Do You Remember Sputnik?
BY ALEX O’NEIL
Do you remember Sputnik? Maybe you weren’t alive in 1957, but you remember hearing about it at least. Perhaps in a classroom, or your parents telling you a story about where they were at the time or some bullshit. Could you imagine it? The first successful space mission! Too bad it was just a satellite and not actual people going up there, but it was a starting point. The first real trip into the unknown that both Russia and the US were both trying so hard to bring to fruition. I’m sure everyone had their own vision of what the first trip to space would look like, what it would be like to fly right past the moon coupled with alien encounters and all that jazz, but has anyone ever thought of what the last trip to space would look like? Well, it all started with Jerry.
There, laying on the floor in the corner of the room, was the vase he threw at the wall three days prior upon hearing the news. He looked like a baseball player throwing that vase. He hadn’t thrown anything that fast in his entire life, and because of that, he ended up tossing his shoulder out of its socket. He thought it was just sprained and ended up spending the last of his days with his arm just hanging by his side. His hopes were that throwing the vase against the window might break the glass and he would be sucked into space along with the rest of the crew. But instead, he missed, and stammered out of the room. This was a deliberate act, and he knew the consequences. Not bothering with the vase, he left his room once again.
Walking along the bridge, he stared out of the large floor-to-ceiling windows and wondered how hard those would be to crack. Instead of a vase crashing into the window, it was a chair this time. Charlie was as drunk as he’d ever been, and decided that never seeing earth again was a good enough reason to try and kill himself and everyone else on board. His plan failed. To this day I still don’t know how he snuck the alcohol up there... He stood there staring at Jerry, with an awful look on his face. Not too long after, Charlie was tackled to the ground by a woman named Sarah. The youngest of the group, she was an unlikely candidate for the one who’d try and keep everyone positive and not focusing on their impending doom. Her knees were digging into his back and she had both of his hands in one of hers. “Oh! So fucking what!?” Charlie whined. “We’re all going to die up here anyway! What does it matter if it’s in here or out there?”
She used the other hand to keep his head pressed firmly against the floor. She said calmly that no one was dying today, as he continued to squirm. Sarah looked up at Jerry now, not having noticed him before. He stood slumped and uninterested, looking down on them as if they were young children fake wrestling on the floor during a rather violent episode of playtime. He was still in his pajamas and showed no interest in showering, shaving, or changing since the news broke out.
“A little help?” Sarah asked him, struggling to keep the bundle of energy on the floor. “I’m good.” he said stepping over the pair. He was on his way to the food court, although he was not sure why. He stopped eating altogether and had no reason to go there, but since they didn’t have a working engine and had no way of getting back to Earth, nobody had any reason to go anywhere. Jerry, trying to find a way to occupy his time and refusing to go back into his bedroom, often found himself walking around parts of the ship for no reason whatsoever. Usually he would try to strike up a conversation with someone or stare out a window that wouldn’t make him depressed.
“You don’t have to act like that, you twat! We’re in this together, you know that right?” She was now standing with just one foot on Charlie’s back keeping him in place. “Maybe we’re going to die, but we’re not dying alone. The only thing we can do now is keep morale high and-”
“Everyone dies alone, and you know that.” he cut her off.
Charlie was a slug. It’s not like he bathed regardless, but he somehow became more gross and even slimier over the past few days.
Sarah stood with her boots digging into Charlie’s back and begged Jerry to lighten up. He still seemed distant and Sarah asked him what was wrong. He refused to speak. She dug deeper just as her boots were and eventually got an answer out of him. He confessed to both his shipmates that he planned to lock himself in his room until the food ran out, out of his fear of the cannibalistic tendencies that his crew might conjure up. Sarah disagreed with him and called him irrational. She said that at the meeting held after the news broke, which Jerry did not attend, they agreed on no people-eating.
Then, without warning, Jerry exploded like he had never before at this woman. “So what! You have no idea how people will be after that day comes. Starvation is desperation and I wouldn’t put it past any of you. We’re all human, and we all have the same needs. Don’t think that a verbal agreement at a stupid fucking meeting is going to stop anyone from doing whatever the fuck they want! Not without food and a way back to earth, at least!”
He started to walk away before turning to finish his thought.
“Oh yeah, and you want to know what else we agreed on at that meeting? A high morale. And look how that’s going. Two of your crew members have already tried to commit suicide!”
Everyone was motionless for a moment.
“Two...” Sarah said, no longer holding Charlie to the floor. “What’re you talking about, Jer?”
He realized his slip, and ran the opposite way down the hall to get as far away from them as he could. But on this ship, he could only go so far, and there was no running from anything.