had become one of mutual gratefulness; as if they had finally learned to appreciate each other for what they were. Unfortunate that it only occurred when faced with impending separation. And so John got dressed and showered, and prepared to face the day with as much courage as he could. It wasn’t easy, walking to such imminent and permanent change, and there was a good part of him that wished to get back in bed next to Beth and go back to sleep, only to wake up to the loving support they had only recently come to expect from each other, and a bright future in a career that involved no personal risk. But for John, this wasn’t his future. Instead of getting in that bed, he would walk downstairs and face the first day of the rest of his life.

Suited up. Strapped in. Commencing launch in T-Minus 10 seconds. This is the moment that he had waited for. The moment he had spent the past two years of his life training to reach, the moment that had never been out of sight. 9. John quickly ran the gambit of emotions the flight psychologist had put them through, 8. Fear, anxiousness, bravado, empowerment. These feelings would get in the way of the job he had too do. 7. There was no room for second guessing, not the time to think: his training had assured that he would move on muscle memory alone, his body perfectly capable of executing a process or command completely on it’s own. 6. As the shuttle began to rumble around him, John was acutely aware of being strapped at the tip of a massive rocket, which would promptly be hurtling towards the upper reaches of the atmosphere, and finally breaking free of the tiny blue speck on which all men and women ever to live were born. 5. It was at this time that a familiar voice came piping through the intercom: “ Ground control to Major Tom! Commencing countdown engine’s on!” 4. One of the schmucks in the control room probably thought they were terribly clever; but John couldn’t complain. The song did actually helped ease his nerves. 3. Final check, reading each meter in turn and seeing no abnormalities. 2. All hands securely fastened, all carry-on luggage securely stored over head, John chuckled to himself. 1. With a great upheaval and burst of flames worthy of the most glorious of ancient emperors and sovereigns, John was gone.

The launch was a complete success. The shuttle was orbiting Earth at roughly twenty-two thousand miles, traveling at about seventeen thousand miles per hour, though you wouldn’t know it by the air of peace inside the cabin. To the untrained eye, the spectacle taking place inside the tiny metal bubble must have looked more like a ballet than the most rigorous scientific and exploratory mission in human history. Like the ballet, however, the motions of the scientists were all carefully choreographed months in advance; no move they could execute had been overlooked or left out of the training procedures. This is why, when the siren began to wail, prompt action was taken to right the wrong. But the shuttle technicians had never told them what to do if, after fixing the supposed problem, it mysteriously persisted, especially when the problem involved the total loss of vital systems. After speaking with mission control, and nicely summarizing the shuttles complaints, John felt himself in no way reassured by the faint sobbing piping through the radio link.

And the moment had come. John silently and dutifully stepped back from himself, and let his self take over. There would be only one chance to make right, and if he failed... he stopped himself. No thinking. Only doing. Those few who took witness to the event would tell you of the look on Johns face, of neither fear nor determination, but of peace. John was as a tool, a tool who’s purpose had only very suddenly become apparent. As the flashing lights flared and dimmed, and the shuttle’s intercom calmly alerted the crew members to impending consequences, John began his work. Pushing himself with the precision muscle movements of a star acrobat, John steadily maneuvered his way to the back of the cabin, and, piece by piece, disengaged an emergency space suit. Putting on the suit was as second nature as putting on a dry set of clothing after getting caught in a summer shower. Lowering the large clear dome onto his head, John thought not for the first time that it might be similar to the life of a goldfish, to view the world beyond through a lens. Fully suited, stepping through the airlock, and closing the door behind him. John’s heart was racing, though there was little physical evidence to show this. Bracing himself against the airlock wall, John pressed the button which sent all the air in the airlock rushing out. Staring out, John was struck with the enormity of the thing. It was as if waking up and realizing that the cage in which you’ve been kept was only real in your mind, that the laws and boundaries of your mental processes no longer need apply, for you suddenly find yourself in a much bigger fish bowl than you had imagined. Had John been of lesser mental fiber, it could’ve been enough to drive him mad. Instead, he barely gave it a second thought, and tied his safety line to the ships hold before taking a step out. Time would be of the essence, these emergency suits were meant for brief reprieve from the harsh elements, not fully actualized life support systems. He would have only a short time to do what he had to do. With a few quick breaths to set his course in his head, he began to climb hand over foot to the lower shaft of the shuttle.

In their ascent, a piece of debris, likely a very small rock or some other piece of cosmic flotsam had struck the fuselage, and while the crack hadn’t been large enough to leak, the pressures of minute course correction had weakened the area, and finally led to the situation John found himself in now. Which was becoming more dire by the moment. Finally reaching the hulls fracture, John began to apply the sealant paste to the spiderweb of cracks and fissures that had branched out from a single hole. Leaking from this hole was one of the most volatile substances on earth, and had John been in the situation that would allow him to ponder a moment, he may have thought how interesting it was that humanity’s love affair with high-yield explosives was what had gotten him this far. He may even have stopped to think of the underlying metaphorical and philosophical repercussions of this fact were. But John was not the type to dwell for too long on what he considered to be pointless thought, nor was the current moment conducive to such. As John patched the break, his oxygen gauge began to dwindle to red. The pressure of the fuel leaking out had made his job so much more difficult, as did the slow weakening of his otherwise boundless will. But still John endured, and as the last patch was put in place, it felt as if the world had been lifted off his shoulders, as if in that moment his entire life had achieved vindication. And looking out to the crowded abyss of space, he could see the abyss begin to stare back.

Only it was not the abyss which John saw gazing into his eyes, it was a much more familiar face. The figure of Beth stood looking at John with the same expression she had given him the last night they spent together. It was love and hope, spiked with what only John could tell was sorrow. Because he was leaving? Because he chose to put his life in danger, despite knowing how much she cared for him? These things and more, he thought, and all worry and grief were washed away in the deep blue pools of her eyes. Looking around him, John realized he was not where he had been, but that seemed to be of little consequence now. Taking a step back, John was in awe of the landscape surrounding him. Bright green hills stretched for miles in each direction, with the faint hinting of a forest surrounding. In the middle of the clearing, a single tree stood, and from this tree hung a piece of wood attached to some rope. Walking over to it, he was surprised to find it supported his weight. Filled with an exuberance he hadn’t felt since childhood, he pushed himself off, and swung lightly back, and forth. Pulling his legs in and thrusting them out to gain as much height as possible, John waited to the top of his swing, and, with a rush he hadn’t felt since grade school, leapt off. For a brief moment, he paused. Suspended in the air, arms outstretched to the sky, he felt he was truly free. Coming to meet the ground a bit more softly than he had imagined he might, he sprinted to Beth, who had watched him with the same bittersweet look in her eyes. He stopped at her feet and gently wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her close to him, completely embraced her. John felt himself overcome with love, not the burning hot love of his youth, but the reserved love of a contented heart. John felt his heart flutter once, twice, and so overcome by the rush of emotion, began to cry. Tears streaming down his face, his head nestled into the crook of Beths’ neck, John gasped, “Beth, I love you.” “I love you too,” she replied. “ I was so afraid, I thought I was going to die.” Slowly rubbing his back with her hands, Beth spoke softly, “You did.”