The Astronaut’s Anniversary

The alarm beeped.  Jeff, who had been lying awake for hours, rolled over and slapped it into silence.  Groaning, he got out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom.  By the time he had shaved and showered, Wendy, his p.a. was already at the door to his hotel suite.

“Morning, Jeff!” she chirped, offering him a coffee-chain cappuccino.  He grunted in response.  Wendy made herself at home, perching on a sofa and scrolling through her iPad with an expensively manicured finger.  “Just want to go through the programme of events for the day.  The car will be here in…three point five minutes.”

Jeff grunted.

Wendy looked up from the screen.  Her jaw dropped.  “You’re not even dressed!” she gasped.

Jeff shrugged; the gesture was lost beneath the folds of his hotel dressing gown.

“Come on, chop-chop!” Wendy flicked her fingers in a bid to shoo him into the bedroom.  Jeff didn’t move.  Wendy gave her wristwatch an anxious glance.  “Two point five minutes… Come on.  Is there something wrong?  What’s the matter, Jeff?  Didn’t housekeeping bring your suit back from the dry cleaners?”

Jeff didn’t reply.  Wendy began to panic.  She fought it down.  She smiled.  “Look, you can tell me.  I’ve heard it all before.  If it’s nerves, that’s OK.  I know a guy can get you a little help, shall we call it?”

Jeff closed his eyes.

“Look,” Wendy rose from the sofa and approached.  “I know you’re tired.  But it’s just today.  I’ll move a few things around.  We can have you finished and on your way back home just after lunch.  Things will die down again.  But today is the Big One.  It’s fifty years since you came back from the moon.  It’s your golden anniversary.  So of course people want you on the radio, on breakfast television.  And there’s that champagne reception…”

She was back to scrolling through her list again.

Jeff lowered himself onto a chair at the dining table.

Fifty years.  They had passed in the blink of an eye, it seemed.  Jeff put his face in his hands, the hands that had steered the lunar module, the hands that were now liver-spotted, with craters between the knotty veins.  Like the lunar surface…

He cast his mind back to that fateful mission.  He had never spoken of what had happened up there.  Others in the team had written autobiographies, fluffy, empty tomes, full of cliches.  And lies.  Not a single one of them had told the truth.

They would be there later, at the champagne reception, gleefully receiving the keys to yet another city.  Laughing it up, saying how lucky there were.  And how fragile the Earth looks from up there, and how we must protect it, and blah blah blah.

Until the signal.

When the signal came, the true nature of their mission would be revealed.  Not the mission given them by NASA, but the mission they had received from the Masters of the Moon.  The time was drawing nigh.

A buzzer sounded.  Was it Reception calling to say the car had arrived?

Or was it the signal?

The Earthlings were about to discover just how fragile their world really is.

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Filed under science fiction, Short story

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