Author : Aaron Koelker

Most said I was crazy, some wished me luck and only one said, “I love you”.

Though I was strapped to a flaming arrow that the archer had no intention of ever retrieving, I had yet to question my own sanity. In fact, I thought I was the sanest person on the planet, and it was about to lose him.

Thousands volunteered for the opportunity and thousands backed out; hundreds were declared unsuitable and dozens were thanked for their commitment but ultimately turned away. Now there was just me, soon to be the first man to stand on that little red rock in the sky.

A psych test wheedled out the majority of applicants and declared that I was in undeniably perfect mental health. It didn’t take a subtle mind to see the overwhelming irony in that, but I believed it, and I was impressed with whomever had designed the test to actually deign me sane. Perhaps they, too, understood things like I did.

I wasn’t scared as the rocket locked into its ignition procedures and I didn’t think I would need the luck people had thrust upon me over the last few weeks. You can’t be the sanest man in the world and believe in a thing like luck, but it was interesting how much I learned about fear from those concerned folk. Sometimes you saw it in their eyes or in the way they asked, but you could always tell. While they surmised little from me, I took a lot away from them.

“Won’t you get lonely?” one asked me. I then knew they were terrified of solitude.

“Won’t you get bored?” asked another. I knew they cherished material goods and struggled with restlessness.

“Such little space!” said the claustrophobic one.

The solid boosters lit beneath me, yet they seemed far away and unimportant. I was picturing the day’s headlines sprawled out above a black and white of my hideous mug. “MAN’S ONE WAY TRIP OPENS FUTURE!” it might say. Think of all the petty, uninspired jokes there would be when people saw the face of the man who chose to run away from all of humanity. They couldn’t understand, just like the people who feared for me didn’t understand and the people who thought me crazy didn’t understand. If they did, they might be strapped into this rocket with me.

Only one person came close to that claim, and while I wouldn’t necessarily miss her, I regretted not knowing her better. My mother walked out on my father, who died when I was fifteen shortly after remarrying. My stepmother and I, between which there was little animosity, had never spent much time together. But she knew she was the only flake of a family I had left, and that must have compelled her to say, “I love you,” when I told her I was leaving for good. No comment or fuss, no attempt to understand why or dissuade me. Just, “I love you.” She couldn’t understand why, but I was glad to know she at least understood me.

As I soared into a black heaven dotted with starlight, I knew I completely understood all those people with their faces titled up to the sky imagining themselves in my position, terrified at the idea. They could only wonder and guess why a man would willingly condemn himself to my fate. My problem was that I knew them all too well. I read them like an open book while to them I was some alien hieroglyph etched on a dirty wall.

I didn’t condemn myself; I condemned humanity.

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