Space Cadet


‘Fascinating,’ a certain TV Vulcan would say: that subtle glitch in perspective which allows the Horsehead nebula, with its dusty, crimson tendrils, to gently cradle Krakatoa’s shimmering planetary silhouette, despite being thousands of light years away. Space as an entity transcending space as the mere distance between celestial bodies.

Ursula is down there somewhere. Amidst the sleeping Krakatoan Planetsiders. Such a unique sight—that sheer obsidian surface, that midnight glaze—penetrated only by the pin-sized spattering of glowing city nightlife. Little stars pocking the black planetary atrament. Krakatoa is space, the Planetsiders say – only you can live there. Ursula lives there.

I both hope and despair that she received my voicemail. Mostly despair.

Pretty view, at least—Krakatoa’s onyx sphere inset in deep scarlet canvas, gracefully accentuating those delicate seasons of space.

Oh yes, space has seasons. Planetsiders deny it, and—speaking strictly through the droning, azoic pedantry those same Planetsiders refer to as ‘science’—I must reluctantly cede their soulless denial as truth. But science is like an over-bookish anatomy major that needs a shag—all pedagogy and no imagination. All study and no practice. Because any Drifter worth their ship knows that out here—drifting in serene tranquility through infinite starry creation, nestled by a game-boy beige space suit with naught but a thin Plexiglas visor between oneself and that which is both inconceivable cosmic beauty and empty galactic oblivion—that space feels. It has thoughts and concerns and emotions; trends and habits. It does have seasons.

Ursula knows that space has seasons.

Which also means that right now, unfortunately—and supposing she did get my message, maybe she won’t—she’s snickering smugly at me, basking in self-contented schadenfreude because she knows that Krakatoa is currently in the heartless throes of interstellar January, and I’m out here drifting helplessly in glacial, frigid, eyeball-numbing cold.

I could call a cab. But then, the Venn diagram of cabbies that [a] travel out this far; [b] don’t charge exorbitant fares; and [c] won’t abduct me and sell my organs on the black market—well, such an intersection simply doesn’t exist. So I’m stuck out here, unless of course I’m willing to invest either a half-month’s rent or a kidney, which I’m not. At least now I know the cost ceiling of my dignity. As does Ursula, I suppose.

She’d have never let this happen. And I don’t mean this involuntary, insipid, poetically introspective but increasingly monotonous spacewalk. She’s probably getting a kick out of this. No, I mean that—and I hate to admit it—she’d have never let me leave the port without my insurance card. And she’d have never let me absentmindedly park my ship smack in front of an engine-red fire hydrant. And she’d have never let me irritatingly shove the resulting spaceport citation under the tornado-swept heap of papers, bills, and notices that she’d have never let me disregard because she’d have never let me accumulate them in the first place. These and the countless other ‘have nevers’ that she would have never let happen, all leading up to, well, this. So I get it. I need her. And maybe it took an unintended orbital stranding, followed by a begrudgingly lengthy, obviously compulsory stare into the ruby-shadowed, ebony-relic starscape that is Krakatoan abyss to make me realize it, but hey—Drifters are known to be a little thick.

Is that a glint? Or just some twinkling, peripheral jest? No, it is a glint! That’s my ship! There! My gorgeous, lusty ship! My ironrust red, single engine gamma cruiser, piercing the aether with its hand-drawn 1990s’ anime curves! To say I thought I’d never see it again grossly exaggerates the severity of my predicament, but my euphoria nonetheless remains the same. Seldom have I been happier watching that sleek, effortless glide—that barely-visible wake of propulsion-induced tilt shift. I’m over the moon—if Krakatoa had one—and it’s all thanks to her.

And by her I mean my ship. Ursula I’m less enthusiastic to see.

Is it too late to hope my ship is on autopilot?

No, alas. As my craft casually eats away the miles between us, Ursula’s figure materializes clearly in the cockpit—driving my ship like she drives my life. She pulls closer, superimposing the ship over Krakatoa, casting a tri-layer image of coal-pitch planet set betwixt the cruiser’s matte red and the distant nebula’s cosmic crimson.

An electric click ignites my radio com, and her smoky lilt echoes inside my helmet, my ears feeding on each delectable inflection.

“Hello Ratchet.”

I wave back guiltily.

“You know most guys aren’t so literal when they say they need space.”

Oh Ursula. She always could make me laugh.


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