Matt Tells a Story
Ever since little Sarah had died in the playground accident, Dr. Stone wasn't living anymore. She was merely existing.
Matt Kowalski said, "So what do you like best about space?"
Dr. Stone thought for a moment. Then she answered him: "The silence."
She sat in the Chinese re-entry capsule. There was no need to fire the retros, as everything was coming down on its own. She was surrounded by flaming debris that was plunging to Earth, falling at better than 2000kph. Was the re-entry angle even right? And where was she coming down? The capsule was an old Soviet Soyuz design, meant for landing only on solid ground, not in the ocean like the old American space capsules. In water she knew it would sink like a rock.
She knew the odds weren't good. Earth's surface was over 70% water.
The re-entry was violent. And loud. She heard something hit the shell of the capsule hard enough to dent it. Was the pressure going to hold? She knew that was probably the least of her worries at this point.
Matt, please take care of Sarah.
"Let me tell you a story."
"Oh Matt not again.. please.."
"Once upon a time there was this beautiful, but sad, rocket scientist. On a LEO mission she met this devastatingly good looking astronaut. And neither one was married."
"I think I've heard this one.."
"Yes, well. Let me tell it anyway. You see, they had survived against all odds and made it to the Chinese Tiangong Space Station for shelter, which was abandoned. So she and he sat in that tin can all alone, with nothing to do, for two weeks until the rescue ship could arrive."
"They sat there together for two weeks? With nothing to do?"
"Nothing at all. Did I mention he was a hunk?"
"Yes, you did."
"And I said she was beautiful?"
"Yes, you already said that too."
"And neither one was married?"
"And the sex they had was completely awesome?"
"Uh wait, no that's new."
"And that they set a new 300 Mile High Club record?"
"I landed in water, didn't I.."
She sighed, "I thought I made it, I really did."
"You're not dead yet. The euphoria you are feeling right now is due to anoxia. Currently you are hallucinating under about 30 feet of sea water in a shallow inlet in Fujan Province of southeast China."
"I'm drowning? After all that!? No! I gotta get up.. get out.."
"It's too late. Your lungs are full of seawater. The saline has already destroyed them."
"Drowning? Oh, the irony."
"Nobody prayed for my soul... I don't know how to pray."
"Actually, I did earlier. For you. When I was up there. After I let you go."
"Can you teach me?"
"Sure, you're not dead yet."
This story was inspired by the song Sora ni Hikaru (空に光る) ("Shining in the Sky") from the anime CLANNAD. It should be played as background music as you read this story. For the OST see YouTube at Clannad OST ~ Shining in the Sky by Squoinkz (5:09). Little Sarah meets Mom at 1:49.