One breath, filling the lungs with recycled air. Eighteen hundred hours. Breathing out—slight chest pain! Did his heart give out already? No, it was just a mars bar bulging in the breast pocket of his thousand-dollar tuxedo, pressed beneath the what-cha-ma-calls-it of the spacesuit. The burning sensation between his legs had only just now gone away, or maybe it was forgotten in the excitement of the great big blue fading into utter existential void, past the gutter of the universe.
The spacesuit, especially made for him down to his direct specifications, down to the zipper, cost more than the flight upwards.
He heard a voice crackling through the radio static—but it was a memory of moments ago—as he launched faster than his Lamborghini Miura, a feeling that sparked another memory of way back when in celebration of his 19th birthday, and the first million earned, he realised he could do anything; now upward with the power of a trillion butterfly sneezes. The voice crackling through the static screamed:
And he entered the stratosphere.
He recalled a while back cutting the ribbon for the grand opening of the scientific research centre he funded. He was only slightly drunk, though cutting the dress off that lead researcher proved far more alluring that night.
He passed the ozone layer.
And during some other event in some other time, shaking hands with Old Gagarin gave him an idea…
If the Karman Line was drawn in crayon, it would’ve been invisible to him now.
Blasting out latest “Ain’t Talking About Love” through the speakers in his helmet (also an expensive retrofit) he remembered the sleuth of graphs and charts those scientists he hired showed him, and of the fear they tried to thrash into him with figures and facts.
‘You can’t do it!’ they said, ‘no matter how much money you burn—it’s suicide!’
But with appropriate pre-planning, precautions of avoidance, he hoped the Van Allen Belt’s radiation wouldn’t damage his rocket and poison him before he did what he set out to do. The last thing he needed to do before he had done everything.
As the lyrics of the song faded into a random jumble of mumbled words, his rocket spun around, faster and faster, utterly insignificant at the great line between the blueness of the sky and the blackness of the final frontier. In this chaotic turbulence, his thoughts drifted away, back to the countdown.
He realised he left the kettle on at the summer manor.
He wondered what Tom was up to these days.
The muffled words of Ground Control ceased to moan. The spinning slowed down, enough to reconcile with his thoughts. Looking past the flashing screens and coloured buttons of the dashboard, through the glass dome, through to outside, the sky and space layered upon each other like the non-mixing liquids in some beverage. His favourite included the layers of Crème de Menthe, Campari, Averna and Absinthe—in that particular order.
Pressing one button caused a click, then a voice of a man warned him on the radio. Pressing another button caused a beep to play every couple of seconds. The man on the radio spelled out all of the legal ramifications of this action. He turned towards the hatch next to him, pulled a lever. The man on the radio screamed. The beep turned into an erroneous screech.
He braced himself, unbuckling from the seat he twisted and pointed his feet to the panel with the lever. After pressing another button, the sound stopped, he pushed the panel with his feet and it broke off. The vacuum of space took him, he slipped right through the hole, in a state-of-the-art spacesuit.
There he was, floating in the emptiness, the glowing globe dominated the scenery below his feet. Over half-ways down a life’s journey, and already he’d done nigh everything. Until now. He unzipped the special section of his suit, the lower portion in the crotch area. For a moment he felt nervous, the whole world was watching, but then he managed to release—he drank as much as possible, so now it was time to let go.
And he did.
A stream of yellow burst out of him, its line towards the Earth twinkled in the sunlight. It was wonderful, he thought, with the contour of Africa and the Middle East and a little bit of Australia in the background, to look upon it. Sapphire ocean, verdant biomes and sandy Sahara, and over all that, his golden stream.
The inevitable breakdown of the specific machinations in his suit allowing him to mark his territory caused pain. In an immediate moment part of him flew away and floated amidst the nothingness and urine. He couldn’t breathe. He felt his sun-facing side scorch as if it lied upon flaming coals. The opposite side felt swathed in dry ice, numbed to everything except pain.
The odour of brimstone choked his senses, the metallic gunpowder smell reminded him of, of all things, charred sirloin. After he burned and boiled and froze, all while not being able to breathe, not even a single thought came to his mind.
Now he had done everything.
Now he was free.