by Robin Wrigley
decaf flat white
The daily walk down the hill allows one time to reflect on the forthcoming journey and the hope of a successful conclusion. Enter the ‘Halls of Healing’ taking care to avoid the grand prix of heavy-duty wheel-chairs travelling to and fro, pushed by porters or friends.
A choice of elevators or stairs, no brainer – stairs - get those ‘bungalow-knees’ in action. Down two levels to the radio-active vaults, follow the red painted footsteps and the launch pad is getting closer. Now only a set of double doors, another right turn and the welcome signs to your choice of space craft, Varian or Electra? Continue on to Varian and check for delays on launch of both machines. Only 10 minutes for your carrier today but we know that could change. First put your ticket in the blue box so they know you’re here and ready to go.
Bid the time of day to fellow travellers, some new, some veterans all occupied reading books or magazines others simply with their thoughts and the more adventurous struggling with a jigsaw puzzle. Anything to keep their minds off the clock and the delay notices.
One hour to launch, start prepare for the journey. Follow the rules for flights; empty bowels and half an hour later take on board 600 ml. of water. Hope that gas levels are within limits and wait for announcement to be called forward to the staging post.
Others get their calls forward; mine must be soon. Relief, I am summoned. Lift off is imminent; nod to those still patiently waiting and proceed around the corner and remove my shoes. Keep calm it is going to be okay you’ve done this many times already so no pressure. But there’s always the possibility of a last minute technical hitch. Think of NASA’s Challenger fatal launch.
The radio-active warning has just turned from red to amber and launch staff enter the launch pad and seconds later the previous astronaut walks out smiling. My name is called again and I am accompanied in.
Remove trousers and lay on the launch bench feet in foot slots knees slightly raised. The technicians check my predetermined tattoo marks fit with to the path of the rays. Cool hands move my hips in place while the launch pad is positioned for blast off. All is okay and technicians bid me safe journey and retire outside the danger zone.
I’m on my own now. The only sound is the whirring of the apparatus. This is it there’s no going back. Silence except for last minute positioning of my flight simulator, two clicks of the launch pad. Arms crossed with hands under armpits and I am away.
The huge arms start their orbit in a clockwise, slow yet smooth around me stopping after one revolution with a small click. A short wait followed by another complete revolution. Each second my life’s journey is flowing out of me. Old friends and acquaintances flash through my mind until the unit clicks back into its launch position.
The sound of the safety barrier opening and the welcome voice of the launch assistant I am at my journey’s end for today and they lower me down to table level and I am free to go. Another journey another day. Out to the sunshine and view the hill to climb and return to this world - simple buses and cars. Gravity is a wonderful thing.
The school-children in the bus shelter, glued to IPhones and pads, don’t notice me as I pass by. I have just been to places beyond their imagination while they play with simple earthly creations made to fill their minds and seek approvals.
I have passed over the huge expanse of water in the Sea of Tranquillity; seen Jupiter’s many moons – Europa, Ganymede and several others; marvelled at the icy rings on Saturn and the ancient rivers on Mars. I would love to visit Pluto but it is not available on day-trips.
About the author
Robin only started writing both fiction & non-fiction short stories when he retired in 2001. He spent most of his adult life overseas working mainly in the oil industry. His first published short story was with Dorset Writers’ anthology ‘This Little World’. He has been a regular contributor to CafeLit and has had short stories in both CafeLit 6 and CafeLit 7. He is a regular member to the Wimborne Writers’ Group.