Twenty

Reading time ~3 minutes

Prompt for this post on r/writingprompts

BLANDFORD

The name was clear as day, printed neatly on the outside of the EVA suit. But that was impossible. No one had been back here since 1972, and not only was this a modern suit, but no one else named Blandford had ever set foot on the moon. It was an extremely exclusive club, so forgetting a name like that was unlikely to say the least. Phil Blandford let the small sample shovel fall slowly to the ground as he stopped to investigate his discovery.

Had he somehow lost a full EVA suit? He was pretty sure he would have noticed if he’d been sleepwalking at night. Explosive decompression will stick in your memory like that. The more he looked at the detail, the more he was convinced it was his own. The size, the AMTEC logo, it all matched the one he currently had on as he stood over it. The only obvious difference was the large, scorched breach down the right shoulder. He bent down and carefully tried to grab the left arm to drag it out of the lunar soil when he noticed something different. It was heavy.

He got a better grip on the arm and pulled harder. The suit slowly dislodged itself from its dusty grave, revealing the helmet. Phil dropped the arm in shock, stumbling backwards and falling onto the ground. There was someone inside this suit. He’d only caught a brief glimpse of a face under the reflection in the glass, but he was absolutely certain that the weight he felt wasn’t without reason. It made no sense. No one had ever been left behind on the moon, dead or alive. And he knew for damned sure that none of his AMTEC coworkers had ever been to the moon, let alone died here. And then there was the issue of the name. None of the other 67 employees had one like it. It was his and his alone.

Phil slowly got to his feet. This had to be some kind of prank, somehow set up by his teammates. Maybe one of the unmanned probes had dropped a surprise here just to spook him. He was finally standing up again, and took a step towards the suit. If he ever found out who did this, he’d push them out of an unmanned probe. There’d also be hell to pay from corporate for wasting one of these suits. The technology that ran these things was both unspeakably expensive and hard to come by. He didn’t know much about it other than that it was an AMTEC patent, it had a tiny, glowing purple core, and he was not to ask too many questions.

He leaned over the helmet, trying to get a good angle without the overwhelming Earthlight reflection. This prank was elaborate for sure. The face he recognized inside the suit was one he knew better than any other. It was his own. Someone had gone to great lengths to put some kind of silicon replica of himself up here for him to find. It must have been Danielle in Geo-Ops. Only she would have a complete map of his first sample sites. And she did have quite the sense of humor.

He started thinking up the most nonchalant way to play off his discovery as he loaded the fake body up into the huge collector bin of his rover. She got him for sure, but she could never know just how panicked he’d felt. He pressed the comm button on the inside of his glove and heard a faint buzz as it tried to open the connection with Earth, followed by a sharp screeching sound he’d never heard before. Then it exploded.

A burst of whiteness blinded him and he felt a shock all the way up his arm to the comm module in the helmet. He felt the air burst out from the new gash seared into the shoulder of his suit. It knocked him down to the ground. The suit’s systems were entirely offline and there was no backup. He started gasping for air, still unable to move, paralyzed by the electrical shock. His vision slowly returned as he choked on the nothingness. In the distance he saw a figure wearing an AMTEC EVA suit driving a rover towards him, but there was no way it’d get here in time. He tried to raise his arm, but instead his vision gradually collapsed into blackness.

Thirty-Five

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