Nivedita gasped at the magnanimity of the scenery around her. She had never imagined that space would be this impending. Even though she had heard stories and read about the vastness of the space, observing it in person was completely shattering her mind. The dark emptiness, the size of the moon, the white sun, everything was crushing her perspective about her beliefs.
“Nivedita! Can you please focus?” A stern voice came through the communication device.
“Uh. Yes. Copy that.”
“This is a critical mission and its success would define if we will be able to launch our next manned shuttle to Mars. Please focus.” The voice said sarcastically.
Nivedita rolled her eyes. She was an accomplished scientist and an astronaut but she was being handled like a toddler. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time. As glamorous as being an astronaut sounds, the awe is only for the people outside or the astronaut himself. The team that is actually sending you to space is as competent, sometimes more than you and it’s hard to impress them. At best, you are a competent colleague, at worst, a glorified driver of a vehicle that mostly runs on autopilot.
She didn’t mind it though. The stern voice was actually Maggie’s who was her best friend and the closest thing she had to a family.
“Nivedita, can you please upload the results of the tests?” Maggie said over the comms.
“Already done. They should reach you soon,” Nivedita said. There was no way around the distance and as much as they might want, the time it takes to communicate with each other was bounded by the laws of physics.
Nivedita got back to her work. She had been sent with two other teammates to build a booster platform on the Moon. The idea was that this booster would be released in space at a specific time to get attached to the rocket that would be coming from the Earth in a particular manner boosting the rocket’s fuel as well as velocity towards Mars. The hypothesis was that this push would reduce the time to reach Mars by around 7%. While the number may seem meager ordinarily, it was significant for a distance to Mars.
It had been her dream to explore space and now that she was here, it was everything she had dreamt about and more. Every time she looked outside, she was mesmerized. She was also happy that she got to see all this before she left the world.
A secret she was unable to share with anyone right now was that her pulse had stopped during the take-off. Maybe it was an aneurism or perhaps just the shock of the travel, her heart had stopped beating by the time the ship had stabilized. Her soul was basically traversing outside her body looking at the three of them, close-eyed waiting for the ship to leave the atmosphere. Nivedita tried to enter her body but she could only occupy it like a ghost owning a zombie.
She got lucky that in space, everyone’s motion was weird so her mishaps were blamed on space instead of her newly dead zombie phenomenon. She had hidden it well till now, but she knew it will become more difficult with each passing day. She could feel her body deteriorating as it had stopped healing itself.
“Maybe, I will leave the body in a couple of days,” Nivedita said to her for the tenth time in the past five days. In two days, they will have their mandatory full-body checkup which will tell everyone the truth. Her mind had started whirring towards faking the test somehow.
“I wish I could restart it somehow,” Nivedita said holding her hand to her heart. She felt no beat, no pulse, no breath in her body. She looked at a picture of Maggie that she had brought with her.
“Maggie, have I paid a price too heavy to see the space?” She asked the picture and looked outside. The view, in all its glory, lost sheen for a second in that moment. “Perhaps, being at Earth, eating my favorite food with you would have been a better option.”
“Nivedita! We are unable to keep the booster in its place. What do you suggest?” One of the astronauts said.
Nivedita looked at the scenario and her jaw dropped. The whole booster was finally on the Moon’s surface and it looked magnificent. Unfortunately, it was barely holding despite the absence of atmosphere.
“We will have to do it manually!” Nivedita said and no one said anything for a while. They were given strict instructions to not leave the spacecraft for this mission. It was deemed far too dangerous.
“But we aren’t supposed to…” Sadia said.
“But the mission would fail if it’s not stabilized,” Casey added.
“No one goes outside,” Maggie’s response came through the comms. Apparently, Sadia and Casey had informed Maggie about the situation.
‘It’s dangerous, for a living person,’ Nivedita thought in her mind. ‘You are already dead. Might as well make a hero out of yourself, Nivedita.’
“You are right, Maggie. It’s dangerous,” Nivedita said and started the process to leave the ship.
“What are you doing?” Casey hissed.
“You both try to balance it from here. I will add some support from outside. Hopefully, we should be done before I die.” Nivedita said with a smirk. She was glad that her death hadn’t affected her sense of humor.
Casey and Sadia nodded. By the time Maggie’s resounding ‘No’ came from the comms, Nivedita was outside.
Once the machine was stabilized, Nivedita decided it was as good a time as any to leave her body as a zombie. The mission was a success and she was standing on the moon. It was the best exit she could have asked for and she decided to take it.
Casey and Sadia looked through the ship as Nivedita’s body went limp and fell in slow motion on the surface of the moon.