Bewildering Stories

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Made It Way Up

part 12: Voices

by Ian Donnell Arbuckle

Part 11 appears in this issue.


“Can’t sleep either, huh?”

“No fucking way. I read they made the astronauts stay awake seventy two hours before launch.”

“No. It took seventy-two hours to get the shuttle from the assembly building to the launch site. But they didn’t have to be on it that whole time.”

“Oh. I bow to your superior knowledge.”

“It happens.”

“Do you think we’re rushing into this?”

“It’s been three years.”

“NASA took decades.”

“God bless em, but they had committees. We’re light. Nimble. Agile.”


“Yeah. Here.”



“Did you ever finish anything this big?”

“We’re not even getting out of the atmosphere.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Lost all my optimism. Figure that one out.”

“Oh shucks. Guess you’d better let me go up, then.”

“I’d rather send a monkey.”

“How about Kelly?”

“Are you serious?”

“No. No, I’m just joking.”

“Jesus. Yeah, to answer your question; I have finished things this big before. My dissertation was three years. There was a piss poor novel that I had published; I had been working on that for five years.”

“That’s right. I forget that you had another life, sometimes.”

“Not me. But I don’t regret it, you know. I got so sick of academics and pretension. The students were almost as bad as my colleagues. You’re much better company.”

“That... actually means a lot to me, man.”




“This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m not even going up.”

“Scissors beat rock. Get over it.”

“Go soak your good natured head. Bastard.”

“You know what? We’ve celebrated your birthday every year since you moved up here, and I don’t actually know how old you are.”

“Yeah, you do. I tell you every year, but you forget. I’m twenty years older than Kelly.”

“You guys were only twenty when she was born?”

“I was. Patty was forty.”

“It’s funny how those opposites come together.”

“Forty isn’t opposite twenty. I mean, I know you only taught basic rocket science, but...”

“I meant how I married Essa when she was eighteen, and I was thirty five. And now we just slot together, the guy who likes older women and the guy who likes ’em young.”

“Except that it’s two guys who are both twenty years or so older than their women.”

“Speaking of the little oyster: what’s that she’s been writing in so much lately?”

“She calls it her poem. She won’t let me read it, though. Says she’s afraid of Aha! sneaking into it.”


“Alex Haley. In-joke.”

“I hope she grows up quick.”

“She’s a little survivor. I think even if I were to get mauled by a bear, you guys wouldn’t even notice I was gone; the house would stay clean, the chores would get done and, somehow, the groceries would get bought.”

“That’s why rock beats scissors.”

“Say what? Are you getting all obtuse and poetic on me again?”

“Sorry. Be serious for a second, kid.”

“What is it?”

“All I’ve got in the world is Essa. You’ve got Kell. If anything goes wrong tomorrow...”

“Oh. Not poetic; just maudlin.”

“Could you please stop making fun of me? Tomorrow owns a lot of danger. We’d be stupid to ignore that. I’m not stupid.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I want you to know that it’s best that I’m going up.”

“I know.”

“That doesn’t mean I just want to tell you that; I want you to know that.”

“Hey, it’s not that big a deal. It’s not like this will be our only chance. God, that’s what we’re gunning for anyway, isn’t it? To make a thousand chances?”

“I feel as if we’re running on a clock, that we’re just going to get out there tomorrow and then our time will be up, that Yellowstone will blow or something and then there goes humanity. And because of the grand fucking stupidity of our leaders, who spent all their money on bombs and coliseums, we won’t have any humans left.”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“And Saint Helens will never go off again.”

“Yeah, but Yellowstone?”

“You know that the caldera is just one big lake of magma.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“It has been inflating steadily over the last century. The elevation has risen almost a meter since fifty years ago.”

“Wow. You learn something depressing every day.”

A light hits the cracked brown wall. It must be a UFO. The old coot further up the road who goes to the casino every Friday.

“Do you miss the city?”

“No. Essa still on your case about it?”

“Not really on my case. She doesn’t let me forget it. By being silent, she gives me plenty of room to think. She hasn’t smiled for about two weeks.”

“Well, she’s nearing her sexual peak...”

“Don’t talk like that.”


“Please. That grin makes me want to punch your teeth in.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Take care of her if anything happens?”

“She won’t need it.”

“We would take care of Kelly.”

“I know. That’s why I picked scissors.”

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by Ian Donnell Arbuckle

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