My breathing is loud, only adding to the swirling chaos my panicked mind is churning forth: Worse-case-scenarios. Incoherent thoughts. Barely rational.

The panic would rise and fall with the near consistency of an ocean tide. Waxing one moment, then waning the next. When risen, like drowning in the ocean, I struggle to breathe, my panic stifling. But thankfully, this passes.

Right now, the tide of panic is out. I am now calm, placid; resigned to my fate. And similar to low tide, I can now see what lies below the surface. I can rationally see my thoughts, logically process information and accurately assess my situation. It isn't good.

My breathing is long and deep as I watch California pass beneath me. The enveloping waters looks like a silver mirror as the sun catches them, beautifully haunting in its silence. I’ve never been to California. Never will. I guess, in a peculiar sort of way, I am now.

As I slowly turn, my view of the Earth is lost. The sky behind me, black and punctured with stars, little more than icy shards. I don’t like my view of space. Thankfully, my slow spin brings the blue planet back into view.

The HUD display on my helmet’s visor updates my oxygen supply: “One minute, 13 seconds.”

The orbital satellite and shuttle are only fifty meters away. So close. Feel like I could just reach out and grab it. If only!

My umbilical cable broke. My NASA-issue maneuvering unit was punctured by the same piece of orbital debris that severed my tether. Fucken’ space junk.

My mind ponders and wanders over several directions and thoughts:

Assembling and attaching the experimental tachyon-particle emitter should have been the least complicated part of this spacewalk. I’m not a theoretical physicist. Just an engineer. Whether the particle-emitter worked or not, wasn’t my problem. Its installation and power coupling were easy. The following tests and experiments would have taken CERN months.

Even the best proximity sensors are useless without any means of affecting the threat. The proximity alert spotted the tiny space junk; just was nothing to do about it. I will never know for certain what it was. I like thinking it was a Russian bolt. Gives me a sense of blame. Never liked the Russian space program anyway. Yeah, it was Russian, I decide. Gotta blame someone.

It was a patient little bugger. Like a bullet careening through orbital space, the little critter had waited years for me. Bastard had my name and address. 

Umbilical cable, tether, maneuvering unit and sealed suit all in one strike, yet miraculously caused me no damage. It might have been kinder had it punctured my cranium.

I can hear the shuttle crew and Houston-control over my com-link, but I’ve tuned them out. They can carry all the weight of this emergency. I’m their problem now; little I can do.

Commander Winston is suiting up now to rescue me. They must know my suit has been punctured. If I don’t freeze first, I will run out of oxygen before he even exits the shuttle. I also know they cannot simply do nothing.

Oxygen: One minute, 1 second,” the visor’s HUD reads. “76 meters,” it updates my slow drift away.

I know I’ll die in orbit. Suffocate. I had hoped over California, but she’s drifted away now. Only the glaring Pacific to greet me.

“Let’s see: one sunset every 93 minutes.” Trying to do the math in my head. Keep my mind occupied. See if I’ll make Japan before I run out of air. “That’s about 5 miles a second - say the Pacific is 5,300 miles - that’s.... say... 18 minutes… damn.”

On the bright side, I’ll probably get a posthumous award! “Meat-shield to a billion-dollar satellite!”

In conjunction with CERN, this is NASA’s second of a planned one-hundred satellite system. The Centinel Project is to be an advanced GPS, weather tracking and surveillance monitoring system. It goes without saying there’s military applications in there too. Who knows what else! Whispers abound in the back rooms of gravitational-wave experiments as well. Every since their detection on September 14th, 2015, these rumours have floated.

LIGO and the Virgo experiment confirmed it. The collision of two black holes a billion years ago and countless light-years away, and still we felt their gravitational-waves. Now we know these theoretical waves are real. And if we could manipulate gravity...

I can see the satellite’s lights. Odd that it’s powering up. It is linked to the Artificial Intelligence that runs CERN. I’m sure the AI is attempting some response to my plight. It’s programmed to mimic compassion. But like Commander Winston, there’s really nothing it can do.

37 seconds,” my suit’s HUD text has changed to red. “102 meters.”

We must appear like a moving star in the night sky to whatever lonely Pacific ship’s below. As we recklessly careen across the sky into night, I find comfort imagining that lonely ship below. I don’t feel quite so alone or desperate. I imagine a Samoan, Maori, or Polynesian fisherman in his waka, curiously looking up and wondering what I am. Maori I see decide. It gives my picture validity, a shadow of hope. My imagination paints their intrical and swirling patterns of tattoos across his imagined arms and chest. I find great comfort in the company of my phantom tattooed friend. I must keep that potential rising panic down.

The curved ocean lights up as the sun slips behind the horizon. It must be an illusion of the light. Even the satellite seems to glow. I forget my tattooed fisherman friend below.

Looks like the newly installed tachyon-particle emitter had been activated. No test runs. No installation diagnosis. Definitely a breach in protocol. Well, somebody’s going to be in trouble! Wonder who authorized that?

The satellite is generating some sort of energy film or halo. Maybe this is the beginning of oxygen deprivation. 

At first its golden-copper solar panels light up. It’s just catching the sun. No, we are well past the night’s terminator line. It can’t be the sun. The strange light coagulates into numerous tiny spots, sparkling across the panels, virtually glittering, seemingly matching and mimicking Earth's tiny lit up cities below.

I blink several times; my eyes must be playing tricks on me. A gossamer glow is sprinkled around the satellite, no longer on its surface. Like a wedding veil, delicate and soft. Reminds me of the lighted cities in the night below me. Reminds me of my wife.

It pulsates. Not sure what pulsates. The satellite? The ether? (That’s not a real thing!)  I can feel a bizarre ripple-effect pass me. Without atmosphere, this should be impossible. A graviton wave? The com-link is a cacophony of panicked voices. Commander Winston, the remainder of the crew, NASA Mission Control. Clearly, I’m not the only one who’s witnessed it. This ripple-effect isn’t solely my hallucination. I don’t think they know what it is either.

A second ripple-effect passes me. This time I’m certain it is emulating from the satellite. I can see its strange plasma-like energy-field pulse.

As it passes me - against all possibility - the energy stops; condenses and compresses. Can’t think of any other word to use. Seems to solidify into…. A strange opaque blackness. It too is orbiting, but not quite as quickly as I am. Slowly, I’m catching up to it, hovering before me like some giant catcher’s mitt. I cannot really see it. Just a circular blackness without stars. 

With my back to the satellite, I miss its third pulse, but most definitely feel it as it passes me, much stronger than the previous ones, rippling through space and colliding into the…. that black sphere.

It changes when it catches the ripple. Morphs, tears, opens! Transforms into some sort of portal or aperture. It is no longer simply a starless blackness in the nighted sky. Hardly! The dark circle has a faint glow, outlining its perimeter. It’s now filled with stars! I don’t recognize the constellations on its other side as I approached nearer and nearer.

The panicked and babbling voices on my com has become a soothing white noise, almost placing me into a calm and meditative state. I’m surprised as it’s abruptly cut off. 

I am Centinel.” Only a single voice I do not recognize speaks: the AI. “I am sorry. But this is the only way to save you.”

It says something more but its voice is garbled, communication being cut off as I pass through the Space-Time Rupture, passing into an alternative universe.

Michel Weatherall

Michel has published 5 novels and 2 collections of poems:
The Symbiot (2015)
The Hunt: Symbiosis (2015)
A Dark Corner of My Soul (Selected poetry) (2015)
A theological essay in American theologian Thomas Jay Oord's "The Uncontrolling Love of God:
An Open and Relational Account of Providence" (2015)
Necropolis (2017)
The Refuse Chronicles (2018)
Ngaro's Sojourney (2019)
The Symbiot 30th Anniversary, The Nadia Edition (2019)
Sun & Moon (Selected Poetry) (2019)
Two poems (“Sun & Moon” and “Eleven's Silent Promise” have appeared in Ariel Chart's
2019 FEBE Awards Nominee for Creative Arts
2019 CPACT Awards Nominee for Entertainment Excellence (Arts)
2019 CPCAT Awards Nominee for Small Business Excellence (Broken Keys Publishing)
2019 Pushcart Prize Nominee (Poetry)
2020-21 Parliamentary Poet Laureate Nominee

2018-19 Faces if Ottawa Awards Finalist for Favourite Author

Twitter: @brokenkeys9

Instagram: @weatherallmichel

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