Up There By Andres Rovira A man with a beard and tousled salt and pepper hair strolls down the hallway of Building A in the Sunny Meadow apartment complex. He runs his hands along the railing that overlooks the parking lot and Skyway 18, where the rumbling of grumpy engines echo along the suspended traffic jam. Light beams flicker on and off along the hallway that seems to stretch on forever. Beside every door is a glass panel that displays each resident’s information. He glances at the room number scribbled on the napkin in his hand and stops in front of room 342. He examines the glass panel next to the door and focuses on the scrolling name. Yes, this is the place. He takes a deep breath and wipes the sweat from his brow before knocking on the door. An attractive young girl with dirty blonde hair, no older than twenty, answers the door. She wears a red University of Houston t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, matching the red nail polish on her toes. “Mr. Beatty?” she says, with the door half open. “Yes. Am I too early?” “No. Come on in.” The man steps into the apartment, feeling relieved to escape the dry Texas heat. She closes the door behind him and makes her way into the kitchen. “Would you like something to drink?” she asks. “Water would be fine, thank you.” “You sounded older over the phone.” The man doesn’t know what to say. An uncomfortable “Thanks,” is all he could produce. A variety of different framed paintings decorate the living room. A canvas rests
on a wooden easel next to the window, splashed with an unfinished oil painting. The man takes a seat on the flower-decorated couch and admires the apartment’s cozy feel. It is a sharp contrast to the grey-skied technological asylum outside. “Quite the artist, I see,” he says. “Yeah,” she says, coming out of the kitchen with a mug of coffee and a glass of water. She hands him the glass and takes a seat across from him on the matching chair. “It’s my own version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, my favorite painting. I figured I paint my representation. I just felt it was something I needed to do.” “It’s called inspiration. As long as your version paints a little bit of you.” “Exactly.” “Is that what you’re studying?” “Art? No, I’m a finance major. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?” “Not with so much creativity surrounding you.” “Yeah, well, I’ll never abandon my craft.” She sips her coffee. “So, what is it you want to know?” “I give you the floor. Tell me everything you know about your great grandfather’s…” “Cousin,” she said with a smile. “Right. Everything you know about the space mission. I want the perspective of a civilian on this.” “Starting with Edward, I know as much as the media does, except for some inside information about his family life. Most of what I know is what my grandfather told me. What I do remember is how his wife, I think it was Emily, died in a car accident a year
after their son disappeared. I mean, of all the possible things to happen to a person. Makes you wonder, you know? About God and fate and destiny?” “Yeah,” says the man, letting out a sigh. “I hear you.” “To have your son snatched from you in the middle of Rockefeller Center, I cannot begin to imagine the grief. I heard he turned around for one second to check out his son’s ice skates and when he looked back, his son was gone. Then Emily died soon after. Are you all right?” The man had been gazing out the window hypnotically. “I’m fine,” he says, returning his attention to her and straightening his posture on the couch. “Go on.” “Well, I think we all know why he joined the Mercury 2 mission. Grandpa told me it was his escape.” “So you think it was more than just a research expedition?” “The guy lost everything he ever cared about. Maybe he just needed to lose himself somewhere and what better place than the stars? I look at my painting every day and can’t agree more. God, I would love to go.” They both take a moment to admire her unfinished painting. “It really is an extraordinary place,” says Edward. “You’ve been?” “Uh, yes. I took one of those twenty four hour shuttles from NASA.” “Yeah. My boyfriend’s Dad took a shuttle up for a few hours. Took some beautiful pictures. I can’t afford it though.” “It’s usually the millionaire tycoons and thrill seekers looking to show off how
adventurous they are.” “Don’t you mean billionaire?” “Right.” He sips his water and uncrosses his legs uncomfortably. “Why did you go up there?” she asks. “Same reason why you’re painting that picture. It’s just something I had to do.” She smiles and returns to her story. “He kept to himself all those years before the mission, writing research papers and developing his theory on black holes. It was that theory that would make him the celebrity he is now and eventually be the end of him.” “Do you think the Mercury 2 space shuttle is still out there somewhere, drifting across the farthest reaches of Space? Some people believe the crew is still alive today, living on another planet, or another dimension, the same age as when they left.” She nodded. “There is a rumor that NASA still had the shuttle on their radar, even after they lost them to the black hole. Some say that signal is still going and that is has opened the doors to interdimensional research. That’s all classified information of course. I’d like to hope they made it through the black hole with their molecules in tact. I’d like to hope they found another home, that they could witness another daybreak, breathe fresh air and grow old like humans should. Shouldn’t you be writing this down?” He puts a finger to his forehead. “Mental notes. My mind is a tape recorder.” “Well, I really don’t know what else to tell you. That’s just about all I know. The rest I guess is up to the stars. I guess we’ll never truly know what happened to Edward Taylor and his crew. I’m sorry if I wasn’t a big help.” “Oh don’t worry,” says the man, getting up with a look of satisfaction. “You told
me everything I needed to know.” “Let me know when the article comes out. I would love to read it.” “When I win the Pulitzer, I will give you a call.” She laughs. “Great.” The man drains his glass of water and heads for the door. “Forgive me if this sounds strange,” she says. “But I feel like…” She stops herself and lets out a sigh. “Oh, never mind.” “What is it?” says the man, searching her eyes. “It just seems like you and my father would get along. You have the same gentle air.” The man smiles, then chivalrously takes her hand and kisses it. She is surprised by the gesture and looks taken aback, as if this kind of graciousness is something ancient found only in storybooks. “It was lovely to have met you,” he says, dropping her hand. “Thank you for your time.” And with that said, the man with the beard lets himself out and Alice Taylor returns to painting the cosmos.
There is a park in Houston where people come to lay out across the lush grass during the day. Dogs are walked along the pathways and stones are skipped along the lake, as kites race throughout the blue sky. At night, a vivid array of colors display on the stone structure that makes up the Mercury 2 Memorial of Hope. The names of those crewmembers lost in deep Space lie engraved in the bust of stone. A large statue of Major
Thomas Nash stands tall above the stone, arm outstretched towards the heavens. Surrounding the memorial are tiny moving holograms of rocks and space dust, forming a planetary ring. The man with the beard approaches the stone structure and reads the plaque. He places his hand on the cold brass and traces his fingers along the words. IN MEMORY OF THE MERCURY 2 CREW, PIONEERS OF THE UNKNOWN REALMS AND REMEMBERED FOREVER AS HEROES. MAJ. THOMAS NASH DR. EDWARD TAYLOR DAVID LI ROSCOE GIBSON JASON COOPER LT. KAREN WATERS
MEMORIAL OF HOPE 2054
“Thought I’d find you here, Eddy,” comes the voice of Major Thomas Nash’s from behind him. The bearded man known to the world as Edward Taylor, turns around and faces his partner. “Tom,” he says. “Did you find your family all right?” “Yeah.” He sits on the railing with an exhausted sigh. “Great grandkids wanna be astronauts too. If only I could tell them not to do it. Change their minds. Become engineers and build spaceships instead. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it. Thought of myself as a kid. Hell, I was gonna be a Space Man and nobody could tell me different.
It’s in the blood, I suppose. How about you? Find anyone?” “A distant relative. She’s doing well.” “No other family?” “I’ve always been a loner, Tom. It’s okay.” For a moment they stare up at their memorial and enjoy the midnight air. “Impressive, isn’t it?” says Edward. “Yeah. Good to know we were remembered, you know? That we didn’t battle out cosmic monsters and agonize through time travel sickness for nothing. How’s your headache?” “Better.” “Same here. What do we do now? Can’t stay here. We don’t belong.” The two look up at the sky in understanding. The black silence is still and not as animated from down here. The pollution and ozone masks its natural radiance and they both crave its intoxicating aura. “Ship’s got enough fuel to last us a while and we can always come back and refuel.” “Where are the others?” asks Edward. “Starting new lives. Let them be. They deserve a chance to start over. Commander Gibson’s already got a job as a bartender. Says he always wanted to be a barkeep. Me, on the other hand, I still hear the supernovas calling my name.” “So, we’re really going to do this?” The Major nods, a nod of pride and minutes later, the Mercury 2 space shuttle, fully repaired and equipped with the provisions of the future, takes off from the Texas
countryside and makes its slow and steady ascent. “It’ll be an honor sharing this ship with you again, Major,” says Edward. “The honor is all mine,” says the Major. “Where to, Doctor?” “Follow the darkness. The stars will show us the way.” The Major punches the thrusters and the Mercury 2 accelerates at full force into the black silence, leaving behind it a trail of white light that is mistaken for a shooting star down below.