Edition 7: Surface Stars by Hanson Hovell Holladay
Kelsey. Kelsey, my thoughts—my racing thoughts will not stop. When was it again? Twenty-nine, twenty-seven months ago? Thirty?
I witnessed the first surface star emerge from the East Coast in what looked to be Virginia. The second, third, fourth, fifth…all were separated by hundreds of miles, yet still so close. Almost immediately after the East Coast’s annihilation the surface stars were scattered throughout the globe: Eastern and Western Europe, the Soviet Union and numerous sites within its empire in Southwest Asia, China, along with many sites in its Eastern empire, England, and throughout the North American continent, most within the United States.
“Cape, this is Outer Reach,” I softly speak out to the other side. “Outer Reach broadcasting on all available S band frequencies. Is there anyone alive?” Only static through the comm, the symphony of white noise to honor our possible extinction.
I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know where to go—how to go.
The airlock you damn fool.
Only four months remain, maybe six. I’ll wait for the darkness.
At times I think of home. When I do I question the accuracy of my memories. What happened before the surface stars? Perhaps I am fortunate to be here. Perhaps I am the last to breathe.
Before, you had sense: rationality and sanity—lack of madness. Do you remember that conversation? The one with Mikoyan? You had a conversation with a “Lost Cosmonaut”, yes? Remember?
I remember. It was 1969—long before the Outer Reach and MIR—early in July when they sent Mikoyan up from Baikonur. He and his crew are still out there. They simply missed the Moon and just kept going—doomed to forever drift on a continuous course into infinity. I suppose there are many things he and I have in common.
What about the “Rollers” you observed, and the tracks? I suppose you still believe them to be Ivan’s Luna rovers with tiny cosmonauts inside, yes? Next you’ll claim to see a beached whale on the edge of a mare.
They only referred to them as oceans because they couldn’t get close enough to observe properly. I know there’s no water on the near side; of that I am quite certain. It’s the tracks, and not just those of Sheppard, Aldrin, Schmitt, and the others, but the ones that are different from their prints. They could be from Krechet suits, or…
Again with the tiny cosmonauts. Perhaps they all didn’t miss. Maybe only a few did; you know, the ones erased and forgotten—like you, yes?
Something exists down there; of that, also, I am certain. It was long after the surface stars that I hovered alongside the porthole staring into the abyss for hours, maybe even days. There’s no dementia, only far too much time in thought.
The smell is horrible, and it continues to worsen. The microbial slime rests everywhere, so thick and greasy, like a pool without chlorine, or stagnant pond. I’m in nothing more than a capsule of extreme foulness. Mikoyan told me of the Almaz stations—how it had been the same for the ones that maintained orbit. We all brought the bacteria here: Myself, Burton, Kammler, Kelsey…
What do you suppose happened to them? What do you suppose happened to Kelsey?
Kelsey went back to the surface on the CSM, placed into orbit by a surplus Saturn V, and the others in the Shuttle.
You’ve thought about this quite a bit, yes?
I’m sure they didn’t decommission all the remaining Saturn Vs. Perhaps they were having trouble with the Shuttle. After all, they built quite a few that were never used, left over from the cancelled Apollo missions.
More to the conspiracy, yes?
19 failed en-route. 20 landed on the Far Side. And 18—18 rendezvoused with the Soviets in…
How exactly do you reinstate a decommissioned Saturn V? Perhaps, as you’ve said, the ones for tourists are nothing more than modeled toys, yes?
Kelsey made it home. Just because I’m up here doesn’t mean that I know everything. The CSM docked just three days before the Surface Stars. We were the last two, and she was to be replaced within two months. I do not doubt that the Soviets hit the Cape and Command, but I’m certain they moved her in time. They must have known something was going to happen—some sort of clue.
And yet, they did not tell you, yes? Why is that?
The Outer Reach is not a military station. There are no weapons on-board; therefore, it is of no significance to a sudden outbreak of war. What happened must have been nothing more than an advanced, more horrific nuclear-style Pearl Harbor. They have other things to worry over.
Yet stars emerged from the surface, yes?
The surface stars were everywhere. Only South America and the nations south of the Sahel were spared—at least to my understanding. Yes, it was far beyond a full-scale nuclear war. The soot’s still there, in the atmosphere. I can see it easily. It was Sagan who coined the term, if I remember correctly: nuclear winter. Maybe that’s why they can’t get to me. I honestly don’t even know if the continents are still there.
About Kelsey: did you ever really know her? Did you ever do anything with her?
Kelsey came aboard while I had been fixed to the lunar surface, mapping out the Apollo, Luna, and Lunar Orbiter sites, as well as other various probes on the near side. I was isolated for quite a long time, if I remember correctly. But I remember when our eyes first locked: Burton and Kammler had just boarded the shuttle with the data they collected. Only she and I remained, until the CSM docked much later.
Kelsey was fascinated with the moon and the other planets, just as I am. She loved the theories of Vasin, Leonard, Lunan, Scherbakov, Bergrun, and Wilson. For her the theories were truth—censored truth, just as they were, and still are, in my opinion. We spoke of Bergrun’s Ringmakers three worlds down, of Lunan’s discovery of a coded message from Epsilon Boötis, Vasin and Scherbakov’s theory of…
The two of you must have done something other than agree, yes? What happened just before she left?
We were deep in conversation, locked in a silent orbit, and I leaped over the steps in-between the start and formation of a relationship. I asked Kelsey if I could get to know her better. I asked if we could meet on the surface. I even asked if I could take her to that crummy alligator farm outside the Cape. She revealed a look of regret, and I instantly felt my heart drop into my stomach. Right then, at that moment, I wanted to release myself into the vacuum of open space through the airlock. I had failed, just as I did so many times before with other women.
So, did you fuck her?
I don’t remember exactly how or where, but yes—yes, I did; I’m sure I did, I think. The CSM docked shortly after. I begged her to consider staying aboard, but of course, because of the manpower and severe expense put into the launch, she told me that she could not stay. I remember having felt worried for her safety. After all, it wasn’t a shuttle, but rather a somewhat ancient craft. I begged her not to go. She refused to carry the wasteful guilt, and asked if I would see her soon.
My memory exists in a haze. I do not know how I replied. I only remember the CSM as it moved closer to the surface—further and further away from me. I don’t even know if I said goodbye to her. Did she say goodbye to me?
What are the effects of this “nuclear winter” you spoke of?
The shortening of life spans for the survivors and future generations; severe trauma to the Earth’s climate for centuries; radioactive contamination of soil and water; possible extreme mutations for all remaining species. I’m sure there are others, but I just don’t know.
In other words, you are not going home, yes? She’s not alive. Your family, whoever they are, must be long dead, only existing as ash in the wind. But those tiny cosmonauts are still there—safe and laughing, yes? They’re saying amongst themselves: “Holy shit, am I glad that I took that suicide mission so many decades ago; you know, the one where I was jammed into a capsule no bigger than a shitter. You know, now that I’m thinking of it, where in the hell did I put everything? Oh, and how in the hell am I still alive? Maybe you can answer me Outer Reach, yes?”
I don’t know all of the answers. I only know what I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a fair share of unusual things on this station.
Here’s an idea: why don’t you step into the airlock, and once you’re comfortable just sit back and think of the times you fucked Kelsey in zero gravity, which, I’m quite certain, must have been pleasant. And, once the memory is well underway, release the airlock. Simple, yes?
Mikoyan will message back. If he contacted me before, he’ll contact me again. He needs to be rescued, just like the tiny cosmonauts and I need to be rescued. Even though we are technically enemies, which, of course applies only to the surface, not the stars, we can work as a team. Someone will save us. Someone will save all of us.
How many decades has it been for Mikoyan?
It’s been a long time. It’s been…
What about Kelsey? Why do you suppose she hasn’t tried to reach you—to save you?
First of all, getting into orbit is something that no single person can do alone. It requires hundreds, at times even thousands of people. Second, I’m quite certain she’s hundreds of feet beneath the surface with whatever remains of the government. She is an astronaut, and the nation does not abandon its astronauts. Before the life support comes to a halt they will save me—Kelsey, Mikoyan, and the entire program will get me off this test tube. They will get me away from you.
Again, just step inside of the airlock. I can promise that you’ll be the last to use it.
Kelsey will save me. She will save me, yes?
Raised in the city of Monroe, Louisiana, Hanson now attends Full Sail University, working to obtain a degree within the Creative Writing for Entertainment Program in Orlando, Florida. His passion for writing emerged in 2007 while taking a creative writing course. Seeking nothing more than exposure, he continues to write both in and out of the classroom, using the works of authors of lunar anomalies and space oddities as inspiration.