Breezes of Heaven
It's been two weeks so far. Two years and four months to go.
I’ve been staying in my space suit because every day or so I have to go out and fix a panel or check on the navigation system and make sure it wasn’t hit by any debris.
It is really pissing Nancy off.
I’m trying to push back any fights for a while. We definitely will fight because we are spending almost two and a half years alone together, but I figure if I can put it off until month six or so then things will go easier. I’m not taking my space suit off though. Not until the computer says we are in open space with no chance of being hit by asteroids or meteorites.
The reason we won this opportunity is because we look like a perfect couple, we look like a perfect couple because we keep our distance, but i think we both wanted to win this trip as a way to force us to be closer. We never really talked about it like that, and in the past two weeks the lines of communication haven't been any more open, but we have time and I'm hopeful.
“The computer says that we are out of that asteroid field,” Nancy says over the intercom. “You can go out and check on the panels now.”
I don’t say anything for a while, trying to think of the right thing to say, the thing that will immediately make her less angry. That thing probably doesn’t exist.
“When I come back do you want to watch a movie,” I ask over the intercom.
There is nothing for a while, and I’m rubbing my space suited finger over the eject button.
“Ok,” she says back with no excitement. I ignore it for now; I can deal with that when I get back, one thing at a time.
I press the eject button and the airlock starts, and in no time I’m outside fixing the ship, something I know I’m very good at.
* * *
When I get back in the ship I am shocked to discover a man standing in the living room with a recorder and a note pad.
“Hello Ned, My name is Oscar Bulk and I am here to do research for your biography.”
“Hello,” I say and take my helmet off.
“I am here on behalf of the Buxmen Publishing Group. They have sent me back in time to get the most accurate facts I can on how you and your girlfriend Nancy traversed the vastness of space to become the first civilians to land on the now flourishing planet of Neecos.”
“By which I mean to say in my time, about 200 years in the future, it is a flourishing and prosperous world. Free from all the mistakes and better from all the lessons of Earth.”
“You can time travel in the future?”
“Mmm,” Oscar says and makes a ‘sort of’ motion with his hands. “You’re really not supposed to, but people do.”
We all sat down in the living room, Nancy and I on the couch and Oscar on the chair. We watched a movie and Oscar watched us, and wrote down what he saw.
“Did you notice that I took my spacesuit off,” I whisper to Nancy.
“Did you do it for me or for Oscar?”
I probably did take it off so I could look normal in front of Oscar, but I didn’t want to say that, so I just pinch her leg. She screams a little and wiggles away from me.
I stop paying attention to the movie and start to think about how I'm going to fix the problems in me and Nancy's relationship. I want to surprise her with a gift. That kind of thing always helped before, but being on a spaceship I didn't have many gift options available. But with this Oscar guy showing up I might be able to figure something out. Without realizing it I pinch Nancy’s leg again in excitement. She screams louder and moves to the other side of the couch. Its ok, my plan will make up for that.
* * *
“What did you bring with you” I ask Oscar when we are alone in the computer room.
“Just my tape recorder and notepad,” He says.
“No I mean for your trip here. Do you have a suitcase or a change of clothes or anything?”
“I brought a few things, yes.”
“Would you mind if I took a look at what you have. I don’t want to be intrusive, and I’m sure you don’t want to interfere with our trip to much, but I was hoping you would have something I could buy off you.”
“You have money?”
“No, but I could pay you back maybe. When I’m old and you’re just being born… I don’t know I didn’t think it out all the way. Ok here’s my dilemma, the other day I was digging through the closet to try and find some snacks because our rations just aren’t enough sometime. Anyway I stumbled upon a box and in that box was the complete Cosby Show series on data disk. Awesome right, except that on the box it said ‘For Ned for first x-mas.’ That means that Nancy used one of her two personal item boxes to bring a Christmas present for me.”
“What are personal item boxes,” Oscar asks.
“We got two boxes before we boarded that we could fill with any two items we wanted. Not for things like clothes or whatever, but personal things that would remind us of home.”
“What did you bring?”
“I brought a big box of crackers in one, because I knew I would get hungry, and the complete Cosby Show series on data disk in the other, because I really love that show. Only Nancy doesn’t even know I brought that because I only watch it when she makes me sleep on the couch. It really helps me calm down.
“Anyway what I’m getting at is that I didn’t bring Nancy a present, and I’m going to look like a jerk, even more of a jerk, if I don’t have something to give her on Christmas.”
* * *
There is a picture on the wall in the living room. It is the picture that Nancy and I got taken to send in with all our information when we applied for this trip. We are both smiling; we both have what-are-now bad haircuts that seemed cool back then. Only two years ago. Both of our lips were softer back then too, I notice that a lot. And I have bags under my eyes now that I didn’t then. I was happier back then, even if the smile in the picture was fake, I was happier because I didn't have this picture to remind me how unhappy I am now.
Oscar asked me if he could take a picture of that picture for his article and I told him he could have it.
* * *
We look through Oscar’s things but don’t find much. A toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo; apparently hygiene is still an everyday struggle in the future. The problem of what to do about Nancy’s Christmas present is all I can think about for some reason, which is a problem because that means I don’t have much to talk to her about.
“What are you and Oscar doing,” she asks.
“I’m just showing him how the ship works and stuff, you know reporter stuff.”
“Are we all going to have dinner later?”
“Uh…” I think about maybe making a meal or really nice dessert for Nancy for Christmas. Would that be something she would want? “Uh yeah sure, Dinner would be great, I’ll tell Oscar.”
“What if I write you a note saying something like ‘bring a really nice dress with you’ and I keep it in my pocket until I meet you in the future. Would that work?”
“What size dress is she?”
“I don’t know. Let’s go find out.”
We sneak out of the computer room towards the bedroom when Nancy sees us and calls us to dinner.
“Sure,” I say “but sit down and let me give you a back rub, you’ve had a tough day.”
As I give her a backrub I check the tag on the dress she is wearing; size three. I flash three fingers at Oscar and tell Nancy that we have to take our dinner in the computer room.
“Ok so I’m writing down that you should bring a really nice size three dress with you. And now I’ll just put it in my pocket and…”
“Maybe we should check your luggage for…” I’m cut off by the ship shaking violently and the warning lights going off. The computer screens flash the words “Asteroid Field” and “Navigation Malfunction.”
“Oh not now,” I say. “I have to get my space suit on. I’ll be right back Oscar.”
It takes me a while to get my space suit on, and when I’m done the shaking has stopped and it’s safe to go out and check for damages.
It’s disheartening to go out into space. Not scary, although a stray rock could come out of nowhere and crack my helmet and kill me, just bleak because when I look out I don’t recognize the stars. People on Earth spent millions of years naming the stars and putting them into shapes, and determining their fates from them. I don’t know what the stars I see mean.
There are two loose panels that I screw down and then realign the navigation system. As I move across the ship I can see through one of the portholes that Nancy is in the kitchen doing dishes, I can also see the reflection of the stars in the window but decide not to look up, and keep crawling to the hatch.
I get to the hatch and see the plaque that was put on there to inspire us. It is from a letter Johannes Kepler wrote to Galileo. I read it every time I come back in.
"As soon as somebody demonstrates the art of flying, settlers from our species of man will not be lacking on the moon and Jupiter... Given ships or sails adapted to the breezes of heaven, there will be those who will not shrink from even that vast expanse."
* * *
I come back in and take my helmet off and consider keeping the rest of my space suit on just in case I have to go back out, but decide instead to take it off.
“Nancy,” I say over the intercom.
“Yeah,” she asks back.
“Why don’t you and Oscar sit at the table and I’ll make us all some nice dessert.”
“I would like that,” she says “but Oscar went back home.”
“He was helping me with the dishes and then he said he thought he was getting in the way and packed up his stuff and wasn’t there anymore.”
“Oh, well would you still want to have some dessert with me?”
“If you want to start I’ll probably be done with the dishes by the time you get done with dessert.”
“Ok,” I say and head to the fridge to check for ingredients. While we both silently work in the kitchen I start to say something four or five times, but never do. We sit down for strawberry shortcakes and I find enough words to get started.
"Are we back on the right course," Nancy eventually asks.
I pause for a second to think. "Yeah, we are realigned with our destination and every day we are getting a little bit closer."
"I'm glad," she says and gives me a kiss on the cheek.
I don’t look through all my stuff to make sure there isn’t a really nice dress in there somehow. Instead I read “The Martian Chronicles” to Nancy until she falls asleep. I bring her to bed and for a while I look at her sleeping face. When I shut the light off I see the stars outside moving by.
Two years and four months to go.