Abraham's Arc - Part Four

“Nǐ de zuòbiāo shì shénme? Zuòbiāo?”

“What?” Abraham tried to type any of their words into his translator but what came out was gibberish. 

“I.S.S.” Broken english came through the radio.

“Yes. ISS!” he shouted.

“Nǐ de zuòbiāo shì shénme?” Abraham clicked on a link in the app that promised key phrases.

“Màn diǎn” he hurled imperfect Mandarin in their direction ““Màn… Diǎn” He said again more intently, urging them to speak slower.

“Zuò” They spoke each syllable forcefully, Abraham typed it in. “biāo?” He spelled it out phonetically in the dictionary. Nothing came back. He tried a different iteration. 

So byou

Zo biau

Zuo Biao

Then finally without the space

Zuòbiāo pinged -

“Coordinates” Abraham shouted “Zuobiao?” He repeated to confirm.

“Zuobiao.” They verified.

Abraham lunged to the flight deck and searched frantically for the few little numbers that indicated the ISS’s specific location in relation to earth. An impossible feat in space. One that NASA had mastered years before with the invention of the J2000 system. 

“Ten point six two five and forty one point two” Abraham shouted and repeated himself slowly. "Ten… dot… six… two… five… and… four… one… dot… two.” He hoped they knew English numbers, or this would take forever. 

It was an hour before their ship docked with the ISS and three Chinese cosmonauts emerged from the airlock.

One man pulled off his thick white helmet revealing a matte of sweaty hair beneath. He smiled. 

“Abraham.” He pointed at Abraham. “Kang.” He pointed at himself. 

Abraham clasped his hand and shook. “Very nice to meet you” He gushed and proceeded to the other two astronauts with the same enthusiasm as Kang introduced the two women: An and Chun. “I didn’t think I would ever see another human again.”

The three astronauts smiled and nodded politely, but without comprehension. 

Abraham looked around as they hung there, clinging to the walls of the ISS so they wouldn’t float into one another. 

There were just enough berths for all of them, but his food rations were just cut in quarters. Abraham began to count the months they had left. Perhaps even weeks. He considered the eventual nastiness of expelling each of them separately into space as they starved to death. The underlying complications of living the final weeks of your life with three people who didn’t share a common language and did not have enough time to learn it.

“Food?” He asked and indicated eating, opening his mouth and pointing inside it like a child. He was asking if they wanted to eat, but Tong turned into his ship and waved for Abraham to follow. Years of food packets lined the walls of the capsule. It was clear that the Chinese had stuffed as many people and as much food as they could in that capsule as a last ditch effort to save humanity from annihilation. If rationed they might have a decade, maybe more. That was long enough to learn Mandarin. That was long enough for them to learn English. 

    He pulled himself out of the craft and moved back to his computer. He typed into the translator and returned with a grin.

    “So,” he said in Chinese, floating in the center of the space capsule. “What do we do now?”

The End 

Abraham's Arc - Part Two

Part Two of Abraham's Arc. For part one click here.

Abraham thought about killing himself right as Earth was hit — trying to time his demise with the rest of civilizations'. But even though Abraham had himself seen NASA’s myriad of simulations using his own data that depicted time and time again the utter annihilation of all things living, and even though Abraham knew that humanity wouldn’t be able to survive even a tenth of the fire and radiation that they would have to endure upon impact, he still felt an impending duty to stick around and just see. The future was a vast uncertainty, and even if the inevitable occurred (he would always say if until the moment of impact) then he would be the only one left to mourn his entire species. And mourn he would.

He sat Shiva for all seven days after the asteroid hit even though he wasn’t raised religious. Always a devotee of science, he now felt compelled to turn to religion for answers in the aftermath. God created the earth in seven days, he recalled, and he would mourn it for that long. He didn’t bathe, he hardly ate, he decided a million times to ingest the cyanide capsule on the eighth day, but then changed his mind a million more.

He spent his days trying to achieve perfect equilibrium floating in the hull of the space station, surrounded by wires and nodules, and closing his eyes. When hours of that became tiresome, Abraham would hover in the observation deck of the Cupola and stare out of its seven windows at what used to be his home.

The blue and green marble swirled with white was now a spherical ashy storm cloud. He could only imagine the devastation beneath it. Even if anyone had survived the initial hit (there was the possibility that boats positioned in the Indian ocean would be far enough away from the blast to survive) they would surely suffocate hours later once the smoke and ash overcame them. In decades, when the dust finally settled anyone who was still around would emerge to a scorched earth. A barren land without vegetation or drinkable water, and it would certainly be centuries more if not millennia before the earth produced a viable habitat again. The reality was that humanity - unless it had a bunker full of generations of food and water and waste disposal - would never make it. And that meant he, humanity’s lone ambassador, would suffer the same fate.

On the eighth day, Abraham returned to his logs. He tapped on the cricket tank and touched the tender cotyledon of the just sprouted Kale. He considered that he might be the Noah’s Arc of this end of days but then smiled to himself. Repopulating the earth with crickets and Kale would be the seven plagues all over again. He tucked himself into his bunk and watched an episode of Law and Order next to a creased picture of Abbey and Jordan. He savored every minute.

If he wasn’t a modern Noah then the ISS was at least a time capsule floating around the dead planet like an omen. One day it would be his tomb and any unlucky life form that became curious about the metal space ship orbiting a dead planet would surely find an over population of crickets, a crop of badly eaten kale, a decomposing human body (perhaps also partially consumed by crickets) and a smattering of humanity’s greatest artistic achievements: Several downloaded language dictionaries that translated any number of International languages to others, one hundred and three episodes of Law and Order: SVU, all the seasons of Lost, The Lethal Weapon series, Ms. Congeniality, The Best of Kenny G, Now! Three, and the entire discography of Ke$ha. 

These were the people who would accompany him through the end of his life - Olivia and John solving serious crimes in a serious city. He wondered if they ever dreamed while filming episode ten season thirteen that this would be the final record of New York. That it would remain the only proof that Manhattan ever existed, that earth ever existed.

He packaged the movie file and beamed it into space. He felt meaningful doing it like he was sending out earth’s obituary. He felt the cyanide capsule in his pocket took it out and considered it.

Stay tuned next week for more of our astronaut's adventures!


C. L. Brenton

Abraham's Arc - Part One

Since the past few weeks have been fraught with disaster I thought a little end of the world saga might be of interest. Enjoy, and try not to let it stress you out!

Watching the world end wasn’t the most important moment in Abraham’s life, but it wasn’t the least significant either. There was the day he met Abbey, the moment he left the atmosphere for the first time, the feeling of holding a person, a brand new person, moments old, and christening them with a name. It was every moment after that when he and Abbey would watch Jordan finger Cheerios and revel at the thought that they together could create the very fingernails and nerve endings needed for such a complex task.

Then there was this. A static video call. Abbey sobbing while Jordan sat in her lap her brow furrowed glancing between Mom and Dad. Tears spilled out of Abraham’s eyes and he wiped them away with his sleeve before they could form bright wayward orbs of saltwater that floated athwart the ISS. He spat I love you’s through the static.

“I love…” Abbey sobbed clutching Jordan harder than ever. And with a flash of white yellow light came the eerie sound of an entire civilization destroyed. Then black. Abraham cried for days.

*  *  *

“We can’t bring you back,” Alvin had told him days earlier after they finalized humanity’s fate. “It’s just too dangerous.” He shook his head and Abraham was unsure if he’d rather be on Alvin’s side of the conversation or his own. At least Alvin would be able to go back to his family and face mortality with them. “We can’t predict your trajectory…” He trailed off. “It’s safer up there. If all our models are accurate.” Alvin tried to smile a comforting smile, but he was unsure if he would rather be in Abrahams place instead of his own.

“I want to come back.” Abraham spoke softly. 

Alvin inhaled and said the only two words that made any sense to him. “I know.” 

Abraham steadied himself and tried to remember his training. Every emergency procedure they had practiced trained him to stay alive in space. What if the aircraft loses pressure? What if a crew member gets sick? What if you have to spend six days in a space suit? His training had provided him tools to survive infinite scenarios, none of which had included the complete annihilation of life on earth.

“We’re going to send up some more supplies, but listen,” Alvin said thoughtfully and knotted his arms across his chest. “If we don’t see you on the other side of this you have permission to use protocol 9022A.”

The if they both knew was almost certainly a when, but there was something comforting about painting the inevitable eludible like if they were strong enough, or patient enough, or smart enough earth could narrowly avoid disaster. But the die had been cast, and though men and women worked tirelessly on grand solutions none of them had worked, and none of them would. 

Now the end held this - Protocol 9022A. Abraham traced the outline of the cyanide capsule in his pocket. One that had been issued on the day he got his space suit. One that had been with him on missions and ISS stays and launches and reentries. One he had never considered ingesting.

“Captains orders?” He asked and Alvin nodded stoic, his lips pursed in a permanent frown.