by Daniel Cotton

Mind the gap. I step onto the platform and yawn. Itís been a long day and Iím not home yet.

Walking across the parking-lot wet gravel crunches beneath my sneakers with the sound of defeated crustaceans. Ow! I stub my toe on a large stone as it protrudes from the earth Ė the yellow-orange incandescence of a solitary street light not enough to bring it to the attention of my tired eyes. Still, I reach my car.

The key turns in the ignition and the engine roars. Even a Corolla sounds like a lion at 1 a.m. I place my hat on the passenger seat whilst I wait for the motor to warm; I havenít needed it for hours.

Waiting for a break in the trafficÖ (This road is still busy with trucks despite the time.) Thereís one. On to the road, accelerator to the floor and my small car is no longer a small car, itís a rocket-ship entering hyperspace. The lights beside the tarmac, and those of the oncoming cars whiz past the cabin turned cockpit to become the lines of a starfield. Distant points become streaks as I race past them and my motion blurs.

The control panel is lit up before me. One gauge shows my fuel reserves, another indicates the engineís core temperature. A bright red needle inches clockwise a few degrees, indicating that my speed is climbing. Checking a digital display I note the local time and perform a mental calculation to determine my E.T.A., itís a few hours yet.

This is the worst part of space travel: the stillness required in travelling the long distances between the stars always leads to boredom. I reach for the subspace radio control. The knob makes an initial click as I turn it clockwise and a green display lights up; contrasting with the white, orange and red of the other visuals. Only static escapes the speakers though. Oh well; it was a long-shot to expect radio chatter this far out.

Beep! Beep! An alarm is sounding. An oxygen leak!? My first reaction: I reach for my helmet from the vacant co-pilotís seat beside me and attempt to fasten it to the neck of my space-suit but it wonít clip in properly. Panic! Itís not my helmet! Itís my hat, and those lights ahead arenít distant stars they're the lights of a car coming straight for me Ė coming straight for me! Beep! Beep!

I reef the steering wheel to the left, and my tyres screech in pain as they leave their skin on the tarmac. Vigorously I apply the brakes causing my rubber friends more pain before my little car comes to rest in a grazierís field beneath the graceful, welcoming arms of an elderly willow tree. A gust of wind rustles its leaves.

For now I prefer the grazierís field to the starfield. Iíll sleep here ítill dawn and drive home when I wake. E.T.A.: sometime tomorrow.

Copyright © 2009 Daniel Cotton.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, December 2009.

This page last updated 9th March 2010.