I have waking-nightmares of you falling out of the sky.
NASA rings me. I think it’s spam, but they know I trust NORAD, so they have me call the mountain nearby and ask for some general by name to confirm. A private jet flies me to the Kennedy Space Center where all the loved-ones of a secret mission and recently compromised space-vessel have been collected. There, Mission Control puts us all in headsets wired straight to our crew members in the sky – in the cold black that is quickly becoming lighter as the ship plummets back to earth at the speed of any respectable falling-star.
I’ve written you a poem. You talk to God. I watch the screen to help me time my last words to you, and see the ship make impact. Crash into the earth. Explode in the dirt and air with the space and humanity still all over it.
Around the room, people double-over with grief. They wail. In some scenarios I do, too. In others, I silently keel to the floor and vomit. Someone like you – sane and composed in crisis – drapes a windbreaker embroidered with your name and the mission’s insignia over my hunched shoulders.
All correspondence with the ship is recorded, so in the following days I listen back to our conversation. So do the officials and, in some versions, pieces are given to the media for the sake of public morale. Your poem becomes a cultural landmark. In others, the whole voyage is kept under wraps and none of the families are allowed copies of their astronauts’ final sounds.
Sometimes you try to give me custody of your nephew (since your brother is in jail and your father is aging). In all of them, you ask me to tell your sister’s daughter and your namesake that you love her and that her laugh is your favorite sound in the whole universe. You remind me that your second-favorite sound is mine.
My last words to you are, “See you soon”. This is because you’ve seen how much God always loved you and because you and I always end things upbeat and because you and I are never finished.
Delaney Kochan is a mountain-raised writer who has has essays published in Under the Gum Tree, Chaleur, Ruminate, and multiple collegiate literary magazines; she guest-writes for outdoor adventure and regional magazines. She started a lifestyle brand and magazine with her friends in college and now is a reader for Newfound Publisher. She loves language even over story, and on the weekends she works as a floral interpreter. Full list of work can be found at www.delaneykochan.com