What the Hell is that, Larry?

Why would you stay where things are boring? Something a lot of people say, sure. But when you cry to leave the island not fearing what comes next, you really want out. It's what plays on repeat in your head. Still you feel like chasing dreams and being free, like an idiot that relishes in whatever comes next regardless of the consequence. But then there's such a thing as anchors. They bind you to responsibility, to caring, but the expressions you want to smash out into the world with iron fists never cease, they are merely subsided and compromised, right? Well, those are the thoughts that echo through Braiden Chin's mind at the moment.

The Spaceman thought he could get away from his anchors. His wife, his kids. They'd absorbed his youth, money and passion. Now they hated him. What did he have to lose by finally getting to see the moon? To walk it's sandy, powdery surface with his last breath, if need be. It was the only thing he had never let go of since childhood. Perhaps the only thing that mattered anymore. Lots of people have kids, wives, ex'es, whatever. But how many have touched the surface of the moon? It had taken him years to get to this point; the training to earn his silver astronaut pin while he attempted to keep alive his dying mini empire, and everything that wanted so desperately to distract and annoy him, like the anchors, would now fall behind him and that little silver pin would finally turn gold.

Michelle, Commander of this mission, knew only minor details of Brandon's state. It was enough to know he's not in the best of places. Which didn't make her job any easier. Her duties weren't as clean as watching the crews physical state. Far from it. The problems always start in the brain and that can be perhaps the hardest and the most crucial thing to judge when forecasting their future. "You okay, Braiden?"

"Yeah, I'm just daydreaming is all." He said this with a brief smile. Braiden looked back at Earth. He'd seen it for days now through the porthole. But he didn't miss it even as pretty as it was. 

Larry floated over to where Braiden was and looked out the window beside him. "Hey, remember how they said when they first went out to space and looked back, the most beautiful thing was the Earth? Well what about when you've seen it so many times in NASA specials on TV and in books?" Larry chuckled.

Braiden shrugged his shoulders with a forced smile. "Not quite the same impact, huh?" 

"But I'll tell you what, knowing my kids are on that little blueish planet with my wife and I'm out here, man ... that's really something else. That's a feeling I don't think they can show on TV or describe in a book." Larry gazed out the porthole with melancholy awe.

Braiden didn't really want to think about anyone else's family at the moment, there was enough of that crap to deal with in his back pocket. "If they could, it'd be better than Smell–O–Vision, right?"

Larry let out a hearty chuckle and shook his head. "You're at you're funniest when you're serious and just say the kind of junk that I'd never think of. What the hell man ... yeah I guess if they could do that, they'd be one step closer to TV that you can feel, wouldn't they?" He smiled.

"Yup, then they'll have live missions like this where people can smell your ass for the whole trip while they feel your sweat." Braiden looked at him, then winked with a smile to let him know he didn't actually stink. But he'd tired of entertaining Larry and was in a mood that wanted him to both keeping talking so he didn't have to think, and shut up at the same time, so he could be alone with his thoughts.

Larry just waved him off with a laugh, knowing not to push it anymore. 

Michelle looked carefully at their distance from the moon. "Guys, we're going to prepare to land in an hour. We'll be in position to approach by then."

"Confirmed." Braiden and Larry answered in unison.

The shuttle rocked a little and the three looked at each other. Braiden turned toward Michelle, "Was there a small meteorite forecast?"

Michelle shook her head. "No, not at all ... " She looked at her display and everything seemed balanced. "I don't see anything glaringly wrong. Braiden, look outside for any debris. Larry, go to the back camera and pan it around, see if you can find something caught in drift with us. Check along the body of the shuttle. Maybe it's already trailing off."

Michelle went to the controls for the temperature, and various camera's around the hull of the shuttle. After carefully checking around, it seemed they'd never know what may have glanced off their shuttle. "Did you guys notice that it seemed like a push more than an impact?"

Braiden nodded his head. "Yeah, it really did. Like something that didn't have a hard edge or maybe a wave of some sorts. But there's nothing that I can see. Physical on this side looks clear."

"That's a big 'ol fat negative for me as well." Larry answered.

"Are you sure, Larry?" Michelle raised an eyebrow. "Why do you keep looking back to the camera?"

Larry pointed a hand to the screen, raising his shoulders. "Well, there's some kind of smudge or something on the camera, I think ... I'm just trying to make sure it is what it is."

Braiden pushed off the wall of the ship and floated toward Larry. "Let me take a look." He steadied himself and looked at the display. Around the edges of the ship, there was indeed some kind of soft line that made the surface of the ship have a blurred look to it. "Yeah he's right, Michelle, it almost looks like a bad Photoshop job of the surface of the ship. Like it was cut out and superimposed using a soft brush, if you know what I mean."

"I don't," Michelle said. "But make sure that camera doesn't fail on us."

"It doesn't look like that's the problem." Braiden shook his head. "The edges of the lens look fine, but the ship in focus is just blurry further out. Holy shit ..."

Michelle's head snapped back to him. Her breathing became tight and focused. "What?!"

"I think ..." Braiden held his tongue for a second. He didn't want to jump to conclusions because he'd lose all credibility if he made a false claim like that thing just moved. Then he saw it again. "It moved! It just moved a little!"

"Holy shit!" Larry couldn't stand the suspense. "Let me see!" He pushed Braiden aside and looked at the display. He couldn't see anything, then it struck him; it was Braiden, the guy with the bad and/or mean jokes. He just looked at Braiden with a smile that said he was on to him. "Sure, I bet it is, you jackass." He laughed. The look on Braiden's face made Larry's body temp start to rise. He didn't want a disaster, of any kind, and if the ship started to fall apart, well what the hell, that's the end of everything right off the bat.

"I'm not fucking kidding." Braiden looked at Larry, no grin this time, not even a wink.

"What part of the ship moved?" Michelle asked while floating towards them.

"It moved like it was alive. Like shifting, almost searching for something. Then it stopped." Braiden shook his head in disbelief.

Michelle took a good look at Braiden. "You know it can't do that, Braiden. Nothing can survive in space, let alone live out there. I'll take your statement to mean it looked fluid in movement; probably because the lens is blurred."

"The lens isn't blurred." Braiden sounded impatient. "It's the edge of the ship that's blurred."

Staring down at the monitor, Michelle couldn't see anything alarming beyond the edge of the ship. "Well, it looks like it's out of focus, I don't see ... " Right then the surface of the ship shifted, almost rolling from one side to the other, and settled again. Perhaps Braiden's brain had been compromised by stress, but aside from his issues, Michelle was beginning to doubt her own sanity. She knew that as a Captain it was not okay to doubt her own sanity - ever. She glanced away, fearing eye strain may have caused the movement. After all, it did look pretty similar to what you'd see in the distance when the heat rose off the asphalt as you're driving down the road. 

By that time, Larry had wedged himself in with Michelle and Braiden, and they all stared at the screen quietly. They glanced around the shuttle to observe how all the readings were normal. After a few minutes, they let out sighs of relief. "It may well be a mirage effect, you know?" Larry shrugged, looking at the screen. "The light might have just shifted, probably something the other astronauts had never really paid attention too."

Then it moved again. This time a rocking motion shook the ship gently like a lulling ocean wave – slight, but powerful. 

 
End part one ... 

A short story by Kenn O'Neal – Let me know if you want to read more in the comments below! I'll make this a running story if you do. You can leave a comments without logging in, but please leave a name instead of the "anonymous," although Blogger is connected to your Google account if you have one, so you're likely already logged in ;) 

Special thanks to Kathryn Mattingly and her editing skills! You can find her work here KathrynMattingly.com and here Kathryn's books on Amazon

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