Thursday, 21 January 2010

11 - Space Oddity

Due to the overwhelmingly positive response of one person to my 'Sharing work' post, I've decided to put some work up.

This is the first 500 words of a short story titled Dust. It's not the best thing I've ever written, but it's one of my favourites. I wrote the first draft of it about 3 years ago, and every half year or so since, I pick it up and rewrite it.

The idea came when I was in a bar and David Bowie's Space Oddity started playing. My friend remarked that it was a very sad song about a man getting lost in space. Never being one of those people who actually listen to lyrics, I hadn't realised this. I didn't even know it was a metaphor about a drugs trip until I looked up.

Either way, it got me thinking and eventually the plot for Dust came about. Being based on Space Oddity I crowbarred in several indulgent references to it. After this 500 words, the story goes off in its own direction.

Feel free to comment on it if you want. No pressure. Positive, negative, whatever grabs you. I might post the final 2000 words or so, if there's a similarly overwhelmingly positive response.

* * * * * * *


She shuffled open the door into the comms suite. I watched her eyes and lips shuddering in equal measure as she breathed in this stale room; the flaking beige paint, the loudly humming computers that had been outdated for over a decade, the two scruffy guys perched awkwardly on plastic chairs.

She met my eyes with a look I’d seen before. This wasn’t what the words ‘space centre’ conjured up. It wasn’t a place that appeared capable of contacting her husband, let alone bringing him home.

I stood. ‘Hello Mrs. Thompson. I’m Paul, this is Damien.’ A pause. ‘There’s not much we can do for Tom.’ I broke eye contact as I said that.

‘You said on the phone. He’s never coming back, is he?’

‘No. He’s not coming back. We don’t know what went wrong.’

‘So he’ll just be floating up there until...?’

I nodded. ‘Sorry.’

‘What about food? Air?’ She removed a tissue from her sleeve and wiped her nose.

‘He has enough of both for well over a year. Early reports showed life support systems weren’t damaged, just navigation.’

Her eyes thinned and she marched towards a microphone lying on the desk. ‘Can I talk to him?’

‘You can...’


‘But,’ cut in Damien, finally getting to his feet, ‘he’s floating so far off course that it’ll be faint at best. He’ll be out of comms range in five minutes, tops. Then we’ll probably never speak to him again.’


‘Almost certainly.’

She stared at him.


She sniffed aggressively and snatched up the microphone. ‘Hello, Tom?’

‘Margery?’ whispered the reply, ‘it’s good to hear you.’ I twisted a dial on a console behind me and managed to marginally increase the volume.

‘How are you?’

‘You know...’ Tom laughed off her redundant question.

‘How is it?’

‘It’s...’ A pause. ‘The stars look very different.’ A pause. ‘I love you very much.’

‘I know.’

A long pause.

‘I’m sorry, Margery,’ said Tom, eventually breaking the silence, but only barely, he was now so quiet, ‘I’m really, really, really sorry. Forever and alw...’ His words dipped beneath the static. I panic-fiddled with all the dials available, but nothing helped.

‘Tom? Tom? Are you there? Tom? Can you hear me, Tom?’

‘His circuit’s dead,’ said Damien, ‘we’ve lost comms.’

‘You said five minutes.’

I picked up another mic and joined in, ‘Can you hear me, major?’

‘An approximation,’ replied Damien.

Mrs. Thompson laughed a dirty, hysterical laugh which became a babble which became tears. Through the sniffing I caught single words. ‘Five. Enough. Chance. Tom.’ She collapsed into a chair and dropped her head onto the desk with a thud, gripping at her hair with both hands. I looked at Damien who returned my gormless expression.

‘Actually,’ I whispered, ‘I have an idea.’

1 comment:

  1. Well, yeah, I want to read more. This could really turn out to be a good little story, even/especially if it's based off the Bowie tune...which has always intrigued me anyway.

    What happens to him out there? How far out is he? What was his mission? Suppose he does find life, or something finds him? He can't communicate anything back to Earth, but he himself can communicate (possibly?) with the aliens. The ideas and possibilities are interesting to explore.