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.