“Meh. Space travel is for the rich,” says Bunka.
“Yeah, but wouldn’t that be cool, though? I bet you could escape all this and have nothing to worry about,” I say. “You know who wouldn’t have to worry about it all? Jeff Bezos. I bet he’s enjoying his flight right now,” Bunka repositions his pillow. “Would you ever apply for the program? I mean, it takes a grand but you’ll be on the moon and get money sent to your bank account,” I ask Bunka whose back is facing me. “And you’re gonna be here all alone? Sure.”
For the remainder of our conversation, I only remember the darkness of our room and the fact that I have a meeting tomorrow, before drifting off.
Ding ding, ding ding.
I get up to reach for my phone. Looks like just after dawn outside, I should probably get ready.
“Breakfast’s gonna be simple today. Cream cheese on toast okay?” asks Bunka. “Mmhm. Do we have coffee left? Might have to stick to tea for a bit if we’re out,” as I walk to the kitchen tying my hair up in the cold morning breeze. “Not much. I’m fine with tea for a week,” says Bunka as he plugs off the toaster by the window, lit by the golden sunlight.
Ding ding, ding ding, ding ding.
“Is it your meeting? I thought it’s at 10?” Bunka raises his brow. “No, wait, it’s my email. That’s a lot of notifs,” I reach for my phone, confused. “It’s… a space travel program grant. Huh?” I open my email inbox finding 3 emails from ‘The Company’. I can see Bunka stop midway from slurping his leftover coffee from the corner of my eye, staring at me.
We would like to offer you a space flight program to pilot our carrier and land it on the moon. The grant will require no fee, and we will accommodate you with a few-week training program. We are aware that you have not been sending any applications out to other space travel companies, national and private, but we trust that only you can take on this mission. Therefore, if you are willing to take this opportunity, do reply to this email. We have also sent you two other emails to brief you on the mission, as well as your payment scheme. We look forward to your answer. With regards,
‘That’s strange,” I say. “No. That’s really weird,” answers Bunka. “The mission and the payment?” Bunka rushes. “Land The Company’s carrier on the moon, stay briefly for 3 days, come back. Payment is $5,000 a week during the training program, and $10,000 a day during mission…” That’s a lot of money. “That is a fuckload of money, given to you like that. So 30k and say it’s two or three weeks of training. That’s about 45k-” “I’m doing it.”
“You’re not,” throws Bunka. I know damn well I’m doing it. “Look, Bunka. We don’t have to live like this anymore. -” “You don’t even know why they chose you! They didn’t say anything. That’s fucking suspicious to me. I won’t let you,” Bunka raises his voice. In the entirety of our relationship, he hasn’t raised his voice like that before. I leave the room not knowing how to feel–alone again.
Our day goes by in silence, but I know I’ve made my decision. It’s just a mission, it’s quick money. I’m going to send my boss a resignation letter end of today. Another letter I’m going to write is tomorrow's daybreak letter when I leave.
In the dawn, I make sure my steps are quiet. Bunka is still cozied up under the blanket that covers him up to his lips. The urge to peck his forehead is tempting, but that would ruin the whole thing. I take a last look at him snuggling with the pillow.
‘I love you, see you soon,’ I murmur. I leave my letter on the dinner table.
The Company has been accommodating me during my training. I learn some advanced engineering stuff I probably wouldn’t have thought of learning in my lifetime. Being the only pilot for the mission, I do pester them from time to time with the same question. ‘Why me?’ and most of the answers I get are either ‘I don’t have the authority to give you the answer’ or ‘We don’t question The Company’s decisions’. At one point, I give up on questioning it.
The day of the mission arrives. I get ready in my spacesuit, which is something I’ve never thought of wearing, again, in my lifetime. I enter the lonely vessel and see the one and only seat. The Company calls it the G-Hunter, a weird name for a simple missioned carrier. A vessel sitting upright in its grandiose, I make myself comfortable on the pilot seat before positioning it to 90 degrees upward.
‘I hope it’s alright with you, Bunka.’
I can feel the thruster’s force, and gravity pulling me down as G-Hunter looks up to our destination. But the weight’s emptied as soon as we reach Zero-G. Scared? Of course. It’s a mission that humanity failed to do decades after its first success, and here I am going at where they failed to head to. The moon is so clear in my vision, and so is its dark craters.
“This is G-Hunter, floating above Lacus Timoris kilometer 64, aaand landing smoothly, over,” I report to the Base from my earpiece.
“Roger that. G-Hunter to proceed with Mission IDLE, over,” says one of the crews of The Company.
“Copy that. Mission IDLE proceeds on October 18, 2021, over,” I reply.
“G-Hunter to proceed Mission IDLE on October 18, 2021. See you on October 21, 2021. Company Base, out,” he briefly answers.
That was pretty smooth. Whilst I’m waiting for the 3 days to end, I might as well enjoy my time here and collect some moonstones to take home. I know Bunka wouldn’t be too excited to see me with moonstones when I knock on the door.
The earth looks pretty small from up here, I wonder what everyone is doing back home. I wonder what Bunka is doing right now.
Suddenly an invisible wave hit, shaking up my spacesuit and G-Hunter quite roughly, but not enough to do actual damage. My earpiece stings a little, but I quickly reach for the controller to reactivate it back again.
“What the fuck was that? G-Hunter to Company Base do you copy?” I panic as I rush to look for Company’s Base channel.
“Mission IDLE is ongoing, ma’am. We can proceed G-Hunter to run the course,” says the same crew personnel.
“Company Base, can you hear me?” my adrenaline is rushing. It sounds like I can hear their chatter on the other end, but they’re not picking up on me. Supposing the comms pick up the signal from the earth, there’s no way that it catches the signal undetected while I’m muted. I sit on my pilot seat in silence, stopping myself from trying to reconnect and try to listen to what my earpiece is picking up. What did they mean by the G-Hunter running a ‘course’? As in, running it on its own?
“G-Hunter to run the tracking course,” says the personnel.
“We’ll track the Ghoul this time. We’ll pick up on something,” a woman’s voice is heard on that end. I haven’t heard of her voice before, even during training. But most importantly,
Suddenly, G-Hunter is making a little bit of noise, like those little marbles running on a steel plate. I look for the source, discovering these little devices in the pipes, bullet-sized. “500 Spiders are running, ma’am. Now to launch onto Lacus Timoris,” says the personnel. The devices run on their own after being shot off the G-Hunter, headed to different courses. My mind’s voice defeats the silence of vacuum space. What fucking Ghoul? Like creatures? Aliens? There’s nothing like that in this world, right? Not in this reality? Is this why I’m here?
If there is something like that, am I here being a living bait?
It comes crashing down. The impending curiosity now is connecting the dots on its own. The reason why I got no answer from any personnel, the free money, the training. My fury is brewing me, potent enough that I walk away from the G-Hunter.
For some reason, the darkness of the moon is calling out to me. Whilst I’m on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, why not, right? ‘Let’s see what Pink Floyd was on about.’ Of course, I’m scared shitless. I’m in space, on my own, the people I love are on a whole other planet, and the private company is sending me out here for a tracker-planting mission the pilot doesn’t even know about. Sure, I trust them less now, but I don’t regret my decision. I’ve come this far, and I will make it home. Live a better life with the money, away from the void and far from being alone.
The more I look at it, the darkness of the moon feels like it’s staring right back at me, though I’m only a few steps away from being in it. G-Hunter looks small from this distance, and the earth even smaller.
I step forward and stand on the dark side of the moon. There’s only nothingness that fills the space. As I look back, I can see G-Hunter and the earth being the same size they were a few seconds ago. I put down my weight to try sitting down. It feels similar to when I sit down under the shower after a long day, staring into my bathroom walls. Now, I just see nothing. The moon’s population right now is 1, and everything feels like a long dream. All I can think of is Bunka.
‘I know you would be real upset at me if you saw me leave, so I just… left. No, that sucks. Hey, I’m sorry for vanishing like a ghost for weeks. I know you didn’t agree to it but I just wanted us to live better? That’s so stupid. Come on, Sanka, think,’ I mumble to myself. At least there’s a voice in this silence.
I look back to where G-Hunter was and find no vessel. My eyes meet myself, sitting exactly how I’m sitting, in my spacesuit, looking right back at me. The mirrored me gives a nasty chill to my spine. The darkness moves to the space beside me, and I see the rocky ground I’m sitting on again. To my left and right is more me, mirroring what I’m doing. Like when you put two mirrors facing each other, and my figure is seen infinite, lined up.
“Am I on something? Did I touch something? Am I tripping?” I say out loud.
Suddenly I feel excruciating pain in my gut. There, gushing out of my gut is blood, splattered on the crater ground. What’s worse is my legs are not there anymore and I can’t feel them. My gut is stuck to the ground as if I was cut in two, and the rest of my limbs, my legs, I can see my legs upside down in front of me, with blood coming out of my hips that are stuck to the ground.
I can’t feel my legs.
I can’t move the upper half of my body. I can see the darkness moving and revealing more me’s lined up. Is this real? Am I in a dream? The pain doesn’t indicate that I’m in a dream. The pain is excruciatingly real. I try to touch my smeared blood on the ground. My glove’s index is stained red. I try to touch my other selves, left and right, they feel real.
“There’s a movement detected, ma’am. The Ghoul is showing activity,” the voice in my earpiece snaps me out of my pain. “Company base, do you copy!? Send emergency-”
“There’s that wave activity again, detected from a few Spiders, 500m southeast of G-Hunter,” says the personnel.
“Make sure the pilot stays inside G-Hunter for the time being, we’ll take a few shots from board cameras,” replies the woman.
“Don’t underestimate us, humans, you devil.”
The darkness falls over me again. Left in the nothingness, alone again.
‘I’ll see you soon, Bunka.’