This Is Ground Control

If you’d like to listen to this story, there is an audio version (with amazing artwork by Mio Dal) of it here.

The speakers called to him again, that crackling voice that reminded him about the world. Reminded him that he was still a part of it, even though he was about to leave it behind. Of course he felt fear, but nothing could make him go back now. It was too late for that, anyhow. He took his protein pills and put his helmet on. The countdown reached zero and then the voice was gone. The world ignited and everything began to shake.

For a moment he couldn’t breathe, and for an eternity he thought he would die. Memories flashed before his eyes as fire engulfed everything and the dark eternity grew closer. Faded photographs of a childhood spent dreaming of this. Black and white pictures of a full life’s struggle. Colorful images of thousands upon thousands of circumstances that had brought him here, to this moment in history.

When the voice told him to leave the capsule, he did so with pride and caution. There was nothing to hold him down anymore, and outside the stars glinted closer than ever before. And still so far away. The cold moon didn’t even afford him a smile as he beheld it from this new angle. Everything was new, and yet so unimaginably old as to make him shiver in his metal shell, far above the world. This was loneliness in its purest form.

The voice named him a hero, wanted to hear about everything he saw and sensed. But he did not answer, because right then he laid eyes upon the blue sphere that floated before him, just out of reach. Everything he had ever known and loved was hidden and buried in the colorful surface of that distant orb. Yet now, seeing it from afar, he felt strangely detached from it. Like it was all a model to demonstrate the life he’d led, not holding a meaning of its own. And even so, he knew that it meant everything. He said for them to tell her. That it was important they tell her what he felt for her. But she knew. Of course she knew.

He wasn’t afraid, however. He trusted his ship, he felt calm in his loneliness. He knew that he was traveling at a tremendous speed, and still he felt as if he was motionlessly floating in this vast blackness, spectating a performance of light that had been playing since the beginning of time. Old light, he thought. This light has shone on places so far away and so long ago that there’s maybe nothing left of them.

Then the speakers began crackling again, worse than before. The voice wanted him to know something. It was important. But words fell away and the tone grew increasingly desperate. It was something about a circuit, something about a serious problem. Something about…

And the connection went static. He could see the blue sphere drifting farther and farther away, knowing of course that it was he who was drifting. The moon beheld in cold silence as the shuttle left its course and floated away into the dark eternity. He met its gaze and held it, suddenly knowing true fear and loss and loneliness for the first time in his life.

And there was nothing he could do.

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Chris is a non-binary writer and journalist from Sweden, struggling with the novel that will make them an author.

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