Something started blinking in the lower right corner of my field of vision. ‘LOW BATT’ it said. The battery is low on the suit’s comm system. That’s odd. I always plug it up to the charger when I store the suit.
No matter. There’s the backup battery. There are always backup systems. Multiple backups. Multiple redundancies they call it. The word redundant usually carries a negative connotation but not in this case. In this case it’s a good thing. I’m glad they have multiple redundancies. Not as multiple as they used to have. Nowadays space exploration is a business, got to turn a profit.
There goes the battery. That buzzer is really irritating but it won’t last long. The backup will kick in now.
What’s that indicator? ‘BACKUP MISSING’ How could the backup be missing? That’s not right. Wait. I remember. They were replacing all the backup batteries. They probably took the old one out and forgot to put in the new.
There it goes. Fading, fading, gone. The suit’s dead. No wait. I can hear something. The recirculating pump. Air is still moving. That helps. How much oxygen do I have? Where’s that indicator? There it is. Thirty minutes. Thirty minutes to live. Now don’t get carried away. Don’t panic. Think.
Oh yeah. My cell phone. I always carry my cell phone. Where is it? Pocket on my right arm. Here it is. What? ‘LOW BATTERY’ That can’t be. There it goes. I’m cut off. No way of reaching anybody. I’m going to die out here.
Maybe somebody will see my suit missing. That’s it. I’ll be alright. Somebody will see my suit missing and remember I was going out today. No it’s a holiday. I bet nobody comes into the EVA prep room all day.
I’m going to die out here. Thirty minutes left. Thirty minutes is not a long time when it’s the last thirty minutes. But it could seem like forever if all you’ve got to do is think. Oh Martha. I’m so sorry. I’ll miss you so.
Routine. That’s another word you can see two ways. Routine is supposed to be our friend. You practice so much that it all becomes second nature, automatic. We’ve done EVAs so much, Earth orbit, moon base, and now here in Mars orbit. It’s become routine, too routine. People don’t think, they forget things. How may people had to forget for me to die, including me?
How will it come? I won’t asphyxiate. It’s not like drowning. I’ll just go to sleep. My eyelids are getting heavy. Here it comes.
He sat up straight in bed, gasping for air. Martha sat up next to him, startled. She shook him.
“Steve. Are you okay?”
His breathing was returning to normal. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just a bad dream.”
She rolled over and pulled the covers over her. “Well, you better try to get back to sleep. You’ve got that EVA tomorrow. You need to be alert.”
He got out of bed and walked over to the dresser.
“What are you doing?”
“Plugging in my cell phone.”
Copyright © 2011 by Angus B. Lewis
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