Author: R. J. Erbacher

Space, the final…

Space wasn’t the final anything. It was a lot of nothingness that went on forever with a bunch of frozen spinning rocks and a few abnormally hot globs of gas. Just fucking empty.

Through his helmet’s face-plate Marco swiveled his stare from the depths of space to focus on the beautiful reflective solar panel shining with the sun’s distant power. He repositioned his grip on the hammer tethered to his arm and smashed the steel head right through it. The splintering shards twinkled in coordinated chaos as they mushroomed from the impact and dispersed into the vacuum of blackness.

When he told his dad at the age of nine that he wanted to be an astronaut, his dad laughed. At sixteen and still insisting that it was his ultimate purpose in life, his father called him a brickhead. His father, a construction worker, called all stupid people brickheads.

“You are going to be an engineer and that’s final.”

So, Marco went to school to be an engineer. College was a joke and he hit the party trail hard and cut every corner, just manipulating out a degree in engineering. At the graduation ceremony, his dad cried the tears of a proud father. Marco wanted to slap him.

Next was a stint in the Air Force, fixing plane engines, where he bullied or bribed or cajoled up to the rank of Technical Lieutenant. His dad bragged to everyone he knew that his son was an officer in the service. Brickhead no more.

Marco swung back his Chromel boot and pulverized the lower panel of high-temperature substrate into disco ball debris. He kicked out the adjoining one and the one next to that just for good measure. Pulling the string off his wrist he axe-chucked the hammer with hostility in the general direction of Pluto, destined to tumble on into infinity.

A few years later he hooked up with an older female officer who was meagerly connected to the space program and he pleasured his way into a pencil whipped commission. From there it took a while but he managed to secure an understudy spot on the International Space Station team. A questionable accident that resulted in a broken ankle to the head engineer and he was walking the steel grate plank, geared in his white thermal micrometeoroid lined suit and boarding the ship to take him into space.

That same garment protected his arm as his fist went through the closest mirror. Seven years bad luck. Marco destroyed several more and finally quit, not because his anger was satiated but because his physical tirade in the bulky garb had exhausted him.

A college graduate, an engineer, a Lieutenant. An astronaut. A son. And a brickhead.

He turned his body and stared at the shrinking blip that was the ISS, minus one solar panel. An astute engineer would have examined the armature of the unfolding panel first, and found it mostly fractured and unstable. Marco was out there because the computer pinpointed the damage from the meteor shower at this location. But he just launched off the side of the substructure without checking, landing on and snapping off the reflective sheet to float away from the main ship. And there wasn’t a goddamn thing anybody could do about it.

Now, here he was. Drifting on his shattered life raft in a carbon sea of finality with about an hours’ worth of oxygen left. A suspended swarm of mirror slivers mocking back at him with their infuriating reflections.

Marco fucking hated his dad. Because he had been right.