Kreative Kue 170 asked for submissions based on this photograph:
My thanks to John W Howell, author of the John Cannon trilogy of My GRL, His Revenge, Our Justice and Circumstances of Childhood, and who blogs at Fiction Favorites, who sent:
“How much air does he have left in there?”
“I would say about ten minutes.”
“Hello out there.”
“Yes, sir what is it?”
“You know I can hear you through the intercom?”
“Yes, we know that. We are trying to figure a way to get you out of there.”
“What do you mean by ten minutes of air.”
“Uh, that is a hermetically sealed capsule. The only air you have is what is inside. The canisters look to have about ten minutes left.”
“Don’t sugar coat it. How much time do I have?”
“My God, Man. I just told you. Ten— excuse me, Nine minutes.”
“Y’all better get humping on that solution then.”
“Well, sir. We thought we would take our lunch break now.”
“Don’t get cute. You know what I mean.”
“Unfortunately we do, sir.”
“I wish my hands weren’t handcuffed I would try to help.”
“Oh, don’t worry sir. We doubt you would be able to do too much to help.”
“Why say something mean like that?”
“Not to point out the obvious but you were the one insisting on the handcuffs.”
“Makes for a better simulation.”
“And I have the key. See it here.”
“I see it. I gave it to you when we closed the hatch.”
“That you did sir. Tell me again what you hoped to accomplish?”
“This is going to be the greatest escape trick ever. An astronaut handcuffed in space does the amazing feat of freeing himself and then gliding to earth.”
“You insisted on locking the hatch as well.”
“Of course. Don’t you see how difficult it will make the trick seem.”
“Not only seem, sir. But in reality almost impossible.”
“What do you mean?”
“Remember when you grabbed the key just as the hatch slammed shut.”
“Yes, I wanted to be able to open it.”
“Good thinking, sir. Except, the key works from the outside. The hatch automatically locks when shut. Hmm. Six minutes.”
My effort was:
Do you have any idea how excited I was when my agent called three weeks ago?
“I’ve got you a gig,” he said, “you’ll love it. It pays well and you don’t have to do anything. Just stand there.”
“What,” I said,” like one of those pretend statues? No way do I want to be standing in the middle of a town square being gawped at by all and sundry. And when they suss you’re a real person made up to look like a statue, they do things… they say things… trying to make you laugh or even just move. Last time I had a gig like that, I was supposed to be a Roman centurion, when some young women came up to me and started showing me things they should never show in the streets. Course, I reacted; what normal man wouldn’t? Then one of them says to her mates, ‘Look, we’ve just erected a statue,’ and they all run off giggling, leaving me feeling like a complete fool.”
You know what my agent said to that? I’ll tell you. He said, “and a horny one, too. Think of it as one of the perks of the job.”
“Well,” I said, “I don’t want a booking like that again.”
“I promise you,” he says, “it’s nothing to do with statues. Now do you want the job or not?”
I’d been between jobs, as we call it in the business, for a couple of months and funds were getting a bit scarce, so I said I’d take it.
“Great,” he says, “report to Kennedy Space Centre tomorrow at ten, ask for a Commodore Lewanowski.”
Well, I turns up at ten, like he said, and this Lewanowski bloke takes me to a back room where he makes me put on an orange suit. When I saw it hanging there, I thought it was a prison outfit. It was only the badges and decals all over it that convinced me I wasn’t going to be parading about in ‘the new black’. That and the helmet, of course. I’ve seen loads of movies set inside a prison, even had small parts in a few, but I’ve never seen anyone wearing a helmet. Unless you count the riot gear the guards wear sometimes. No, this was a flipping space helmet. Then I worked out where I was and what I was expected to be doing. I was the astronaut on the old shuttle that’s parked up in Kennedy Space Centre as an exhibit.
“How come you can’t just dress a manikin in the suit for this?” I asked him.
“We tried,” he said, “but attendance was low. Seems the great unwashed like to look into the visor and see real eyes.”
“Surely you can make ‘em look real,” I suggested.
“Tried that too, till a little kid starts asking why the spaceman doesn’t blink. His dad tells him it’s not a real man, and the kid starts screaming, accusing us of cheating.”
“But that’s just one kid. You telling me you change your policy and add to your cost for one snotty-nosed spoiled brat?”
“Would that it were just one. Where one starts, others continue. Especially since this damned social media stuff. My geeks tell me that his winge and a photo of the suit went viral – whatever that means – and the higher-ups ordered that we put a real person in the suit. So here you are.”
So here I am. Standing stock-still all day, every day. That’s right, seven days a week. Apparently, the budget won’t stretch to stand-ins.
How do I do my business? I wondered that, too. My shift is ten hours long, and I can’t leave the deck. I can move around a little, in fact, they encourage it, but I have to remain visible at all times. There’s a special gizmo in the suit that sucks up anything that comes out of either end and pushes it int a removable bag in the trouser legs, the one on the left for liquid waste and the one on the right for solids. I get fresh bags every morning. It’s not so bad when you get used to it.
That’s not the worse part though. The worse part is people – and not only kids – pointing at you, saying things you can’t hear on account of the helmet and the cabin’s plexiglass window. You have an idea, though, by the faces they pull. And you just know what they ask most. That’s right. How does he go to the toilet in there? I’m gonna ask Lewanowski to have a sign made to explain it. As well as that, I want him to give me a list of things I can do to make it look like I’m a real astronaut, not just a statue!
On to this week’s challenge: Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; even just a caption for the photograph. Either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at email@example.com before 6pm next Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here – pingbacks don’t often work.
Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries, with links to your own blog or web site, next Monday.