Author: Michael Anthony Dioguardi
I can’t see! I can’t fucking see!
No! Don’t crumble, stop! Christ, my tether is threadbare. I have to dig my feet in. I can’t get my hand out of this biner. Oh shit! More wind! Armstrong! Armstrong! No! he’s gone.
I don’t want to die! My tripod is still holding, for now. Mic’s still busted — just fuzz and static.
I can see a bit ahead. Stanton, she’s still fighting with her cable. She’s flat on the ground. Is she — she’s readjusting her cable, oh dear God! I can see another cyclone spiraling up towards us. No! Her body trampolines above my head into the ether. My visor is so full of rusted soot — I’ve lost sight of her already. It’s starting to crack.
It’s me and Mooney up here. Mooney’s behind me; he’s off his feet. He’s struggling to regrip his tether. His tripod is unearthing. He’s the size of an ant now, shrinking down the infinite vastness of the mountain.
There’s nothing in front of me except for the rushing of brown particles. A trillion needles sink into my suit. I swear I can taste the foreign soil through my visor. My intestines are flooding my legs with their anxiety-filled acid. My head’s throbbing. My jaw is chattering against my tongue. I can feel the wrinkles on my face perspire.
This is it. This is how our mission will end.
I wonder what they will say about us? I wonder how my family will feel? Our bodies will likely not be found for years. Not until the next expedition, if that ever happens.
They said it would be easy. It would be a straight walk up. At the top, you wouldn’t even realize you were on an incline. That’s how big it is — the tallest mountain in the solar system. What a load of shit.
I feel another gust coming. I can see the swirl in the crater behind me. The lightning pierces through the rusted smoke and illuminates the horizon. There’s an aperture in the clouds.
Such a marvelous sight.
My feet are completely buried. I guess this is how Opportunity felt all those years back. Dust ran through his robotic veins and seized his mechanical heart.
My tether’s about had it. The crack in my visor is growing. The canal of tears running down my cheeks twinkles in its reflection.
The sky is stunning.
I can’t hold much longer.
There’s a blue dot out there on the horizon. It’s not alone. There’s a white dot behind it — so bright, so beautiful.
I can’t —
Grim, and well done. If anyone ever says, “it’ll be easy …” or “you can’t miss it …”, just walk away! 😉
An excellent slice-of-life tale.