Author : Elijah Goering
Henry Jockt listened to the low hiss of life support as the last of the oxygen was used up. He tried to force himself to run over the possibilities once again, to hold on to hope for some miraculous rescue, but his despair resisted his best efforts and he soon gave up. He became aware of the roar of his ship’s engines only as it faded away and the last reserves of fuel were spent. He had no fuel, little air, and no emergency reserve of either. The bizarre sensation as his weight gave way to free fall felt like a slap to the face. He should have been comfortable in the gravity of the moon by now.
And there was no hope of rescue. Henry couldn’t fool himself into thinking there was. He was drifting out of the solar system at 143 kilometers per second. There was nobody ahead to help him and if there had been it wouldn’t have mattered. It would take hours for anyone to catch him and match his speed and the air was already getting hard to breathe.
Henry wondered what he was supposed to think about in his last moments. His family and friends? He loved them but they didn’t really seem to matter now. He could try to pray, but he had never really decided whether he believed in God. He had always thought he would think about it later; there had been so much time…
Wasn’t his life supposed to flash before his eyes? Henry thought of his dearest memories, but it only filled him with the dread of realization that his life was ending. How was he supposed to come to terms with death in just a few minutes? People were supposed to get days or weeks to deal with it, and even then it was hard. He couldn’t comprehend that the continuous fabric of his life would be cut short.
No, all he could think about was the mistake. A quick trip to the moon, accelerate at 1g for 104 minutes, flip, and decelerate for 104 minutes. Easy, especially with enough fuel to accelerate for up to 6 hours at 1g. Only he had typed in 1044 minutes and taken a nap, waking 5 hours later to find the moon far behind and not enough fuel to stop.
The silence was deafening in his ears and after a moment he realized why. The hiss was gone. Henry began to feel tired and relaxed every muscle in zero gravity. He closed his eyes. It had been such a small mistake.