Helplessly Above It All
I’m fourteen days, three hours and twenty seconds into the mission. So far the spacecraft has performed flawlessly, surpassing all expectations. It’s been rather comfortable as the capsule was designed with more room for the occupant than previous spacecraft.
When I was selected to be the commander of this mission, my wife got the biggest kick out of watching me jump around our little apartment with a big shit eating grin on my face. She said that…
…she said… why am I even bothering to mention her?
So is everybody else.
I should never have taken this assignment. Prior to the launch, the administrators had told me to say a proper goodbye to her as tensions were high with our rivals across the pond. The risk of nuclear exchange was at its greatest, even more so than during the Cuban crisis.
I didn’t take it seriously.
The officials were still going ahead with the launch and I treated it as business as usual. I cringe remembering my last words to her.
“Keep the steaks warm.”
I watched helplessly above it all as hundreds of nuclear missiles launched from their silos. Had it been a simulation, I would have described the mushroom clouds sprouting up from the impacts as mesmerizing; however, knowing each one signaled the eradication of civilization, I felt numb. My radio had gone silent after a partial scream was obliterated in a roar of static.
That all happened on the second day of the mission.
Through each window, I can see the planetoid carcass that was once Earth. It used to be a beautiful sight with shades of white, blue, green and brown; a source of wonder and full of life. Now it’s an inhospitable cancer, smothered with the unnatural, burning clouds.
I left my radio on over those twelve days but only empty static and the ghosts of my memories kept me company. I would have loved to hear another human voice – even if it had been the enemy.
I’ve just initiated my reentry procedure. Within minutes, my ship will fire its rockets one final time, propelling me back towards the nuclear polluted earth. When the moment comes to deploy the parachutes, I will simply sit back and enjoy the ride. I’d rather die in an impact crater on the earth’s surface than orbiting above it.
They fire right on cue and I feel the ship slowly descending into the atmosphere.
“Can anybody… me?” The voice crackles through my headset. “My name is…” A burst of static hisses then fades. “If anyone can hear me, please acknowledge…”
I lean forward to reply then stop. There’s no way I can interrupt the reentry procedure. Even if I could, what would be the point? As the flames begin to engulf the outside of my ship, I turn the radio off and lean back into my seat. There’s no reason to give him a false sense of hope.
Sorry buddy. You’re on your own.
~ Jon Olson
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