Bragging Rights by Justin(e) Norton-Kertson
Eternal floating. The gloating rights will be monumental. Who else will be able to say they hold the world record for spending the most time in space? No one, that’s who.
Current record: 665 days.
One orbital circumnavigation every 90 minutes.
16 per day.
10,641 rotations to victory.
It’s going to be an unparalleled achievement with an honored place in the annals of history. Children will read about it in their fourth grade social studies books for decades to come. It’s really quite exciting.
The pod slips into an elliptical orbit with frictionless ease and begins its journey into the history books.
Ultraviolet radio waves catapult from the ebulliently bubbling anti-granules of protoplasma that bespeckle the sun’s photosphere, and ricochet off engine excretions in eruptions of technicolor starsludge that fan out across the galactic horizon in sinuously undulating waves of postmodern neon nebulae.
It’s one of the most toxic, cornea melting, glitteringly beautiful expositions one can experience. The opportunity is quite rare, in fact.
The single-person pod coasts across the pacific ocean and into aerial views of sweltering Death Valley. Joshua tree and bristlecone pine colonies cultivate unrivaled, tear-stained desolation that gives birth to the children of Dali and O’Keeffe—derelict demigods to the bleak and abandoned disciples of once mighty deities that roamed the Earth like giants.
Echoes of deer-skinned Hualapai, defiantly staring genocide in the face, peppering the landscape like desert snow gently settling onto silent mesas where living ghosts haunt the decedents of settler thieves.
The clank was brief but pivotal. Debris from an old, long dead satellite hits the pod head on. It would have been audible if there had been anyone around to hear.
The waning momentum is imperceptibly consequential. Each rotation brings a monumentally incremental reduction in velocity that ensures an eventual plummeting through the electric koolaid atmosphere like a flaming, cosmic funeral pyre drifting toward the encroaching ocean.
Eternity cut short by random wreckage and the one in a trillion chance meeting of metal on dilapidated metal.
The massive canyon is once again clearly visible from the dizzying heights of the failing and falling orbital sarcophagus. The canyon curves and branches off on its way across the distant and drought-laden landscape, scurrying into craggly rock and rough-hewn sediment like a throbbing varicose vein tunneling its way through organic, hormone-free planetary pie crust.
Overburdened tourist burrows trudge up and down narrow trails that are buttressed by the jutting precipice of water-sculpted cliff faces. Dust-caked flanks push forever forward as flies buzz and flitter about the coarse hair follicles around persistently batting mule eyes.
They are in a recurring race against the scorching sun—a never ending struggle to outrun the icy moon, whose belligerent beams bite like a hungry winter vampire wind slicing through his tumor infested lymph glands.
But it’s too late for him. He’s been gone for years anyway.
At least he got his bragging rights.
Justin(e) Norton-Kertson (they/he/she) is a queer/bigender writer, poet, and musician. She's also a labor and community organizer who has worked on minimum wage, anti-racism, and other campaigns in Oregon and SW Washington. He lives outside Eugene, Oregon with their partner and cats. They are on Twitter @countryjim13.