The rockets behind us are loud like a waterfall inside my ears. I’m frozen as we lift into the sky, but my feet insist on tapping against the metal rail running down the aisle where the five scientists rest their legs. Looking out the windows is like staring into a blender mixing blue seas with green fields and brown valleys with clouds of all shades of grey. My guts feel like a blender too, bubbling on its lowest speed and groaning angrier the higher we climb.
I don’t see much else, and I know this is a moment to remember but I don’t know how to purposefully save an event in my brain.
I feel damp beneath my suit, and there’s a breeze moving through and at first I wonder if there’s a leak on board. Above our heads are slick white vents with cheese grater holes blasting air that smells like rain and hot batteries.
Gravity is an invisible rope. Or maybe gravity is a dog and I’m attached to a rope in its mouth. For 30 years, we’ve played a forever game of tug-of-war and every time I’ve climbed or swinged or jumped too high, the dog has pulled me back down.
As I’m rising in my chair, all I can think is that the slobbery mutt has given up and is slowly letting go and I’m not sure if I can swim back fast enough to grab its end. Something inside my seatbelt chirps the way a cricket does and I feel it tikka-tikka-tikka, tightening around my shoulders and chest and waist and I’m pulled back snug where I was before.
No one in front says anything. They look at each other, out the window, smiling, and I see the backs of their seats and their seatbelts and helmets. There are thick black words like on a football bag so I guess the Rogers all have last names they’d like to be called.
FIELD. Tier-TIER-NAN. Colder—Cold-CALDER. MOOORE. Rein-Rei-R... I don’t know the last word but he’s the one that takes his hands from his sides and smacks the seat-back of a black haired lady, Field. She smiles at him and he smiles at her and he looks back at me out of the corner of his eye but makes sure his mouth is a line when I bring a heavy gloved hand up to wave.
The buzzing in my stomach comes back and I look down at my seat and read my name.
I’m Jim Tester now.
We pass through a thick wall of cloud into a silent blackness that goes forever. I know forever means there’s no end but I can’t imagine it. To me, forever goes for a long time but eventually ends with an invisible wall or a big mirror that shoots this ‘forever’ back until it hits me again. That’s all I can picture. When I think of Almeda, I see a planet almost as far away as forever, maybe just a few miles from where my imagination ends.
Hey you, Field says right as the roar of the ship becomes a steady hum.
Yeah, you can unbuckle yourself now.
She pulls herself past me by my seat back and says the bridge is open for us now that we’re outside of the “something”-sphere. I thought there was only ‘at-mo-sphere’ but there’s a new one only scientists know of and I already forgot what it was.
I follow her, floating through a door that looks like an eye hole and on the other side, the man called Tiernan flicks switches and there’s a great hiss from a vent and we’re getting heavier and now I’m sitting on the ground.
It was fun to be weightless but I’m thankful it’s over.
I watch cross legged as every engineer hops behind a computer monitor, an electrical panel, a button-board, or behind the levers by a window wrapping around the room. The floor is heated. My butt is warm but my hands are stiff and it feels like my blood got scared from liftoff and is too nervous to run back into my arms.
I stand up and shuffle to a free chair at a table in the center of the room and I sit. The chairs are L-shaped and studded with little metal caps that look like they could snag my suit and tear it open if I stand up too fast.
I’m guessing that at some point, everything made for space needed to be white and pointy and plastic and uncomfortable to be considered spacelike.
I know already how hard it is to love space equipment. There is nothing human about it.
••• It isn’t your fault. It isn’t your fault that you somehow had expectations. It isn’t your fault that you hoped for the same kind of understanding, patience, and treatment from them. It isn’t your fault that you allowed yourself to be hurt along the process because somehow, that’s when you’ll learn what makes you or them wrong at some point. It isn’t your fault that you’ll find something more —something that’ll somehow make or break you and the others around you. It wouldn’t be your fault if you’ll just take things lightly, wouldn’t make it a big deal and just move on. It wouldn’t be your fault if you’ll just put on that bright smile on your face and laugh things off instead of making yourself sick from the stress, hurt, and sadness. It wouldn’t be your fault if you will just think for what’s best for you and for them if you want. ###
The Perdrix is full of appliances and walls so white that they sting your eyes. Human eyes adapted to turn everything like that light blue or pink so it’s easier to look at. I stare out the window at the black star-speckled emptiness to reset my eyes and stay at the table where I assume either planning or eating is conducted.
White is the enemy of filth, or filth is the enemy of white.
Either way, a glossy white tabletop never looks as good as it does the first day it’s used, so I stare down and appreciate the clean-ness of the one I’m sitting at while the engineers do more important things.
Are they engineers or are they rocket-scientists? Or are they regular scientists that work in a rocket?
This is such a stupid question to ask that in my head I think I’ll just use the words as if they’re the same.
They aren’t talking to each other and it seems like I should just sit and wait for a mess to appear.
I’d love to walk around and explore this place, but I know now that you don’t go in rooms without permission.
This is hard because I know that one of them is full of spaceship-friendly versions of the cleaning supplies that the Boss bought especially for me.
Make a list, I remember him saying. Whatever you need to do your job.
He says that I have a job but it doesn’t seem like I can do it until they all stop working.
I don’t want to break anything and feel like I would if I did anything other than sit.
Calder must be the captain because of the way she stands over the console facing the window as if there’s a big wooden wheel in front of her. She unzips her chest pocket while twisting a great knob on the panel. She fishes out an electric cigarette. Unable to smoke it from under her fishbowl, so she stands wagging the metal tube in her fingers like a pencil, waiting.
Her face looks soft, but her eyes are those of a woman three times her age.
Closest to her is Tiernan, who I think just likes pushing buttons because it’s all he does, and maybe he’s teque-sa-vie, which I think in French means he likes pushing buttons.
I still feel sick and I think it’s because I’m doing nothing and they’ve all noticed I’m doing nothing.
But there’s nothing I can do.
(Amateur ik ik) One day imma make it big though!!!
125 minutes ago
Is anyone into poetry? I had NEVER been interested, but a few years ago I went through a big trauma. I will share in due time, but it’s not the right moment (though, come to think of it, this poem is utterly revealing). I had never experienced certain emotions, and they appeared to me in my mind as metaphors. Does that make sense? Like when I looked forward with fear, I pictured a crevasse opening up in front of me. When I saw something as insurmountable, I imagined trying to swim to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. I started putting down this obscure imagery into words, and poems seemed like the only logical way to go.
It seems to me that if you compare writing to painting, nonfiction would be like still life, fiction would be some kind of symbolic representation, and poetry would be abstract. Meant to convey something intangible. I’m sure this isn’t an original comparison, but I understand the allure of poetry where I hadn’t before.