Thursday, July 22, 2010

flash fiction thursday: to reach the unreachable star

Houghton Walkway

To Reach the Unreachable Star

He pressed his face against the window and imagined that through the thick Plexiglas, he could feel the cold of space.  His bright green eyes absorbed the light of a thousand stars and silently, he prayed to whatever god was listening- please, please for the love of everything good and right in the world, let me pass this test.  He wouldn't tell his peers this, but he was terrified.  Lieutenant Markus Albrieght had been studying for today's test for six months in paperwork, but in reality, all his life.

He wasn't entirely ashamed to admit that his interest in flying had come straight from Star Wars.  Sometimes he and a couple of the other hopefuls would go to a local club after training and swallow down a couple of Bud Lights and joke around about it.  "Gee, Scott, why did you join the Project?" "I was one of the fastest pilots in my squadron and my lead recommended me.  You?" "Well, you know that scene in Star Wars where Luke blows up the Death Star?  Yeah.  That'll be me someday." They always gave him a weird look and treated him like he was joking.  But he wasn't, and he didn't mind laughing along with them.  They all had little quirks, after all.

"Heya Albrieght, ya coming?"

Markus looked over his shoulder at one of the other hopefuls; they all called him Johnson, but nobody knew his first name.  That was the way it was around the Project.  It was all hush-hush, and they were not permitted to talk about any of the details, not even with their families.  Markus had a wife back home in Illinois that he hasn't seen in six months, since he had read in a magazine on base that NASA was looking for "men and women in the Air Force looking for advancement opportunities".  It was a vague enough advertisement, but it wasn't the words that interested him.  It was the image in the background.  It had the stereotyped moon and stars background, but there was also a ship in the background that looked a little too much like Luke's X-Wing.  With his wife's blessing, he had followed up with other on the base and next thing he know, he was here, with men like Scott and Johnson, dressed in a bland grey jumpsuit, only a pen-and-paper test away from sitting in the cockpit of NASA's newest program.

"Yea, I'm comin'.  Just gimme a minute."  Markus pressed his palms against the window and let the cold settle in his fingers.  He closed his eyes and breathed slowly, trying to calm his heart as it threatened to explode.

"Just don't take too long."

Markus listened to Johnson's heavy boots walk away and he exhaled.  In half an hour... in half an hour he would know if all these months of training were a waste of time... or a dream realised.

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