The air exploded.
Before they detonated the first nuclear bomb there were concerns that it might cause the atmosphere to catch fire. It didn’t happen then but it happened now. It was more than a bang and Paula and I crushed each other’s hand. As well as feeling like my DNA was being punched I also felt movement. Of course. I couldn’t tell which direction, though. My head was rocking from side to side, pressed against the headrest and I closed my closed eyes even tighter and wondered if I’d feel anything when we hit the ground. Or a tree. I hoped not.
Twenty seconds later we still hadn’t been dashed to pieces at the far end of the field but that didn’t seem like a good thing. I didn’t want my death prolonged and I opened my eyes and saw nothing but white out of the windscreen. I loosened my grip on Paula’s hand and turned and saw Enrique grinning widely (and wildly) while staring straight ahead. Paula, between us, still had her eyes screwed shut and she was moaning. I looked ahead. Nothing but white. I looked at the levers at the side of the steering wheel, to see which side the wipers were on. Didn’t want to start indicating. The craft shook so much it was hard to grab the lever but I did. I put the wipers on but it was still nothing but white and blue out of the window.
Yeah, patches of blue.
“Are we going up or down?!” I shouted but nobody heard me over the din of the calor gas boosters. Was that the sea? I thought and then we burst through into clear, metallic blue sky. The sun blinded me from the side window and I had to turn away. “Paula, we’re flying!” I shouted. “We’re flying!” I grabbed her hand again and shook it. “Paula! We’re flying!”
She opened her eyes and looked around. The vibrations lessened as soon as we left the cloud and while it was still noisy I could hear things other than the engines.
“We’re fucking flying!” I shouted then expertly folded down the sun visor and clicked off one side and spun it so the visor shielded my eyes from the sun.
“Chu broke it!” Shouted Enrique.
“Nah, it supposed to do that!” I replied, then adjusted my seatbelt, shifted in my chair to get comfortable and gripped the steering wheel. I saw Enrique grab his sun visor and fold it down. He pulled both sides twice. “Pull there!” I shouted, pointing at the side of the sun visor nearest me. “Pull it hard!” He did, it unclipped, then he cautiously twisted the sun visor out so it hid the top of his window.
“Cool!” He shouted, nodding at me. He gave me a thumbs up, I guess, because it was still pretty noisy. “I no know dat do dat.”
“You don’t really need it!” I shouted. “The Sun’s out my window!” I turned to Paula who was still staring ahead with what seemed a mixture of wonder and fear. “Fucking flying, Paula!” I shouted, elbowing her.
I didn’t think she was going to reply but eventually she did. “Why are you so surprised? You said it was safe!”
“Yeah! No, it is!” I said and then remembered the suicide note in my pocket. I’d hide that on the Moon. Under a Moon rock.
We didn’t talk much for the first hour or so but as the sky darkened outside also the noise of the engines abated until I could hear Enrique breathe. “Keep an eye out for the Moon,” I told Enrique and he leant forward and twisted around in his seat before falling back and shaking his head. Paula produced a packet of Menthol Marlboros. I watched out the corner of my eye as she offered Enrique one. I wanted to say something but didn’t. She offered me one and I looked at her and saw I couldn’t stop her from smoking and I took one. There was no way she could tap ash into the spacecraft’s ashtray so she used a hand cupped on her chest as a makeshift.
The cabin filled with smoke pretty quickly. With the three of us smoking, and I had to wind the window down a crack to flick my butt out of the tiny gap but Enrique, being Enrique, wound his down completely and put his elbow out as he sucked on his. I stared at him for a moment. “Are you fucking thick?” I asked him and he just looked at me with his ‘I’m so fucking thick you wouldn’t believe it’ face. “All the air will all go out!”
“Oh sorry!” He said taking a last puff and flicking his out. Paula leant over and threw hers out and then Enrique quickly wound the window up. It was full dark out but still no sign of the moon.
“Fucking hell,” I said. Paula made a sort of grunt and she looked worried. “What is it?”
“Struggling to breathe,” she said.
“Nice one Enrique!” I said and leant forward and turned the air on. I set it so it came out of the footwell, not the windscreen and more towards red which means warm because it was getting cold. “Try the radio,” I told Paula, feeling a little bit like Captain Kirk. It was just Scott Mills, though. Paula didn’t turn the radio off immediately so I did and stared at her then exhaled and looked around.
“Der!” Shouted Enrique, twisting and pointing out of his window. I leant forward. It was the Moon.
“Nice one, Enrique!” I said and he turned to me and smiled before turning back and pressing his face against the glass. Paula leant forward.
“Turn!” She shouted. I looked at the steering wheel, I didn’t think it would do anything but I turned it this way and that and it didn’t. “Turn!” She shouted again, looking at me.
“This doesn’t do anything,” I said.
“We’re going past it!”
“Nah, it’s all automatic, trajectories and stuff. Moon sling shot. Mission Control will have set it all up.”
“Well…” I leant forward. We did seem to be going past it. “It’ll pull us in in a minute.”
“Seriously, they went to the Moon before the first Amstrad was invented. It’s all done automatic.” I said that and I truly believed it but I was still mightily relieved when I felt the craft turn. “See!” Paula seemed to relax. The Moon loomed larger and larger until the craters on its surface were whizzing past.
“We go fast, non?” Said Enrique and he was right. “Slow down, non?”
“Okay,” I said thinking fast. I tried the brake pedal. Nothing. “Okay, when I tell you I want you to put your hands out of the window and wave forwards.”
“One hundred feet!” Shouted Paula and I bit my lip. “Seventy feet! Sixty feet!” I took a deep breath. “Fifty feet!”
“Yeah alright Paula, we’ve all got eyes.” I waited until we were ten feet from the ground before shouting, “now!” and Enrique and I wound our windows down and started waving like we were encouraging a person to pass us. I waved faster and Paula gripped my side. She was almost curled up into a ball. She was pinching me, it hurt but I didn’t care. I was waving furiously and then with a soft thwump we were down. “Windows!” I shouted and we wound the windows up at lunatic speed and I inhaled for the first time in over a minute. I turned the air to its highest setting and gasped and then my gasping became laughing. And Enrique was laughing and even Paula, who had uncurled herself, started to laugh. I turned the air back down so as not to waste it. “What time is it?” I asked.
“Who live der?” Asked Enrique.
“Nobody, that’s the Apollo stuff.” We’d landed right near all the Apollo stuff, I guess everybody does. “We made it,” I said. I put the gear stick into neutral because it probably did something when we weren’t flying and in doing so I banged my hand against Paula’s leg. “Sorry.”
“I get out?” Asked Enrique.
“You’ll have to hold your breath.” And that was all the encouragement he needed. The door creaked open and Enrique jumped down and then bounced back up with a horrified look on his face. He grabbed onto the cab but I gave him a thumbs up through the windscreen and he looked around and let go and warily started bounding around the lunar surface and then, arms windmilling, he fought his way back to the cab and jumped in.
“Fooky miama!” It sounded like he said. “Chu see me? I go high man!”
“There’s no gravity up here,” I explained.
“Chu get out?”
“In a minute,” I told him. I was exhausted but Enrique was out again. “Door dickhead!” I shouted after him, he hadn’t closed the door properly. I leant over Paula to pull the door closed. “I thought his head would explode,” I told her and she chuckled and I looked at her. She was watching Enrique kick Neil Armstrong’s footprints into clouds of dust. “You really pinched me,” I told Paula.
“Sorry.” She rubbed my side.
“It’s okay, didn’t hurt.”
Enrique was back in and then after a few gulps of air he was back out. I watched him bound over towards the Star Spangled Banner. He took off well before it and adopted a full-on flying Ninja position and flew gracefully into it, snapping the pole that held it. “In your face, Yankee-Doodle,” I said and Paula laughed. I smiled at her. Enrique was bounding back and I had an idea.
I turned the key and put it in first gear and as Enrique went for the door handle I pressed the accelerator. The craft lurched forward. It had no back wheels but still moved. I saw the panic on Enrique’s face and laughed. Enrique again went for the handle and I did it again. He dived for the door handle and-
“Don’t be a dick,” said Paula and I turned the engine off and let Enrique climb in.
“Hey!” He said with mock outrage.
“Sorry about that. Hey, you fuckers thought it was funny when you did it to me.”
“Only because it winds you up,” said Paula.
“It did a bit,” I laughed. Enrique was out again, bouncing and spinning.
“This is nice,” I told Paula while I looked at Enrique. She nodded slightly, I saw that, and then in one movement I opened my door and jumped out. As I jumped and spun and bounced off Enrique I saw Paula. She was out. I bounced into her, my cheeks expanded but I was smiling. We bounced for a long time, sometimes having to fight over the door handle to get inside to breathe before getting back out there.
“That’s fucking brilliant,” I said when we were all in the cab having a cigarette break.
“When are we going back?” Asked Paula and I closed my eyes. I was turned to the side window so she didn’t see it.
“Whenever you want,” I told her. I opened my eyes and faced forward. I leant forward. “Or…” I looked up.