The spirit of the Phantom Cosmonaut flies with the Kosmik Dead - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #115


Written under duress by Steven.

 
Summation – The new record from the Cosmic Dead is good, damn good. So damn good in fact I’ve changed my whole angle of attack. Y’know I’ll usually say an album is as good as whipping across the desert astride a powerful Harley, or the guitar tone soars as a flock of seabirds over this temporal real while simultaneously body-shifting as pandimensional beings into fifties rock and roll dancers? Well the Exalted King by the Cosmic Dead inspired this piece. Short – go get it from their Bandcamp if you have a soul like the rest of us humans. Here's a lil' piece of short fiction I done and knocked up after dropping some psilocybin in a late-night teeth-grinding angst frenzy. I put on the Exhalted King and my life changed.

 ***
Step out into the crisp permanent night. Steel yourself against the cold and let go of the railing. Steps are light, you feel energetic. You walk a dozen or so paces and look back. Though this is the dark side of the moon, the sunlight glints off the lander. The sands are almost platinum, you look at your own bootprints leading away from the lander, think about their permanence. You look down and crush your boot into the dirt, lifting it up and looking at the imprint; permanent. You’ll stay here, with the lander and with the bootprints. You can never go home.

 

The lander is long out of sight. Though the gravity is light, each step is filled with effort, after a short while I have to rest, have to sit down. I gaze up at the stars, the endless blackness of space. The glare of the moon and the inerrant rays of the bright sun prevent any stars appearing, the sky is simply black. The sun burns bright with heat, like a summer morning, except the world feels cold and lifeless beyond all imagining and comprehension. The sky is so infinitely black, I think about how different the same sky was as I hurtled through the much more lonely vacuum. Out of the tiny porthole window, the blackness of space was peppered with countless stars, woven like cloud across the infinite cosmos. Once the radio signals had faded, and I had leaned back through the cloud of equipment floating behind your seat and switched the unit off there was silence inside the lander, all except for the barely-audible hissing of hydrogen atoms intermittently hitting the hull. As you watch the stars frozen in a shift, look back through the rear window at the blue marble of the earth frozen behind you and the silver discus of the moon held in suspense through the nose window, it was difficult to understand that I was hurtling through space at several times the speed of a bullet from a gun. The lonely voyage from the earth gave time for zero-gravity meditation. Having switched off all the instrumentation and the cockpit lights, I lay motionless in the dark cabin, attempting to clear my head of all extraneous thoughts, my half-lidded eyes observing the light from the stars; but was unable to shake the feeling of weightlessness, that deep-seated low-down stomach worry that the body has just fallen from a precipice and within seconds will meet once again with the ground. It was difficult too to shake a much more terrifying thought, that every second I was several hundred miles further away from the precious fragile earth than any human being in history, I was in uncharted ground, and traversing that ground at roughly ten times the speed a bullet leaves a gun. Between me and the literal infinite infallible vastness of the cosmos lay a few layers of metal and plastic and glass. I was unable to meditate while in orbit because of the crippling existential angst. I looked out into the star-strewn emptiness and listened to the silence of the hull passing through nothingness, and comprehended him who made me.

 

“I will die here” I vocalised to myself, it echoed around inside my helmet. I found myself laying on a rock, looking up at the blackness of space, much more apparent. I had my sun visor open and the heat was burning my eyes. I sat up and looked around the parched, empty surface. Everywhere was strewn with rocks, sharp glasslike dust on the ground and the rising walls of craters like the peaks of desert dunes. All was platinum, and bleached in sunlight, the harshness of difference between light and shade was in the inky blackness of the shade, and the bleached platinum of the sunlit ground. I reached down to a rock within reach and picked it up. I held its miniscule weight in my gloved hands and contemplated the concoction of coincidence that had first allowed this rock to form and then allowed it to fall here. ‘For how long had it lain here?’ I considered, ‘for how long will I lie here?’ I turned it over in my hands, expecting it to be embossed “made by God”. It was not.

 

I continued to bounce along the surface, occasionally looking back until the silver glint of the lander escaped my view completely. I could find my way back if necessary via my footsteps, but the lander now represented only a few more minutes of oxygen before the end, and it seemed hardly worth sacrificing this experience to cling to life a moment more. Nothing could bring me home. As I had completed a successful and careful landing on the lunar surface, I had relayed the message to Moscow that the landing was completed, and thumbed the switches to test the re-launch rockets. The lights on the console remained out. My first moon walk was spent attempting to identify the problem with the main rockets. I searched, and expelled much air attempting to fix the problem. While fumbling with the rockets through my thick gloves, I noticed two connectors, between which ought to have been a wire. I searched for it under the connector but it appears to be entirely absent. I returned to the lander and switched off all of the electronics and allowed the light to fade, so at once I was in darkness except for natural illumination from the moon’s surface. I thought calmly to myself that I was trapped on the moon, destined to die, no perfect escape, no last chance, it would not be possible to hot-wire the rockets or fabricate a means of escape. I had only one hour, ten minutes and seventeen seconds of oxygen left in the suit. I meditated, then, for a long time in a thoughtless and utterly calm floating state. I was at peace in the darkness. After returning to my mind, I pulled on the suit and as I was making to leave the capsule for the last time the sun began to rise and illuminate everything. I had not taken any personal items, the cabin was entirely functional; but I committed the image of the vehicle of my final journey in my memory.

 

I continue to walk in the light gravity but with great effort, towards what and towards what end I cannot know, but the will to continue walking compels me. I walk up the lip of a crater, moving into the shade reduces the temperature considerably. As I emerge back into the sunlight at the top of the crater, I can see the earth in its perpetual rise, frozen. My will collapses and I follow. I cannot go further. This is where I shall die. In the rays of the sun, under the black and in view of the earth from whence I came and to which I shall never return. On my knees in the dust looking at my home, I think I can finally comprehend how far from it I’ve really come. “If you find yourself filled with a profound existential terror at the thought of dying alone further than any man has ever been from his home, do not worry, this indicates only that you are still sane” I recall to myself, though not in my voice. I wonder if I am being watched, not malevolently or benevolently as I neither crashed nor was able to return, but rather indifferently. If all matter and energy in the universe flows according to the whim of the great magnet, I have never tried to defy her, but have only accepted his will. My oxygen must be almost at an end. I return to the closest approximation of the lotus position I can manage in the bulky suit and consider the earth for my final moments. The shining blue marble wreathed in veils of cotton cloud. I try to hold the idea of the fast flowing rivers and the bustling city streets, and connect it with the image of the blue marble that hangs motionless before me. I focus on myself, on my breathing. Feeling the dirt underneath me and between my fingers. Seeing, hearing, feeling it and breathing it in. I can feel the lightheadedness and headache of oxygen deprivation and begin to feel light. Before me, I see the earth consumed in fire. Its motionless skin becomes pockmarked with expanding fiery lesions. In my final lonely moments, I witnessed the fragile earth and all upon it consumed by fire. In that last gasp, that last lungful of air I felt a great and terrible anger at being alive, I opened my mouth to scream but the vacuum had infiltrated my suit and all around me was soundless. As I watched the world wreathed in flame I could only feel the burning rage and the frozen nothingness as the earth rejoined with the terrible vast lifeless blackness that surrounded it. The emptiness and loneliness of the surface of the moon, devoid of life, or any traces of life or any possibility of life, now twinned with that which it orbits.

 
It was then, I think, that I died. I was the last human. I am the cosmic dead, I am the Phantom Cosmonaut.

All-purpose rock gods. All matter flows according to the whim of the great magnet.

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