Fiction Fragment Friday
This weekend is Easter so it is time for another one of my stories about the first manned mission to Mars dealing with being away for the holidays. The overall story is progressing in these individual Flash Fictions to the point that I may need to do one outside of a holiday. I really like the theme of these though. Holiday conversations in the galley. While an expanded story could very well be in my future these really have a formula that I have been sticking with. Let me know what you think and what you would like to see from this series of Flash Fictions.
Easter was always my favorite holiday growing up. I lived at the end of a long gravel road with no neighbors around. Easter meant seeing all my cousins and getting to hang out with people my age. I was never artistic, but even I could decorate eggs that I wanted to show off. The search for those eggs would bring out the competitive nature that helped me so much during my astronaut training. I had to find more than anyone else. Finally, there was the basket full of chocolate. What was not to love?
As an adult there was plenty to dislike about Easter, but as I stared out my window at the distant stars I couldn’t help but be reminded of the glitter speckled eggs from my childhood. Floating over to the wall I grabbed my tablet from its Velcro cradle and hit play for the fourth time that morning. The sound of my kids laughter filled my cabin as I watched them run around the backyard searching for eggs. My littlest ran up to the camera holding up a colorful egg while jumping up and down in place. “Look daddy I got one.” As she turned and ran back into the yard I had to fight back the tear forming in my eye. Tears are frustrating in space. They don’t fall, they just pool up on your face becoming a bigger and bigger ball. I grabbed a cloth tissue and wiped it away before it could get too annoying.
I floated out of my room using the hand grips on the wall to propel myself into galley. The room was empty making me realize just how much time I had spent stuck in my own head. I grabbed a pouch of scrambled eggs, plugged it into the rehydration station, and hit the dispense hot water button. After a few seconds, the pouch inflated and felt warm to the touch. I squeezed to break up the clump of eggs and make sure it hydrated evenly. Using my scissors I cut open the top of the pouch and dug in with my spoon.
“We missed you at breakfast.”
The sudden sound of my commander’s voice behind me made me jump. My arms flailed trying to grab for anything to stabilize myself as I started to spin. “GAH, don’t do that. We need to put a bell on you.”
“Sorry.” She was trying very hard to hold in her laughter but was not succeeding very well.
“Yeah I can see how sorry you are.” We both laughed a bit as I got myself back under control. “Sorry about breakfast. I got a video from home.”
“I figured. It is Easter after all. How are you holding up? I want an honest answer so if you say fine I’m going to spin you.”
“Honestly commander, I’m struggling. I don’t like admitting that. Sometimes I feel like it would be easier if we didn’t get messages from home. Then when I think that I start to feel guilty for thinking it. I’m also supper excited that we are only a few days from being the first humans in orbit around Mars.”
She looked at me appraisingly. “Do you ever think about how many firsts we are having? We are further away from Earth than any human has ever been. Everything we do is a first.” She grabbed a coffee pouch and plugged it into the rehydration station. “Between you and me I’m afraid that we might be the first mission to have a crew member breakdown.”
“Commander really I’m ok. I’m not going to..”
She cut me off waving her hands and having to readjust to not float into the wall. “No, No, not you ya idiot. You know you’re struggling so you’ll be fine. Hell, I think you’re the most stable person on this ship. No, I’m talking about Jamison. He seems like he is cracking, but always has that big goofy smile on his face. I’m just hoping he can pull it together and the work will help keep him distracted.”
“I haven’t noticed anything. Now that you mention it though that smile is really kind of creepy. Should you really be telling me this?”
“Probably not, but I trust you more than anyone else on board. I really couldn’t do this without you here as my right-hand man. I might have fallen apart myself when Lisa dumped me if you weren’t here for me.”
I shook my head. “No way, you’re way too tough for that. Stop selling yourself short.” I took my last bite of eggs and put the pouch in the main trash bin. “Have you talked to him about it yet?”
“Yeah, he just laughed and said I was crazy. Maybe I am. I’m not exactly feeling the most trusting right now and with the stress of the next couple days maybe I’m looking for problems that aren’t really there.”
I finished cleaning my spoon and put it back on it’s magnetic home. I realized that unlike Commander Norton and Doctor Samuels I didn’t really know our pilot very well. In such a small space it was impossible not to spend time with each other and have conversations. All of my conversations with Jamison had been superficial though. I didn’t have any idea how he was holding up. I didn’t even know if he had a family back home. “I’ll keep an eye on him. See if I can get him to open up.”
“I hope I’m wrong.”
I floated towards the galley door but turned to look back at her. “I hope you are too, but as long as I’ve known you I think I could count the number of times you’ve been wrong on one hand.” I pushed off towards the flight deck to start the long process of becoming friends with our pilot.