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Friday, May 23, 2014

Major Tom

This short is based on the song "A Space Oddity" by the incomparable David Bowie.  If you are not familiar with the song, you can hear it by clicking here.  The inspiration for this take on the song came when I heard Ayreon's version.  I've been meaning to get to it for a while.


Five years I've spent working on this project, fourteen hours a day, every day.  I've gone through three breakdowns and for what?  All two get this damn satellite in orbit.  At least after today it will be done.

"Lift-off.  May God's love be with you."

It's hard to believe that my father was born when the Wright brothers made their first powered flight, and now I'm strapped to a rocket about to enter space.  Nowadays, it seems so easy; the G-forces aren't even enough to make you black out.  Just 8 minutes go by and the world beyond my small, fishbowl window has become a vast, blue marble.

"This is Ground Control to Major Tom," the radio kicks in.  "Major Tom, are you there?"

"I'm here, Ground Control."  With a chuckle I add, "Are we there yet, Dave?"

"Yes, you're there.  It looks like orbit has been achieved and the satellite is ready to deploy."  In the background, I can hear some cheers and applause.  "You were right, Tom.  The new fuel is incredible.  This will make space flight affordable, and these satellite beacons are going to change the world.  You think all those late nights were worth it now..."

***

"...You think this makes all these late nights worth it?"  My wife is waving a glass vase at me in the kitchen while she screams at the top of her lungs.  The sundress she's wearing has splashes of mascara as black tears roll down her face.  "You think these flowers make us better?  I never see you, Tom.  I never hear from you.  I never know what you're doing.  Everything is 'classified.'  Who is she, Tom?!"

"Leandra, please, calm down.  There is no one else.  Put down the vase.  Call Dave, if you doubt me. Or the lab.  I swear, baby, you're the only one in my life."  I put my hands up to try to calm her down, but she just throws the vase at me.  It misses and shatters on the kitchen wall.

"Dammit, Tom!  I haven't had more than 30 minutes with you in the past year!  I'm not even in your life!  I get home and you're on your way out every day!  If I get up early, you're either already gone or... well, you're just not there, Tom.  Always working on that stupid project."  She falls against me, sobbing.  As I hold her, my beeper goes off.

"That's them.  I have to go," I tell her.  She grips tight enough it almost hurts.

"Don't leave..."

***

"It's time to leave your capsule," Dave says.  "Tom?"

I snap out of it.  "Uh, yeah. I'm on my way.  It takes a minute or two to connect the umbilical cord to my suit.  The moment I do, I feel a rush of air pressurize the suit.  "This is Major Tom to Ground Control.  I'm stepping though."

"Roger,"  The sound comes from inside my spacesuit this time.

I step into the air lock and turn the handle on its door.  It looks like something left over from a submarine.  On the opposite wall, I press a flashing red button.  Instantly, the air rushes out through a vent.  The only thing between me and death is my suit.  The doors to space are heavy and it is difficult manipulating the handle in the pressurized suit.  When they slide open, I fall, unprepared, and float out into space until the cord catches and tugs on me.

"Major Tom?  Your heart rate just shot up.  Is everything OK?" I hear Dave ask.

"Uh, yeah, I'm just free floating right now.  Oh wow."  The universe stops spinning as I catch onto a bit of the ship's rigging.  Before me is Earth.  Everything.  All the people I've ever loved, everyone who has loved me.  All the sorrow, the love, the joy, the war, the death, the life.  It takes up my entire field of vision, yet I wouldn't look away if I could.  "It's so big.  Here I am just sitting in a little can as everything goes by beneath me, without me..."

"What is?  Oh, the Earth.  It must be an amazing sight."

"I've never seen anything like it.  It feels like I could just stay up here forever.  It's all so still.  So beautiful."

"Well don't spend too long taking in the sights, Tom.  We've got to get that beacon out there, remember?"

"I've never felt closer to Leandra.  It's so clear up here.  She's the lover I've been looking for, the one that will stay loyal, who'll never cheat.  She can't cheat."

"Tom?  Wh-what are you talking about?  Did you hit your head?  Did he hit his head?"  Frank sounds guilty, but it hardly matters any longer.

"Earth.  She's the love I deserve."  I push away from the ship's rigging towards the swirling clouds before me.  I can hear people start to panic down in Houston.  "Frank, when you see her tonight, tell my wife I love her very much."

"...she knows, Tom." Frank said.  I smirk at the guilt he cannot hope to hide.

"Take care of her."

"What are you saying, Tom?  Can we get back to the satellite?  We need to deploy it."

An alert should be sounding now back in Houston.  No pulse, no brain waves, no communications.  I make sure the circuit is dead by disconnecting the entire umbilical cord and letting it float away.  And I wait, arms widespread as each breath takes me closer and closer to the stars.

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! The idea that Major Tom did it on purpose is one I've wanted to get down for some time. I guess this is my first attempt at a tragic/bittersweet ending.

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