Going to Space

Don and Burt lived together in a two floor saltbox house on the west side of town, over by the water treatment plant. The two were undistinguished, one being tall and the other not, and they spent the majority of their days on the glassed in back porch of the house looking into the woods that grew up to and around the house.  They would sit there and drink coffee and talk about the one thing in the world that was important to both of them; Don and Burt wanted to go to space.

There was one other thing that the two did, and that was drink a lot of cheap wine. They’d drink more expensive wine if they had more money, but they didn’t and so cheap wine was just fine for them and they drank quite a bit of it.  Einstein said how his relatives could go through time, they’d heard, and so they saw no reason why they couldn’t go to space, after all, it was right there just above them. Much like an equation from Einstein, the boys managed to represent a oddity, and aberration and random event much like the million monkeys and the million typewriters eventually producing Shakespeare’s sonnets. During a drunken stupor one late afternoon, after consuming a goodly amount of cheap wine, Don and Burt became momentarily sentient and had an idea. Quick as you please, they started writing down their thoughts. They wrote and wrote until eventually they’d sipped and sipped so much they both fell asleep on the glassed in back porch of their saltbox house as the sun went down and the stars revealed themselves above.

They woke within moments of one another and both of them felt an urgency like they’d never felt before. An urgency to accomplish something, something great. So they took turns urinating and rid themselves of the sense of urgency and sat down to see what it was they’d written before they accidentally bedded down for the night. Each of them read a few pages and then traded papers and read again. In the end, they looked at one another and nodded their heads and started to work. They pulled the water heater from the second floor bathroom and fetched the lawn mower from the garage. They pulled out plumbing from the basement and the house gave up its electrical wiring. After hours of backbreaking work, they’d assembled a huge pile of seemingly useless junk. Again they looked at one another and nodded, and then again set out to work. They used hammers and screwdrivers and wrenches and a blowtorch. They slathered pain and glazed glass and hammered and screwed until at last it was ready. Tired from all the work and feeling a bit parched besides, the guys each drank a bottle of cheap wine and curled up to take a short 10 hour nap.

On the third day they woke up to find the big machine taking up most of the living room. They walked around it, surveying it in wonder until at last they’d seen it all. They looked at each other and shrugged, for neither of them had the first idea what it was they’d built. Not, at least, until they found the pile of notes they’d written on the top of which was written “Space Machine.”

“Oh, yeah.” said Don.

“Yeah, right.” said Burt.

And then the guys sat down to have a little wine and decide what to do, which was a real good idea what with the Space Machine taking up the majority of their living room.  They each pondered it through a bit of Muscatel and then finally they decided as how one of them should probably get in the damn thing and see what happened. They tried flipping a coin but they’d spent the last of their money on wine, and didn’t have a coin between them. So they tried rock, paper, scissors and it kept coming out a draw until finally Burt just hit Don in the head with the Muscatel bottle and then muscled his prostrate form into the machine. He welded the door closed to make sure there’d be no last minute arguments. It took a chainsaw and six hours of hard labor, but at the end Burt had Don and the machine in the front yard. He pulled the starter cord on the power mower motor and it roared to life. One second later the machine heaved itself skyward at a remarkable rate.

“Launch detected.” said the soldier at the monitor of the North American Defense Headquarters hidden deep in a mountain somewhere undisclosed. He pressed a button which summoned the duty officer, who arrived and asked what the soldier wanted. “Launch detected.” he said again. The officer became quite excited and started yelling to scramble the fighters. He pressed a very large red button in the center of the console and was rewarded by a shrieking siren. He let it scream for 10 seconds and then pressed the big button again, shutting the siren off.  But his point had been made, and across the secret base, secret fighters started rolling down the secret runway on a sortie to protect the North American Defense headquarters. It was his job, after all, to make sure that the agency survived in case of nuclear war. Well, any kind of war, really, just so long as it killed everybody but them. If they died too then they’d be a failure, which is what drove them to protect themselves so well.

“Jeez.” said Don, rubbing his head. He looked around and realized that he was in the Space Machine. He tried to remember how it was he’d become the one to test it, but decided that the wine must be cloudy his memory because he didn’t remember volunteering even though he must have. After all, he was there, wasn’t he?  Don looked out the glass portal that he had installed himself and admired the glazing job. Then he looked past the glazing to see the ground far below him, moving along at quite a clip. He closed his eyes and remembered the time he used Google Maps once and then looked below again. He couldn’t see the lines they showed on all the maps, but it surely looked like he’d just passed Seattle and he was coming up on his home town after… well, after however many orbits he’d made and he wasn’t sure how many that was.  He also could see the jets flying up towards him, silhouetted by the flame of their after burner exhaust. As he watched, little points of light detached themselves from the jets and streaked towards him straight on. “Holy cow.” said Don, and then never said another word because at that moment one of the rockets fired by the jets struck the Space Machine and blew it into a million tiny pieces and one big one.

Burt stood below, eyes on the skies and watching the drama above play out above him. He saw the flash of light and knew his friend and room mate was gone, and wondered if he’d mind if Burt finished off the half bottle of cheap wine Burt knew he kept hidden in his room. He was staring through a pair of binoculars he’d bought at K-Mart one day when the urge consumed him so that he just had to have them. He was glad he’d given in to impulse else he wouldn’t be able to see what happened to the Space Machine and his friend.  He stared myopically at the tumbling item that seemed to blossom his way from the ball of fire that followed the brilliant flash of rocket impact, thinking to himself that it certainly looked like it was getting bigger and bigger. He was still staring when the rumpled mass of a crushed water heater fused to a lawnmower motor struck and crushed him flat.

I’m afraid there’s nothing more to the story I can tell, what with everyone involved having been killed.