This story is by Robert Corra and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Laying down. Strapped in. I crane my neck to look out the meager window of the capsule. Earth looms large like an incandescent, turquoise marble, afloat in a sea of twinkling darkness. There’s not much for me to do on re-entry, so I just soak it in. Most astronauts will tell you that they never get tired of the view. I’m frankly sick of it…
I remember the exhilarating freedom from gravity I used to feel. The thrill of the escape. The rhapsody from being one of the privileged few to be unbound from the world and all its conceit. But I’ve discovered that magnetism is a far more powerful force than gravity. And I am hopelessly caught in its pull.
Now, I’m not talking about the kind of magnetism you learn in school. The stuff that pulls your refrigerator door closed or keeps your out-of-date iPad in its case. This is entirely different, and infinitely more powerful. I only discovered it when I met her. Chris. The person I didn’t know I was always searching for until I miraculously found her.
For a man of science, this should all be too new-agey to accept. But the bond between us is so deep, so pure, just so sacrosanct. It can’t be measured or surpassed. Our unexpected connection came about effortlessly, and brought with it an innate synchronicity of mind, body, and soul. It made me realize that I was simply going through the motions of life without her. A sub-routine dutifully running its programming, on infinite loop, until its eventual deprecation.
It was like this from day one, and it hasn’t changed since. A magnetic tether connected our hearts, and the more that time and space tried to intervene, the stronger the pull could be felt. As I was biding my time on the orbital station, it was like each rotation of the Earth spooled that tether further. Wrapping it around and around like a big ball of yarn, making the chord that much tighter, the yearn that much stronger.
As I turn my head away from Earth, I see the stars streaking by at impossible speeds. It’s a spastic dance of neon, like a comically fast time-lapse of a highway at night. I guess you could call this breath-taking too, but it simply reminds me of how fast we’re going. Roughly 17,000 mph, yet not quite fast enough. Cabbie, could you step on it please?!
It also reminds me of how, as her star was inexplicably crossing mine, I was brave enough to reach out and grab a ride. Of how lucky I was to catch that proverbial shooting star before it quickly faded away, granting me the ultimate wish. It took all of my courage to change my life’s pre-set trajectory, to finally follow my heart, and I haven’t regretted it since.
Lift-off and re-entry have often been described as a series of small car crashes. It’s not the most pleasant experience, to put it mildly. But as I refocus my gaze on Mother Earth, everything feels smooth as silk. I’m buffeted by a newfound swell of emotion. I don’t notice much of anything quite honestly, since my full attention is on one precious spot of the globe. I must be the only one smiling inside their claustrophobic bubble of a helmet, but the stale air never smelled so sweet.
As we start punching through atmospheric layers, and a glow appears around the edge of my window, my eyes do not waver. No glow could ever burn brighter than the energy we share. Everything else, including the sun, will always pale in comparison. I know this, and I am grateful. And I am even more impatient. Because as I leave the heavens, I know I will soon be back to my own heaven on Earth…