One eye rolls open. The other. They both close. They both open. There’s movement in the next room. I very carefully undo the straps across my chest, across my legs, and I begin to float off the bed. A warm push against the wall, and I’m moving toward the door.
I grab a hold of the handles at the top and side of the doorway, and wait a second to keep my body still. Then I open the door and pull myself through. I move down to the control panel, where the Kid sits, speaking to the surface. He finishes as I come up.
The Kid is strapped in to a chair, I notice, as I float above him, holding onto the ceiling. ‘What’s going on?’ I ask.
‘Left solar panel cluster went dead. I just spoke with base, and they said they’ll send some one up. It’ll take three hours for them to prepare a shuttle, so I’ve switched us to power conservation mode.’
‘What’s wrong with the cluster?’
‘Not sure. We’re just not getting any readings.’
‘It’s probably just a cracked power relay. They’re not really made for the kind of temperature variations we get out here. I’ll go take a look.’
‘Base is going to send some one.’
‘Yeah, but not for hours. Besides, if I can fix it by just replacing the relay cap…do you have any idea how much it costs for them to send some one up here? I’ll just be a minute.’
And so, I pull myself down the hall to the airlock.
‘You need any help suiting up?’ asks the Kid.
‘No, I’ll be fine.’
‘Well, I’ll be here, then. We’ll be in contact through the radio.’
I zip up the suit, put on the boots and gloves, fit the helmet on.
‘Testing, radio 1,’ I say.
‘I hear you fine.’
I step into the airlock, and wait while it de-pressurises. Then I step outside to take a look at the panel cluster. It takes me about twenty minutes to assure myself that the only problem is the cracked relay. The relay is definitely cracked, but a new cap would fix it for now. I reach into my belt pouch with my clumsy thick spacesuit fingers. I pull the new cap out, and put it on one of the cluster’s crossbars. I reach back into the pouch.
‘How are things going out there?’ comes over the radio.
‘Fine. It was the relay. I’m going to scrape off the old cap, now, and put the new one on. We’ll see if that solves our problem.’
‘All right, let me know when to try it out.’
I spend about ten minutes getting rid of the old cap, and then I replace the scraper in my pouch. I go to grab the new cap and realise it’s gone.
I have been such an idiot. By placing the cap on the crossbar, I might as well have just flung it out into space. I’ve lived up here for four months, but I still some times find myself taking gravity for granted.
I turn to go back inside. I’ll need to get another cap, but then I see it. The cap is just behind me, floating, turning slightly in space. I reach out for it and miss. Distances in space some times are confusing. There’s naught out here to mark perspective. Every thing seems to be right beside you. One has to learn to look at the size of an object to judge its distance. Looking at the size of the cap, there, just before me, I know it isn’t far. I hold tight to the crossbar and reach out with all my might, but still can’t grab it.
I’m about to resign, and go back in, when I think of some thing. I stick my boot under the crossbar. From this vantage, stretching my whole body out, away from the station, I manage to grab the cap. But as I’m coming back in, I realise some thing awful. My foot has slipped its perch. I’m no longer touching the station at all.
With naught to shove off of, I have no way of moving closer to the station, but I’m not concerned. The station’s still close to me.
‘What’s going on?’ comes the Kid’s worried voice.
‘I accidentally let go of the station. Can you come out here and throw me a rope?’
‘We don’t have a rope that long.’
‘What are you talking about, I’m—’
I’m about to explain to him that I’m still right beside the station. I could probably just grab onto it if I were a little bit taller. But then I notice how small the station has become. And worse, how very much of Earth I am able to see.
And I know, then. I know I’m lost. I have about an hour of air left, and there’s no way base can send a ship up here in time. I turn off my radio.
The globe is beautiful. Through the cloud cover I can see the Western coast of Africa, and the shining and glittering Atlantic ocean. I see the station before it, shrinking steadily. Some how, the smaller it becomes, the more my instinct is to reach out and grab it, as though it’s become a small toy that I can now hold in my glove.
I see the glint of the sun coming off a string of other satellites. As I move away, my angle shifts, lighting up new satellites and winking out others. I try not to look at the sun, but already I can feel its heat on my back. Or do I? I’m not supposed to, though this suit.
I look at the coast of Africa and wonder if I’ll live to see the Americas come round. I wonder if the cloud cover will move away from the rest of the planet. I think I could see Europe if it weren’t for the clouds.
I wonder if there’s some one in Sierra Leone right now, looking up at me drift away. I wonder if the Kid is hovering by a window, now. Poor guy. I hope he turns out okay.