Rocket Man

rocket

Image found at mars.nasa.gov

“When are you coming home, Reggie?”

“Countdown commences in just a little over ten minutes, Desirae.”

He had plenty of time to wrestle with his inner agonist during the 32 minute round trip it would take for his voice to reach her and then for her reply to whistle through his headset. He could still see her, the last time before his final trip to Earth. She was standing near a high dune, the last rays of the sun glinting off of her space helmet. The shadows of a dying planet rendering her as an eldritch specter. She didn’t find out she was pregnant until three weeks after he left her.

Leaning back in the co-pilot’s seat, Reggie Dwight ran down the pre-flight checklist of numerous details, as if recounting the recipe of a casserole. Then he jumped against his restraints as Colonel Iraida Simms accidentally sent her archaic clipboard clattering to the deck.

“Sorry,” she murmured in uncharacteristic chagrin.

He felt his fingers harden against the edges of his state-of-the-art tablet. “No problem.” He knew his voice betrayed his anxiety.

“Relax.” She patted his spacesuit enshrouded arm with her thick glove; doe brown eyes communicating actual sincerity. “They’ll authorize the launch. You’ll see.” Then she bent to her left to retrieve her lost article. Grunting it as she lifted, Reggie imagined it was as heavy as a brick, though it was probably lighter than his iPad.

“A world as dismal as this, I’d expect them to try and keep us here. Misery loves company they say.” Reg ticked off the last item in his catalog as he watched the temperature gauge of their booster fuel.

“We’re the last of the pioneers, Reg. Explorers of the extramundane and all that.” Her teeth glittered in the artificial light of the command cockpit of the Earth’s last ark.

At first, Reg had been surprised at how many black Americans had volunteered to colonize Mars. After all, this was supposed to be the age of equality or equity or whatever the Vice President had once called it. But after he and Iraida had become close friends and not just colleagues, she told him that she and her partner Laticia didn’t like always having to play “race victim” just to satisfy the white egos of some political party. On Mars, people could build their own lives. Now that they’d found abundant underground water, they were no longer dependent on Earth for anything. America, politics, racism, and everything that came with it could go to climate change hell.

“Did you and Laticia find everything you were looking for on Mars?

“Hang on a sec.” She used her (very rare these days) number 2 pencil to mark off the last handwritten bit on her own pre-launch checklist. Then she tucked both clipboard and pencil in an elastic pouch on the side of her seat and sealed it.

Turning to him, her dark hair shorn as short as his salt and pepper buzz cut, her face testified to a calm honesty. “I think so. I think we found what you and Desirae found, what all of the colonists have been looking for.”

“A new life away from the craziness. A life we could build for ourselves.”

“Right, Reg. Without being ruled or governed by politicians who’ve forgotten the words We the People.”

Static hissed through both their earpieces, “This is launch control, launch has been authorized. T minus 30 minutes. I say again, T minus 30 minutes until launch.” Truman McEwan’s slow east Texas drawl soothed Reg’s frayed nerves. He was one of the few things Dwight was going to miss about his mother planet.

“That’s a relief.”

“They could still halt the countdown, Ira.”

“This close to final launch? I sure as hell hope not.”

More static came through Reg’s ears but this time it wasn’t Truman.

“I can’t wait until you launch. I’m sorry that you couldn’t make it back before little Johnny was born. He looks just like you. I show him your holoimage each day and tell him, that’s your Daddy. I have to go now. A bunch of us are gathering at the communal hall to listen to the official launch broadcast from mission control over the radio. Tell Ira that Laticia says that she loves her and misses her. Bye, darling. I love you.”

Tears streamed down Reggie Dwight’s face as she signed off, and turning to look at Ira, he found she was crying too. He didn’t have to pass along Laticia’s message. Her wife already knew.

“The last pioneers,” he said at last. Ira nodded and they silently watched the countdown’s relentless approach to zero. In a few minutes, 7.6 million pounds of thrust would crush them and their 360 passengers back into their acceleration couches. They were the last men, women, and children the Supreme Court ruling allowed to leave the Earth before the government lockdown. Over the past eight years since the President and Vice President declared themselves rulers for life, the People’s States of America had raised taxes through the roof, forcibly assigned citizens to jobs the state said were essential, and in spite of claims of equality, inclusiveness, and prosperity, ruled what used to be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave with an iron fist once reserved for the ancient Soviet Gulags.

“Let’s hear that song again.” Ira’s voice jolted Reg out of his reverie.

“Sure. Got it pulled up on the iPad.” He scrolled through his playlist and then pressed the icon of a now very old pop singer. Ira and Reg were still listening to its refrains when the clock went to zero. 6.2 million pounds of rocket fuel ignited, sending the passengers and crew of the last (metaphorically speaking) wagon train to the stars on its final voyage to freedom.

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time

I wrote this for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle #213. The idea is to craft a poem or short story including a specific collection of words. I’ve bolded them in my wee tale. The words are:

Agonist- a person who is torn my inner conflict
Casserole
Dismal
Eldritch- spooky, eerie, weird
Whistle
Numerous
Extramundane- beyond our world or material universe
Find
Harden
Lean
Clatter
Brick

Oh, my protagonist Reginald Kenneth Dwight uses the actual birth name of famous musician Elton John, who of course, sang “Rocket Man” on the 1972 album Honky Chateau.

Yes, I know I’m exaggerating and the story is more than cynical. We’ll see.

7 thoughts on “Rocket Man

  1. I fear the next few years will be full of cynicism – the roost, the rules, the virus… and what ever else will be tossed.
    One can only hope that we still have a few choices to make in our human quest for freedom.

    Like

      • Power is only acquired if it is given away. Last night I watched the 2014 movie “Captain America: Winter Soldier”. The entire point of the film was how you can convince an entire world to give up its freedom in the service of “safety.” Now we are being told to give up freedom in the service of “justice.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • I cannot claim to be a ‘political animal’. Covid 19 had created many obstacles. If giving up just a little bit of freedom for a relatively short period of time (The Spanish Flu took three years to run its course… and we are perhaps only in the first year of Covid… ) – can help return us to a better situation (world wide), I could live with that.

        One needs to learn from history. Which seems to be rewritten to suit the needs of too few. And then the newest generations know practically nil. I think for then it is easier to give their power away when they don’t realize they have it.

        Like

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