Imperfect Cog

by Russ

The moon mission hadn’t gone quite according to plan.

Paul squeezed another portion of vacuum-packed satanic pate into his mouth, grimaced, and thought about the inescapability of it all. Some programmer had mistyped a digit months ago, and now there was nothing anyone could do to save him from spending the remainder of his days floating aimlessly in space. He wondered what would happen to that imperfect cog, as he watched the lunar orb float quietly by. He hoped they wouldn’t suffer too much for it, we all have bad days at work.

The doomed astronaut chased down his daily meal with a dose of jellified meds. These he laughingly called cola cubes, or at least he would if there were any reason to refer to them outside his own head.

Thankfully, due to the initiative of beginning to stockpile food and drugs ready for the colonisation program, Paul had enough of these onboard to keep him alive until the sun swallowed both the moon and the earth. What with that, the perpetual life support technology which was standard on all modern spacecraft, and the lack of, well, anything that might actually kill him, there was every chance Paul could enjoy this endless floating solitude for seventy or eighty years, maybe more.

For a moment he imagined his time-shriveled and incontinent body drifting weightlessly from wall to wall as he waited to finally die at the end of it all. Had this been intended as a longer mission, they’d have installed an exercise pod in the cabin. He’d seen the models in the space station briefings, the latest ones doubled up as showers, of a sort. Of course, there didn’t seem much use for one now anyway, except perhaps as a way to deal with the smell that fifty years of idle masturbation was likely to cause.

He really wished they’d let him pack some beer.

He flicked the switch to turn off the internal lights and plunged the capsule into darkness so he could get a better look at the darkness outside. He let himself wonder briefly if his trajectory might eventually bump him into a planet, that before he died he might somehow swap the inside of this tin can for mountains, oceans, desert. He’d even settle for bug-ridden wetlands if it meant seeing something without a serial number stamped on it again. For a moment Cheryl from the bar on Paul’s last earth night flickered through his brain, as she’d seemed to do most days since. He relit the cabin and replaced space with his reflection.

Dabbing fingers at the control pad, Paul looked for something to do. Every book ever published in America, every album released, every film ever set to digital archive; data storage didn’t weigh much these days. So much he hadn’t seen, so many wonders of human achievement and understanding.

Paul swiped at the screen until it settled on the familiar menu for season one of Family Guy. He hit play, turned the lights back out, and exhaled. In the background, the whir of the carbon dioxide converter disappeared beneath the theme tune, as Paul hummed along in the dark.