So this is what I came up with for my art final. A paper mache ear mounted on a wooden frame featuring some acrylic paint. I mean it looks kind of cool in the right light.
The boredom… Sometimes it’s almost too much to handle. My work keeps me busy most days, but it usually isn’t enough to allow my mind to elude the fact that I am floating alone in space. Up here only three things exist: me, this piece of shit assortment of aluminum they call a habitable satellite, and an endless vacuum.
The solitude in my job description is the type that makes you realize that a sunset is only beautiful when you have someone to watch it with. To be quite honest, it is something no amount of training can prepare you for. Waking up each an every day to remind yourself that the nearest human is 230 miles away and would be lucky to spot you soaring across the night sky; not even the view of our beautiful Earth from my little porthole window makes it worth while. I’m Elton’s Rocketman.
It may have been drinking water in space that made me lose sight of the big picture. Maybe it was sleeping in zero gravity, or some other impertinent trick NASA had up their sleeve. Those are the things that draw you in, but hardly the reason anyone stays. No, we stay because we have no choice. How’s that for morale for ya? Because at this point morale can lick the heel of my boot. You know the kind I’m talking about, the one that left the print on the moon. The one that took one giant leap for mankind. That’s another thing they don’t tell you, not every astronaut gets to be Neil Armstrong. He got to walk the moon. I analyze weather patterns. TOE-MAY-TOE, TOE-MAH-TOE.
Tomorrow will be my five hundredth day aboard Habitat III. And in 500 days, you’d be surprised with the ways I’ve found to pass the time. I watch the condensation from my breath race down the windows, count the number of seconds it takes to orbit the Earth, learn to draw the world map from memory. But most importantly, I’ve become a god damn wizard of preparing instant meals. The perfect temperature every time, guaranteed. These are now the things that excite me. The occasional video transmissions help me maintain my last threads of sanity. In the end though, that face is just another screen. Skype had a fantastic marketing team.
I work, I work out, and I sleep. Things run smoothly as long as can keep my mind from wandering. Dreams are about as close as i get to any human interaction these days. I’ve started to feel a strong disconnect from the world below me, one that exceeds just distance; it’s a brutal realization, that it all keeps running so smoothly without you.
Have you ever taken a moment to imagine what a mushroom cloud might look like from space? Unfortunately, its quite an amazing sight. The chaos, something unfathomable from where I am sitting. I think it was New York; it could have been DC, the East Coast was almost at the horizon line when I saw the flash. Within an hour there was another somewhere in the Middle East.
By the end of the day I had lost all contact with planet Earth. Had every station really been destroyed? I kept a tally going, 22 mushroom clouds within ten hours. Russia, England, France, China, North Korea, Iran, the United States. All facing a kind of destruction the Earth was never made to endure. There was no way of knowing what happened, but even more terrifying was the thought of what was going to happen. To me, trapped in this satellite with no means of communication. To the people at home that I love, who may have perished in the explosions. To the rest of the world, whomever is left.
The place I once thought to be a prison is now a sanctuary. Despite the isolation, here I am safe.
The flashes continued for the next several days, bursts of light tearing through the dark abyss. The frequency waned until they finally ceased on the seventh day. What was left of society? I couldn’t help but recall the way a nuclear apocalypse was depicted in the movies: The Road, Book of Eli, Mad Max. Some days though even that world seemed more appealing than this lonely vessel. At least there you can still find people. I have become trapped in space.
Kauai Chronicles (Pineapples) — First Pages
The sun set more slowly than usual that night, illuminating the sky with streaks of orange and gold that shone with a light only comparable to the bonfire, now crackling before me. The image was something out of a dream. For a moment I forget Rusty is a Jack Russell, “Isn’t it amazing?” His panting response reminds me that I’m talking to a dog.
Some people would regard sitting on the beach at sunset with a joint between your lips and a dog in your lap as a sad, lonely existence. To me it’s nothing short of heaven. I guess it doesn’t work against me that I live on the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai…the Garden Isle. If you had to describe the place as a whole by listing just one of its attributes, it’d be that no building is permitted to rise above the tallest palm tree on the island.
In front of me lay the gem of the north shore, my own little slice of Heaven, Hanalei Bay. She makes my heart flutter today the same way she did the first time I laid eyes on her 20 years ago. Granted I was merely an infant nibbling grass at the time, it was something about the way the sun lit this place up that kept bringing me back. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I realized it was exactly where I needed to spend the rest of my life.
I can remember my last night at home almost too vividly…
It was the first time I had ever ridden a bus with seatbelts. Not that anybody actually planned on using them. Maybe the kids in the first few rows would, in the same manner that a dog rolls onto it’s back, under the eyes of the teacher seated at the front of the bus. The kiss asses mixed throughout would do the same.
A group of 20 or so PTSA moms spent the hour prior to our departure trying to black out the windows on the bus to make our destination a surprise, as if they assumed we wouldn’t be able to look out the front windshield. Hearing the rain pour down on the bus without being able to see it created a sound that added to the chaos of the lacrosse players doing their best rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. Was that in fact the Second Circle of Hell? No, the kid avidly playing Flappy Bird across the aisle from me was too happy for that to be possible. Close though.
I was seated far back enough on the bus to have a hard time seeing who was leaving their seat in the second row. The suspension on this half a century old, yellow sardine-can must have been non-existent. One bump in the road sent the individual stumbling onto the shoulder of the driver, the poor man’s mustache writhed in frustration as he let out a slew of curses so far under his breath that it was no longer English. People speaking in tongues? Check. Alex, our school’s ASB president regained his balance with a quick mountain pose, and began to speak. I don’t think a single person there gave a shit about what he had to say, he was only up there because he gets off to the sound of his own voice; the type of kid that talks to you just look at his own reflection in your eyes. It’s funny the way that the reds and yellows of hundreds of taillights, blurred by the rain on the windshield, started to resemble a roaring fire behind him.
It didn’t have to feel like Hell, it was Grad Night after all. But graduating high school left me with a few dismal realizations about the world we live in: No longer are a 3.6 GPA and a 2050 on the SAT adequate criteria to get into any of your 5 dream colleges, you can’t always be with the person you love, and a one way plane ticket isn’t always half the price of round-trip.
CSULB is Beautiful
Flash Fiction: A New Start
Kyle was a nerd. He knew it, his friends knew it, so did every other kid at his high school. And he was okay with that, because he was in college now. This was Kyle opportunity to wipe clean his reputation and for a new start. It was move in day at SFSU, and Kyle grew eager for the night. This was the night he would go to his first party. He hugged his parents and kissed them goodbye as he carried the last of his boxes into his new dorm room. After a short time spent unpacking, another boy entered the room and placed his belongings on the bed across from Kyle’s. Kyle knew he needed to act first to act confident, but before he could speak he noticed a stack of comic books in one of the kid’s boxes.
“Hi, I’m Kyle,” he said as he extended his hand. He was nervous, shaking, for what? He realized this kid was a nerd too, meaning he could hold on to his old life for just a little bit longer. His hand steadied.
The other boy dropped his boxes on his bed and reached for Kyle’s hand, “Ray,” he said,”nice to meet you.” One of Ray’s boxes tipped off of his bed, littering the floor with Batman comics.
“I love Batman,” Kyle said awkwardly as he bent down to help Ray pick up his comics. Batman was Kyle’s favorite superhero after all.
“Me too,” Ray replied. The two boys then turned their backs and unpacked their things.
After about an hour of unpacking, the sound of clinking glass broke the awkward silence the two boys created. Kyle turned to see Ray holding one bottle of vodka in each hand. “I’ve never drank before, but I stole these from my parents liquor cabinet. I told myself that I’m going to my first party tonight, so I brought one bottle for me and one for my roommate. You want to come?” Ray asked as he extended his hand grasping one of the bottles.
Kyle grew ecstatic. He had never been to a party as a result of having strict parents and the most overbearing conscious known to mankind. But his parents were nowhere to be seen, there was nobody left to restrict him. He took the bottle from Ray and the two boys left their new dorm in search of a party; a search that did not take long.
This party was surreal to Kyle and Ray, like something out of the movies. In reality it was about 25 people drinking around a long wooden table. Nothing that the average teenager would get excited about. But to these two boys, they had struck gold. A place where nobody knew who they were; where they could leave their old self behind them. “You have to take the first sip,” Ray said, “since I gave it to you.”
Kyle was nervous, he did not know what to expect. He took the lid off the bottle and sniffed. It smelled like a Sharpie. For the first time in his life, Kyle tasted alcohol. It tasted like a Sharpie. The taste was vile, and it burned on his tongue, down the back of his throat and into his gut.
“It’s not really that bad,” Kyle was able to mumble while trying to hold down the contents of his stomach. Over the next hour Kyle drank the equivalent of two shots of vodka, and he was drunk. He couldn’t find Ray, but he didn’t really care. He stumbled around what he discovered to be a frat house, until he was hit in the face with a ping-pong ball. Kyle tossed the ball to a guy in a tank top but couldn’t help but wonder where the paddles were, as he saw none. He sat on a couch, and realized his tongue was numb. He took another sip of vodka straight from the bottle, which having a numb tongue made easier to drink. Kyle grabbed the guy next to him and could not stop thanking him for letting him come to the party. For a minute, he thought he saw Ray, but his vision was blurry and he couldn’t tell. Kyle did not care though, and put his lips back to his bottle.
The next morning Kyle woke up on the floor of the bathroom with his arms wrapped around a toilet, the classic passed-out-drunk-person position. His head throbbed, his stomach burned, he vomited. Kyle barely remembered anything about the night before. He was miserable, and it was in this misery that he vowed he would never drink again.
One week later Kyle went to a party…
Flash Fiction: Spent Days
James sat down in his seat, preparing himself for the long day that lay ahead of him. He thought back to his childhood, and could not remember a time in which he was free from the prison that now bound him. He had spent too many days as a captive; it was now his life.
The walls were wet with fresh pitch, and the entire hull of the boat smelt of tar. It was only 8 in the morning, but already the sun beat down upon the ship enough to warm the interior of the hull to a degree just shy of that of an oven. James was now surrounded by dozens of other slaves, all taken as children and forced to work. The haze of restlessness and angst filled the room to the point where one could almost feel it on their skin like a heavy layer of humidity. Slowly the Captain emerged from his quarters. The Captain was old, weathered by battle and time. He was a monstrous figure, and slowly he began to speak. The words the Captain spoke, however, were foreign to the slaves, and James could not comprehend. James looked to the man to his right and they exchanged a puzzled glance. But, James did not need to understand what the Captain was saying; he knew the task that lay ahead of him. James knew that from now until midday, he would row. The thirty or so slaves all reached out and grabbed the oars in front of them to begin their long day’s work. As the slaves began to row, the Captain walked the length of the ship, stopping only to mutter words James could not understand to his fellow slaves. James kept his head down, and rowed.
Out of the corner of his eye, James could see the Captain slowly making his way down the aisle. James continued to row. He then saw a pair of worn brown boots stop at his feet. He looked up at the Captain, and could see his mouth moving but could not hear any words. James could not divert his attention away from the sound of the girl next to him tapping her foot. He tried to focus…
“James, do you have your homework?” the Teacher asked again.
“Not today,” James replied. He looked around and was back in a classroom
It was at this point in time that James realized he was exceedingly high to be at school.
Flash Fiction: Writer’s Block
It was on a particularly hot day in August that Timothy found himself struggling to concentrate on his work. What normally is just a nuisance known as, “writer’s block”, became a serious problem for the now desperate Timothy, considering the deadline for his current novel was only 72 hours away and he was nowhere near the end. The common reader may question why an author would have waited so long to finish his novel as to risk not meeting a final deadline? However, that question would also make the assumption that all writers get to write their novels at their own pace. Writing to meet deadlines makes money, it’s capitalism, people.
For whatever reason, Timothy could not seem to position himself in the seat at his desk as to avoid an annoying beam of sunlight from bursting through the slits in his shutters and into his eyes. He tried for twenty or so minutes, before deciding that there was no chance that he would be writing at his desk today. So, Timothy lugged his rather heavy type writer from the desk in his bedroom out to his kitchen table. It was hot there. At least the windows had provided him with a breeze; no matter how warm, a gust of wind always feels nice in the heat. The air was still, hot, and dry. Just as Timothy began to write, he felt a large bead of sweat forming at his hairline. Again, his concentration was broken, as he focused on this large drop of sweat that began to roll down his face.
Timothy began to think about how much he hated the heat. And he blamed living in the heat on the fact that he needed to move to Los Angeles to fulfill a job offer. His thoughts began to flow freely again: he hated the city of Los Angeles, the traffic, the people, the filth. But most of all he hated the heat. Timothy knew however that someday the source of this heat, the Sun, would die, along with all traffic, all people, all filth; and this made him content.
Timothy began to write.
Flash Fiction: Rock Show
It had been six long months since Anthony bought tickets to see his favorite band, the Aquateers, live in concert; today was finally the day. Anthony had never been more excited for anything in his life. He worked significantly more hours over the past summer than any healthy high school freshman should, and all of his earnings went towards this one ticket. But it was not just any ticket, it had three letters written across it that made it special, “V-I-P”. This meant that in less that 5 hours, Anthony would be standing back stage with the members of the Aquateers. He watched the clock tick and tock in his class room, but his mind had wandered far beyond the walls of the school.
Anthony is late to his concert due to LA traffic on the 405. Fuck traffic.
Anthony is upset because he missed the opportunity to meet the band before the show. So he waits and enjoys the show from the side of the stage. He is living his dream, and he is only 4 songs away from being face to face with his favorite musicians of all time. The show ends, the band walks off the stage dripping with sweat. Anthony eagerly approaches them with an extended hand. The singer tosses Anthony a half drank water bottle as a souvenir, which splashes in his face.
“There you go kid, that’s the most you’re going to get out of us after a show like that,” the singer says as he pulls out a bag of cocaine.