Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
Astronaut James Woodbridge awoke to the sounds of “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra. He rubbed his eyes, climbed out of his sleep chamber and smiled before he floated to his chair in front of a camera.
“I have to admit that was a pretty good choice.”
“We thought you would like it,” said Billy Raider from control center in Florida. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired. What day is this?”
“It’s day forty. We’ll go ahead and check your vitals when you’re ready.”
“Roger that,” Woodbridge said.
Suddenly the camera in the capsule began to pan left.
“Your camera, Woodbridge,” alerted Raider.
The astronaut took his right hand and turned it back around facing him.
“I must not have tightened the ——”
Three loud thuds filled the air.
“What in the world-” Raider asked himself as the noise startled everybody.
“We lost him, sir,” said the controller.
Raider replied with a string of expletives.
“Control to Unicorn. Can you read me? Over.”
“Do you think he hit something when he moved the camera back into position?” asked Raider to Ross Williams, his second in command.
“I could play back the footage and see.”
From the blackness came a hope of light.
“Unicorn to Control. Over.”
Everybody felt instant relief as Raider quickly replied through his microphone headset, “This is Control. Go ahead Unicorn. Over.”
“I thought I’d lost you all for good,” said Woodbridge.
“We still don’t have any video, but the audio is working now. Do you know what happened on your end? Over.”
“No. I thought-”
Silence slit the room.
“Control to Unicorn. Are you there? Over.”
“Yeah. I’m still here. Over.”
“What’s wrong? Over.”
“I know this is going to sound odd, but I could have sworn I heard a growl. Over.”
Raider and Ross stared at each other. Ross made a twirling motion with his finger pointed at his head as the universal symbol that Woodbridge might be losing it.
“It’s probably just the air ducts aboard the capsule. Nothing to worry about. Over.”
“Maybe that’s all it is. I’m going to - what? No no no no! What are you? Get away from me! Iiiiiieeeee!—————”
Panic chambered a round in the control room.
“Control to Unicorn. What’s wrong? Over.”
Static filled the radio.
“Control to Unicorn. Can you read me? Over.”
Eyes stared hard at the speakers praying for sharps of sound.
“Control to Unicorn. Come in. Over.”
Glances ghosted toward one another.
Then the bizarre happened.
Voices of pain from a crowd of people softly echoed out of the control room speakers. Then a deep gutter voice reached out and said, “We are coming.”
“What was that?” asked Ross.
“Control to Unicorn! Come in! Over!” screamed Raider.
“What’s the instrument readings?” the commander asked.
“Everything is normal. No spikes of any kind.”
“If we don’t get a response within twenty minutes we’re going to E.R. mode.”
“Roger that. Everyone heard the commander. Get ready for an Emergency Rescue just in case we need it.”
The team scrambled to their positions for the task they had trained for, but hoped they would never use.
A control light flashed.
“The hatch is being opened.”
“Being opened?” queried Raider in unbelief.
“That’s what the computer’s indicating. What’s going on up there?”
“Control to Unicorn. Your hatch is opening. Close it immediately. Over.”
Seconds slipped by.
“It’s not closing, sir.”
“We can’t begin the Emergency Rescue if the hatch is opened.”
“Video is on.”
“It’s back on.”
The team all gathered around the monitor and saw an empty chair.
“Control to Unicorn. Over.”
“Where’s he at?”
“Go to the ceiling camera.”
A button was pushed and the overhead camera in the Unicorn panned the small space capsule. Woodbridge was nowhere to be found.
“Did he go out of the capsule?” asked Ross.
“He wouldn’t have done that,” replied Raider.
“It sounded like something scared him.”
“Nothing could scare you enough to jump out of a space capsule into space where you would die instantly. Go back to the video where the camera panned away,” ordered Raider.
“I already have it cued up.”
The video was played. Woodbridge was talking. The camera panned away. Woodbridge pulled the camera back to him. A flashed image caught Raider’s eye.
The video was reversed.
Up against the back wall, in a mixture of shadow and light, appeared to be a figure, possibly a small boy. He was wearing a white shirt and dark pants. His left hand was missing as were his feet. His right hand was a long black shadow with three fingers that stretched to the floor. His face was featureless and when the video was looped the boy’s head was moving side to side at a tremendous rate of speed.
The control team didn’t say anything. They just watched the film loop over and over and over and over and over and over and over-
“Seal the doors and alert security,” commanded Raider.
At two in the afternoon, Eastern Standard Time, TV’s across the world interrupted their daily programming for a news alert.
“We have breaking news coming out of Cape Canaveral. The record breaking flight of American astronaut James Woodbridge to set the endurance world record for being alone in space has ended in a catastrophe. We are going live to our reporter on the scene at Cape Canaveral. Frank, what’s the latest?”
“This is truly a sad day for the people of NASA as they come to terms with the fact that they have lost one of their finest to a fire-”
Kyle Owens lives in the Appalachian Mountains and his work has appeared in Eastern Iowa Review, Odyssa Magazine, Wild Musette, Spectacle Magazine, Binge Horror Anthology (later this year), Liguorian (2019), among others.