Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writing Prompt: Not a Mermaid

There’s a lot of great things about being an astronaut. You’re one of a handful of people on earth who have actually left its surface for longer than it takes to fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo. You get to see the world we live on spinning in space and feel tiny and huge at the same time.
When you’re in orbit, you’re homesick, mostly for food and family. But when you’re planet bound, you’re homesick for the vastness of space reaching away from the earth, and you wish for that feeling you get when you double check your tethers and step out into the void.
Astronauts see--or think they see--lots of weird stuff in space. My friend Rick always claimed that he had seen a mermaid once, but I don’t see how that’s possible when we’re over two hundred miles above the ocean.
Rick never tells the sub story, though. He was out there with me when it drifted past. We both looked at it for a few seconds, then at each other, then back at it. Rick tried to pinch himself, but it turns out that it’s pretty difficult to do when wearing a Thermal Micrometeriod Garment.
It looked like one of those old German subs from World War II, propellers spinning. We weren’t sure we were really seeing it. How long had it been circling the planet? And what was it doing there?
We watched it float silently away.
When we got back inside, I wanted to file a report, let someone know about this undocumented thing drifting through space, but Rick vetoed that idea. “Some things you just gotta let go their way,” he told me.
Since then, whenever he tells anyone about his mermaid, I have to wonder if his “mermaid” was actually something else that he “let go its way.”
Maybe I’ll start telling people I saw a dinosaur in space. It might be more believable than what actually happened.

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