No Going Back

There was no party atmosphere on Paula’s last day. I didn’t feel like partying. Paula was acting like it wasn’t her last day. I walked around the shop once more and this time I stopped at her counter.

“Hey!” I said.

“What?”

“S’boring, eh?”

“Yep.”

“So? You wanna go to the Moon?”

“Not particularly.”

“Come on, it’s your last day!”

“You going to the Moon?”

“Thinking about it.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I can’t take much more of this and it could be fun.”

“There’s nothing up there.”

“I know but…” I saw Paula looking over my shoulder and I turned. “Enrique, you going to the Moon? Say yes or I won’t help you move.” We’d booked a hire van for Saturday.

“H’okay.”

“What were you doing in there? You’ve got a sweat on.” I cocked a thumb towards his office

“Hexercize.”

“Will you come if we go? Or are you going to stay here with Steve?” I asked Paula.

“Will I get paid.”

“Of course!” I said.

“No,” said Enrique.

“It’s dangerous though?” She asked.

“To be honest, Paula, it’s probably more dangerous crossing the road and jumping over that wall to get to the launchpad in the field opposite than the actual space flight will be.”

“Si, I know dat,” said Enrique nodding. We all gazed out of the window. The top of the rocket was clearly silhouetted against the white sky. I winced a bit because what it possessed in height it lacked in straightness and engineering.

“We could be heroes,” I said.

Enrique, Paula and I stood in the field. Enrique was nodding appreciatively at the rocket’s construction. I’m not a brain surgeon but to me it looked like nothing more than three towers of calor gas tanks, bound together, with the front half of a van atop it.

“Don’t need any training?” I asked the man who answered the number on the flier. The man looked like Heinrich Himmler.

“Nah, it’s just like driving a car. Here, put these on.” He handed each of us what looked like a decorator’s paper suit. “Fire proof.”

“Are they?”

“Oh yes.”

I ripped through the knee of mine with my shoe but he assured me that was okay. I laughed when I turned and saw Enrique and Paula wearing theirs. They looked ridiculous.

“One for the road,” said Paula handing me a cigarette. I took it and looked up at the rocket. As I did I heard a woooof, and looked back to Paula who was holding a lighter but whose protective suit had vanished. I looked around for it and so did she. There was a small cloud of black smoke hanging over her. The man from the flier was holding a ladder that reached up to the doors of the rocket. The rocket had MoonShip One painted on its side.

“We’ve got to launch now,” he was saying.

“The Moon’s not out yet,” I told him.

“Takes a couple of hours to get up there. I’ve worked it out. You should get there about nine.”

“And helmets?” I asked but I didn’t want to tell him his job.

“It’s all sealed, mate. Air’s in the cabin.”

“Of course!” I said, slapping my forehead.

I looked around, I’d expected some media presence but there was just us three and him in the field.

“Let’s do this, yeah,” I said giving the other two a thumbs up. Paula sighed but Enrique nodded.

The man moved aside so we could climb the ladder. It was wobbly as fuck, especially near the top but I got the door open and climbed in. It was a real struggle to get in the driver’s seat being as it was 90 degrees wrong, but get in it I did, and I put my seatbelt on. Took Paula ages to get in the seat in the middle. Enrique climbed in and closed the door. I tried the steering wheel and gear stick. All seemed well but then I looked at the door and had a thought. I wound the handle on the door and the side window slowly went down causing me to shoot a startled face at Paula. I then wound the handle so the window was fully down and pulled myself up and forward on the sill so I could lean out. “This isn’t fucking air proof!” I shouted. The man didn’t look up. “Oi! This isn’t fuc-” I saw the man running away with his fingers in his ears. I saw smoke. “Oh shit!” I said, winding the handle the opposite way so the window closed. I gripped the steering wheel as the rocket began to shake. I turned to Paula. She had her eyes shut tight and taking one hand from the steering wheel I grasped her hand. She squeezed it back and I looked past her at Enrique who was just staring straight ahead, a big grin on his face. I looked straight ahead and sunk my head into the seat and closed my eyes tight as the shaking grew more violent.

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