Angels Only Dance
with Astronauts

by Donna L. Greenwood

 
There are days when it all feels broken. Sometimes, during the period we designate as daytime, I look at my colleagues and their faces elongate like stretched chewing gum, and when I look again, they snap back to normal. Some days, time shatters around me like an old mirror and shards of yesterday and tomorrow slice their way into the present. They’re just hallucinations, I’m used to them—we all are. After six months in the space station, they are a daily occurrence for us. The dancing angels are the worst—those streaks of light and dazzling flashes that come out of nowhere. The experts back home tell us not to worry; they tell us that the flashes are caused by cosmic rays, that they are free-moving subatomic particles from distant destructing stars. I’m not convinced.

I’m ready to go home. I’m exhausted all the time. I’m weary of not being able to feel the weight of my bones. We all are. We are the final three, left here to switch off, clean out, and tie up loose ends before we climb into our shuttle and head back to Earth.

Bogdan Yahontov is making his way to the cupola. So is Yui Tanaka. I make room for them so we can all see the view. We’ve had the same idea—one final look at the Earth before we leave the space station. We turn in unison and look through the windows at the planet outside. It is breathtaking even after all these months—our beautiful blue planet shining with life in the everlasting black. Bogdan Yahontov puts his hand on his chest and looks at Yui Tanaka in a way that finally explains why, whenever I see them, those two are always together. For a while, we stand there, three different nationalities united by the sight of one beautiful globe. I can’t enjoy the moment though; I feel agitated. There is something important that I need to do. I close my eyes and try to remember.

When I open my eyes, Tanaka and Yahontov are gone. I push myself out of the cupola and down the long tube that leads the communications hub. When I get there, I see both astronauts clinging to one another. Their silver tears swim around their heads like transcendent fish. Yahontov points to the communication panel and shakes his head. I float over to the transmitter and shout panicked questions to mission control but the only answer is static—the line is dead. I move over to Tanaka and touch her arm. She smiles apologetically and then crumbles into dust. Her ashes swirl around me in infinite motion. Heart blasting in my chest, I turn to Yahontov. When I see his face, I scream. His lips are stretching over his head; they split apart and reveal the red, grinning skull beneath. I push myself up and away from him and head back to the cupola.

When I get there, the sight through the windows snatches the breath from my lungs. The Earth is not blue. It is the dark orange of a smouldering fire. A memory untangles itself from the recesses of my brain. I remember. The Earth has been that way for weeks, ever since the fury of those first missile strikes.

There is something I need to do. I manoeuvre myself out of the cupola and move to the kitchen area. The bodies of Yui Tanaka and Bogdan Yahontov are floating above me. They both overdosed not long after we lost contact with Houston. The oxygen levels in the space station mean that their bodies decompose slowly. The sweet, cloying smell of their rot clings to the air. Each morning since the world died, I remind myself that I must eject my dead colleagues, but then time splits and my thoughts float away like Yui Tanaka’s tears.

When the lights appear, their brightness is unbearable, irradiating everything around me. Long white fingers unfurl from the luminescence. They reach for me. Somewhere in the distance, I hear music—an old song from years ago. Images of all the lost things expand and shrink around me, disappearing into the dark singularity of a pin prick until I am the only one. I watch the angels dance to the music of the universe. They beckon me and I step forward, finally joining them for the last and brightest dance.

Donna L Greenwood lives in Lancashire, England. She writes flash fiction, short stories and poetry. Her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction. You can find examples of her work in The Airgonaut, Spelk Fiction, EllipsisZine, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories and, of course, the one and only Molotov Cocktail.
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