Flight No. 9
By: Antwan Crump
He drifted in nothingness; bound to the dying ship by a lanyard rope. The visor kept the sun from searing his eyes. The spacesuit kept him warm. A sea of stars flashed and fluttered throughout the vast darkness. He’d liked to think of himself as one of them.
Well, at least I’m not there, he thought. The ship behind him had also been floating—aimless, and now without a cause. Its thrusters had given out shortly after they’d broken through the atmosphere. He and countless others sat in a quiet panic while they were catapulted into nowhere.
The ship slowed and came to a crawl, thousands of miles off course. Astronauts are trained for that sort of thing, but the crew in Houston left much to be desired. A bunch of assholes and frat boys. Either way, they were intent on finding a solution.
Until then, Rick would float—not mingle—in his downtime. He found the ship’s amenities rather cramped and its passengers annoying.
“Et Tu, Brute!” He said to the thin strap as it taut and yanked him along. He’d just managed to perfectly align his thumb with the curve the moon. He could fit the entire globe on the rim of his glove. He found solace in his fascination.
“Rick, are you there?” A muffled voice asked, through static, into his displeased ear, “Rick, I told you before that you can’t be out there. Do you copy?” He always heard but never answered. “Come in. Come in!”
Not a chance, he thought. They could kick bricks in hell, for all I care.
He broke the receiver.
The rope had loosened and tightened again. “What the…” They were fed up with his games and reeling him. Anxiety overwhelmed him while he was pulled away from the stars, and back to the “corpse” of a craft.
The idea of returning was devastating. He just wanted to float and wade. “I see you, big buddy,” he said to the sun as he was dragged further and further from it. It began as a painful fare-thee-well. But, the “goodbye” birthed a solution.
He’d brought a blade along with him. “I’m coming,” he said. He turned to get a clear view.
The serrated teeth steadied against the rope. He pressed it in and went at it with a fury.
Back and forth. Then forth and back. Then back and forth again, until all that’d tethered him was a single pin-thick strand. He delighted in pulling it apart. Rick, what are you doing? He’d imagined their complaints and smiled. He’d never have to hear them again. He’d broken free. Free at last.
Among the stars, he floated—watching as his former hell scurried deeper out of sight. He was all alone out there, and couldn’t have been more content. “I see you, big buddy.” He kicked toward the sun and threw arms open as if to hug it. “I see you. I’m coming.” The rays warmed his rounded cheeks as he approached.
He drifted into nothingness; bound to die on the whim of a wayward hope.