*This is a rough sketch for a potential film. Please excuse any grammatical or editing errors. The sketch has been edited several times but think of this more as “thinking out loud” rather than a work with any literary merit.
As he fell through empty space, surprisingly there was an absence of thoughts in his mind. His mind was a reflection of the empty space all around. Everything felt still, except for the fact that he was falling. He could not recall a time his mind had been this quiet ever before. Funny it should happen this way. As he observed the passing darkness all around, there was no fear. You would think that a person would be terrified in this situation, but he was not. There was no struggling to hold on. He allowed space to do with his body what it wanted as he quietly watched through the narrow window in his space helmet, things that no one ever gets to see.
As he fell through space, he was tumbling like a t-shirt in a dryer. Around and around and around in slow motion. Maybe it was the tumbling motion that lulled his mind into a thoughtless state. As he tumbled he could see the immense glow of the moon, the distant stars, black holes, celestial spheres, expansive darkness and a luminescent blue tennis ball sized object, which was earth. It was impossible to feel fear while observing enigmas such as these.
And then, as if it did not matter at all, he lost consciousness.
He had come to outer space with the man in charge of the space expedition, Jack Gilbert. There was only two of them. The intention of the mission was to commandeer a defunct satellite that had been puttering through the solar system since 1978. It was called ISEE-3, and it was the first human-made object to ever pass through the tail of a comet. In 1981, its battery shut down leaving it stranded in space. It was able to putter around in space for all this time because its orbiter was able to maintain power from solar panels that were mounted on its backside. The satellite was making a rare passage close to the moon, which allowed NASA to send two astronauts into space in a final attempt to get the satellite’s thrusters working again. It was not viewed as a difficult mission. The astronauts would not be going far into space and the ISEE-3 satellite was not technically difficult to work on since it was developed during a time when toaster ovens were smarter than spaceships.
Jack and Jonathan (who were referred to as the Two J’s) would need no more than two or three days to get the thrusters working again. Simple and by the book. The Two J’s would be back on earth watering their gardens and sleeping in their beds by the end of the week. This is why it was such a surprise when those working in the NASA Ground Station suddenly heard Jack yell: “Oh fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Jonathan!”
Still no one is sure exactly what happened but a final theory has been settled on just to give people a false sense of resolution. Some still suspected that Jack had been somehow involved, since he and Jonathan had a tumultuous working relationship. It has been concluded by NASA that what occurred was a freak, unpredictable and tragically consequential equipment defect. After much investigation what was found was that the cables bracketing the astronaut’s space suit to the spaceship were split by a particular, random and unpredictable atmospheric pressure. It was one of those very rare things that occasionally happens. It is impossible to protect against such things because we never imagine they could happen until they happen. The final line of the NASA investigation read, Jonathan was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was the impact of his spacesuit slamming against the moon’s surface that woke him up.The lack of a gravitational pull had caused his fall to happen slow enough that no bones broke. There was pain but no fracturing. His spacesuit provided enough cushioning to allow him to survive a fall through space. He was the only man who had ever survived such a fall.
“Fuck!” This is what he said upon awakening.
He looked around. He was confused. He couldn’t figure anything out. He had not been educated to comprehend such things as this. It was impossible to know how much air was left. It was impossible to know where he was.
Despite having just fallen through empty space, it was not difficult for him to stand up. The lack of gravity helped to pull him up. There was an immense amount of pain in his body but he could not feel it. He was aware of some degree of fear arising in him as he wondered if he was dead. He was never one to be fooled by by a belief in a traditional God or After Life but suddenly he felt terrified that maybe he had been wrong. Maybe all of those crazed Evangelical Christians he saw on TV were right all along. What happens now? Was this my punishment for not being a believer? Is this some sort of purgatory? He could not help but think such things.
He forced himself to look around. A vast expanse. Miles and miles of large, round craters. Above him was darkness blanketed by stars. Everything was silent except for the silence. The silence made the sound of an electrical humm. He could hear ringing in his ears. There was nothing alive around him. He was frozen in uncertainty. His nose itched and he tried moving his mouth and nose to relieve the itch. It worked for a second or two. Every time the itch returned he wanted to take off his helmet and use his hand to relieve himself, but he knew this was not an option. He moved his nose and mouth around again and again. As he waited for some sort of solution to come to him, he could feel his heart beating in his neck, lower chest and stomach.
It took some time for him to realize that this was not some kind of After Life. He was much worse off than that. While he was wiggling his nose and mouth to relieve himself of the itch, he realized that he was on the moon.
Before deciding to go anywhere, even though there was nowhere to go, he reviewed in his mind how he had gotten to where he was. He had been working on ISEE-3’s main thruster unit. Next to him was Jack who had been holding various wires in place. There was then a loud rubbing sound and some smoke. As he went towards the part of the cables that were smoking they broke apart, sending him tumbling into dark space. At first he panicked and he could hear Jack screaming. All of the controls in his helmet immediately went out. There was no more voice communication, no more digital reading on his helmet’s window screen. Everything went dark and the panic seemed to have subsided once he realized there was nothing that he could do. He remembered feeling a peace that he had never felt before as he tumbled around through space watching the moon, the earth and noticing the ISEE-3 getting further and further and further away. And then that is it. No more memory beyond the memory of this incredible peace.
Next thing he could recall was regaining consciousness on the moon. Once he had finished reviewing the past he thought again about what he could do now. There is something about the human mind that will continue to search for solutions, especially when there are none. He felt thirsty. The itch on his nose moved to the side of his face. All of his training as an astronaut had not prepared him for this. For the first time in his life, he had no idea what to do. When a person does not know what to do, the only choice is between remaining still or moving. He decided to walk on the moon.
Before becoming an astronaut, Jonathan worked in an old McDonald’s that was converted into a laboratory for restoring and archiving old NASA space photograph’s. The organization was funded by NASA and run by an older man who went by the name BB Gun. BB Gun had worked for NASA for decades and liked to talk to others about how there was no one who had seen more of the moon’s surface than he had. “I have seen every spot on the moon at least once. I know every mountain range on the moon by heart. I feel like I have walked those mountain ranges many times before.” Jonathan was fascinated by BB Guns talks about the moon. He would describe endless wide-open spaces filled with craters and mountain ranges of incredible depth and distance.
BB Gun was also a self stylized conspiracy theorist. He didn’t believe that anyone had every walked on the moon before. “It was all a set up. In 2006 when NASA admitted that it had lost the only raw footage they had of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first moon walk – I knew that the whole thing was a bunch of shit. Now that most of the people who had originally watched those studio produced images of men walking on the mood were dead or senile, NASA finally admitted that they had no real proof of men walking on the moon.” In order to better deal with BB Gun’s conspiratorial and trouble making views, NASA decided to put him in charge of the photography archival project where he would spend his days looking at old space photographs in an old McDonald’s in Mountain View, California. BB Gun didn’t mind, since he wanted as little as possible to do with what he called, “That bullshit space organization.”
BB Gun taught Jonathan how to archive the millions of space photos that had been reproduced from the originals. It was the old photographs of the ISEE-3 satellite that stimulated Jonathan’s first thoughts about space travel. BB Gun called the satellite a spacecraft from the disco era. It looked something like an old Sony walkman with solar panels. Jonathan was fascinated by the fact that this relic from the distant space age was still lost out there in space collecting data about solar wind. NASA was interested in being able to collect this data and the moment Jonathan heard that the satellite would be coming close to the moon’s orbit within the decade, he decided to become an astronaut.
As he stood there looking out at the wide open, flat space all around him- the thought came to his mind that he could be the first man to every really walk on the moon. Inspired by the thought, Jonathan decided to walk towards nowhere. As he took his first steps he was surprised by how strange it felt. These were not normal steps. With each step, the boot of his space suit did not land directly on the moon’s surface but instead it was like he was bouncing off the tension created by the open space between his boot and the moon’s surface. It felt like bouncing up and down on a trampoline as he walked unsteadily. Each step was difficult to take since there was nothing to hold on to. It was like learning how to walk on water. When he lost his balance, which happened several times, he would fall to the ground and then bounce back up into the air. Walking on the moon is more like bouncing than it was walking, he thought to himself. Walking for fifty feet would be impossible, he thought. But he realized he could try to swim through space.
He dove forward and tried to breaststroke his way through space in the same way he flew in childhood dreams. He was able to go forward for a few feet but then fell flat onto the ground. He stood back up and tried to do the same thing again but experienced similar results, although he was able to breaststroke his way forward several more feet. He felt like a fool and laughed when he realized that he had wondered if anyone could see him. What a ridiculous thought. He had always worried about other people judging him. He decided to breast stroke his way forward again and this time it worked.
He swam through space. Who would of thought that a grown man in a spacesuit would be swimming his way through space. He laughed so hard that he fogged up the window of his helmet. Through the fog he could see the white gloves and arms of his spacesuit rowing through open space in front of him. Where were the expansive mountains that BB Gun had spoke of? He felt determined in his hallucinations. In the distance was nothing.
His arms grew weak and his body tired. He stopped breaststroking his way through space and landed flat on his stomach with his space helmet causing his head and neck to arch upwards (just as if he was laying with his head up on the arm of a couch).
This is how he slept every night in his bed. On his stomach with his head turned towards one side. His wife had often told him that he should learn how to sleep on his back or side. That it would be healthier for him to do so. He tried several times, even had her wake him up if she noticed that he had returned to sleeping on his stomach. No matter how hard he tried he was not able to get to sleep laying in any other position. Sleeping on his stomach, as unhealthy as it may be, was the only way he could feel comfortable enough to fall asleep. As he lay in the same position on the surface of the moon, memories of sleeping in his bed and holding one arm around his wife’s chest returned to him. Up until that point he had forgotten all about his past life. The shock from his current situation caused him to forget most things. Now as he lay dying, memory to return to him.
When the mind is allowed to roam free, it is strange what images that it pulls up. Events in a person’s life that were once lost forever, return in the time it takes to sneeze. Like images being pulled from a void, these scenes from a life once lived create feelings that we thought were long gone. He saw himself as a younger man, 22 or 23 dressed in a black shirt and pants and wearing a black beanie. His hair was long and he had a goatee that was shaved at the sides of his mouth. He was standing by a large red wall, just standing there staring off into space. He looked lost but felt alone. He could remember that feeling of existential loneliness that he felt in his youth like it was yesterday. He was waiting for someone or trying to fill his loneliness by watching other people. His entire life was in front of him and he felt so alone. For a moment he could remember what it felt like to be that young.
The moon’s surface looked like the ash colored lava rocks that he had walked on in Hawaii. He remembered walking across the lava with his mother behind him yelling for him to be careful. The image of the first girl he had sex with returned to him. She was sitting on the beach in her bikini, her body still 18 years old and she was smiling at him while he watched her blonde hair blowing in the light breeze. He then saw an image of his wife working in the garden. She was naked, just like she always was when she worked in the garden, and she smiled at him. He could feel her smile radiating through his body. He never appreciated her smile like he did now.
He felt guilty for not being able to appreciate her smile more. He did not wonder if he would ever see her again. Instead he hoped that he had been good enough to her that her love for him was still strong enough to last for the rest of her life.
The air was running low. He was not able to take deep breaths anymore. Too much of his air supply had been used up while imagining that he was breaststroking his way through space. He would not try to walk anymore, instead he would stay still on his stomach. He stretched his arms out by his side in order to feel more comfort. He tried to find an easier position to keep his head. Everything was silent besides the pulsations in his ears. He wondered if it really could be possible that he was the first man ever to touch the moon. BB Gun would be impressed. He thought of BB Gun sitting in front of old photographs of the moon inside that old converted McDonald’s. Then his memory ceased to generate any more images. His thoughts dissolved. He felt ready to sleep. In front of him he could see the horizon line between the surface of the moon and dark space. He remains there, still staring at the horizon line.