AOL: ASTEROIDS ONLINE by Anissa Lynne Johnson
“Asteroid 12818 Tomhanks came within roughly 151 million miles of Earth on Sept. 12, with 8353 Megryan doing “her” thing from around 191 million miles out on Sept. 27.”
– TIME Magazine
She had wandered into the “Over 3 Million” chatroom on her birthday as a joke. Sort of. He was there, and they got to talking. Nothing personal like orbits or anything. Dying stars, the latest Mars rover, Jupiter’s shrinking red spot. Meaningless stuff.
Even still, a pang of electricity raced through her nickel-iron composite rocks each time she logged onto AOL and heard the three most powerful words: You’ve Got Mail. It was always him, only ever him.
12818 Tomhanks: Do you think we should meet?
She stared at the message, blinking in the dim light of her laptop. A few thousand years of chit chat had transformed traveling the same expanse of universe day after day, millennium after millennium, into a galactic dance floor. Everything made beautiful again. Callisto. Ganymede. Phobos. Olympus Mons. All of it.
8353 Megryan: Meeting sounds . . . wonderful.
8353 Megryan: When & where?
12818 Tomhanks: Are you free, say, September? ☺
Her stomach fluttered. She knew what he’d type next. How many of their late-night conversations wound up in the same place? The curiosity? The wonder? Imagining a life beyond red and orange. Beyond the Asteroid Belt.
12818 Tomhanks: Rumor has it Earth’s quite the sight
that time of year. Those spirals of
white atmosphere reaching over and
under and into the great blue.
Hurricanes, they call them. What do you
8353 Megryan: I don’t know what I “thonk,” but I THINK it’s a date. ;)
12818 Tomhanks: You’re the worst, you know that? <3
12818 Tomhanks drew in as close to Earth as he could without risking damage to their date-night view. 151 million miles away. The closest he’d ever been. To anything or to anyone for that matter. She was enchanting.
Fifteen days, he waited. Paced with his hands in his cratered pockets. Worried that she had already come, took one look at him, and left. Fifteen days. And then, a lone asteroid on the horizon, twirling towards him in the light of the Milky Way. His heart leaped. It had to be her. It had to be.
At 191 million miles from Earth, 40 million from the love of her life, 8353 Megryan began slipping backwards. The first pull came at the craters on her lower left side. She assumed nothing. Nerves maybe. Then the pull came at her right. Then her very core. She stretched out her arms towards 12818 Tomhanks. Called his screenname into the void. But it was no use. Orbit was pulling her back into life before him and AOL and dreams of the blue-green planet behind him. White clouds spiraling over the water. A mirror. Newton’s law of destiny.
From an Earth-bound observatory, paparazzi astronomers fog up telescopes with their tears. If Meg & Tom can’t collide, even in the heavens, what hope have we?
Anissa Lynne Johnson is a disabled writer and speaker from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in The Daily Drunk, Press Pause, Wig-Wag, and elsewhere. More often than not, Anissa can be found walking in the woods or watching the sort of movies that *sigh* never win awards. Say hello on Twitter @anissaljohnson.