It seemed like I had just said "I do," to her before it all happened. It happened... Who knew when I left I would be saying good bye to my new lovely wife for the first and last time. I saw it happen but I didn't know what was going on. Santa Cruz is gone, my wife is gone, and my best friend's wife is gone. And all I did was go on a mission to Mars.
"I Do." two men said in unison.
"You may now kiss the brides."
I, Ebion Fitz, along with my best friend Aled Johnson kissed our brides at our weddings. We were best friends, so it was natural to do everything with each other, and I mean everything, you name it: getting married, going to football games, traveling to Mars on a dangerous space mission. Today was bitter sweet, though; the heavy thought of leaving my lovely Lillian didn't sit well with me. In fact, the thought weighed down my mind like a bowling ball. For within the week I would leave earth on one of the most sought-after missions of all time: the mission to Mars. And what do you know, a day after getting married and no time for a honeymoon, I was in the ship.
"Ready as heck, might as well get in."
Aled climbed in to the seat of the Alphonse and I clambered in next to him. Mission Control radioed in.
"Would you like one last talk with your wife, Fitz?" I jumped at the thought and grabbed the receiver and speaker.
"Honey? I just wanted to say a final goodbye and tell you I love you. No matter how long you're gone, I'll always wait for you."
"Thanks, Lil, I love you too. Take care of yourself, especially since the baby's on the way. Remember the baby's name we picked out if it's a boy?"
"Tim. And if it's a girl, we'll name her Skyler. You always did love anything to do with the sky. How could I forget? Anyways, bye! See you on the other side of the rainbow..."
"Bye, Lil. I love you." The call was cut off and I strapped myself in. "A rainbow," I thought. "How long is a rainbow?" I asked stupidly.That way I would know exactly when I would get to see Lilian again. Leprechauns made their way into my thoughts, dancing under the ends of the rainbows and jiggling pots of gold. I shook my head to clear the spots away and out of my eyes. The Xanax I'd taken to help me fall asleep in my capsule for the long ride ahead must have been too heavy a dose. Aled was staring at me.
"Sorry, just thinking of something Lil said to me on the phone." Al smiled and opened his mouth like he was about to give a speech.
"She really loves you, man. All I got was a very angry Delilah. She knows how important this mission is to me but she can't bear the thought of her little sugardaddy leaving for half a year"
"Oh yeah, I'm sure she always calls you that behind your back."
"All I'm saying is let's be real careful so we can come back in one piece, OK? You have a baby on the way and I wanna have a kid of my own, too. Always been my dream. I want 4 kids ;1 girl and 3 boys. I would name them Nathan, Corey would be a girl, T.J., and A.J. And in that order."
"Whatever, Mr. Ambitious, let's get a move on."
"All systems are a go, guys" said mission control in Houston. "All systems are a go. I'll let your wives know it's going well so far."
The Alphonse started humming and buzzing with energy. Aled started counting down..
"Uno, dos, tres..."
"Oh, knock it off, this is serious, Al. No one has ever been to mars before, except for rovers."
"Liftoff!" It came faster than I expected. I heard a huge "BOOM!" and a hissing sound like a thousand snakes being sprayed with gasoline. Mission Control radioed,
"WOAH, NELLY!" I saw a deep crack in the earth where we had left off, but as I was looking at it it got smaller and smaller as we zoomed through the stratosphere and other layers and finally through the entire atmosphere. I always hated this moment. As a little kid I dreaded roller coasters because of the 'drop-your-stomach-and-leaving-it-behind-in-Houston feeling.' My heart jumped into my throat and I felt my eyes vibrating from the sheer speed that we were traveling at. I know most people wouldn't believe me, but the stereotype is true: your cheeks really do cover your ears when you're traveling at the speed I was.
"That was flippin' awesome, man!" Aled was smiling through his helmet, looking like a deranged monkey trying not to throw-up. I knew he hated liftoff as much as I did, but at least he was trying to be cheerful about it. That's just the way Al rolls.
I hooked myself into my capsule as Aled pushed a button and closed my lid. The old astronauts used to stay in space for long periods of time this way: just laying in an enclosed capsule hooked up to life support. Now we modern astronauts had virtual reality worlds where we stayed in for however long it would take to get to our destination. All we did was take a dose of sleeping medicine to slow brain activity and hop into our capsules to get ready for some cool dreams. Aging and bone loss were problems at first, but scientists finally discovered a way to keep the body from growing weak ; making a capsule with robotic arms that repeatedly rotated and moved the limbs and various muscles in an intense workout. If we had been awake during the process, there would have been excruciating pain to deal with, but that's when the virtual reality world came in. It was so distracting to the mind that we never even felt a pinch from those robotic arms. Anyways as Aled closed my capsule and my helmet came on that would fool my brain into keeping me alive for a few months he smiled and said,
"See you on the other side of the rainbow, buddy..." that's when the helmet took over and I fell into a deep, deep trance.
I woke up about two months later. My muscles screamed in pain from being cramped for so long, yet being exercised way too vigorously. I had finished the best dream of my life, thanks to the virtual reality helmet. Unfortunately, NASA can't have dreamy half-asleep astronauts going on missions, so the helmet makes you forget everything about the dream and just makes you feel that you had the best sleep of your life. I touched the fingerprint scanner by my foot and the capsule flipped open. Immediately I was freezing from the frigid air that rushed in from the ship. I wanted to jump back in the capsule but I had stuff to do, like getting dressed. We can't wear any clothes besides shorts inside the capsule because they might hinder the robotic arms. I leapt out of the capsule that had been my bed for two months and floated across the floor to retrieve my clothes. If the liftoff was the worst part of being an astronaut, floating really made up for it. It's the absolute best feeling you ever experienced. I remembered my sixth grade talent show: I attempted to do the moonwalk but fell flat on my face, and the judges gave me a 1out of 10. The one point was for the most interesting underwear: As I fell it caught on one of the stage floorboards and caught on a nail. As I was trying to stand back up half of my tighty not-so-whities (they were tyedyed) ripped and clung to the floor. If only my peers from sixth grade could see me now. I was sliding my heels and rolling my arms just like the pop king himself, except I wasn't even touching the floor; I even uttered a, "Billy Jeeaa-nnnn, is not my lo-ver." You feel so free and superhuman that you want to stay in space forever. Finally I got a hold of myself and stopped singing before I broke a titanium-alloid portal hole. As I finished buttoning my wool sweater and zipped up my space suit I noticed Aled still hadn't woken up. I moon walked as fast I could over to his capsule to see what was wrong, but luckily his door flew open and he walked out.
"I see my wake-up time was delayed. Did you press my snooze button?"
"There aren't snooze buttons, you dope. Just a little glitch in the capsule. Get dressed so you don't give yourself an ulcer when you see your reflection in the mirror. Delilah's sure gonna be disappointed."
"Oh knock it off, I don't look any worse than you. Let's go eat."
Just then the monitor beeped and Mission Control radioed in.
" OK, guys, glad to hear you're awake. Just wanted to let you know that landing time is a few minutes away. Whatever you do, don't mess with the controls. There might be a lot of turbulence but we know what we're doing."
"Well your train's just rolled in on time" said Aled quoting a Thrills song.
"Can't we have one moment when we don't have to hear about..."
And then we saw it; a huge rust red orb hanging half in-half out of the view of our window. Mars. Wow, I had aways seen pictures of Mars as kid but you can never comprehend the full beauty of this planet until you've seen it in person. We landed with hardly any turbulence. I got out with a stumble trying to get used to walking on Mars. I brought out the camera and took a picture of Aled. Then I scooped some soil into the analyzing tube.
"Ok, ready to go." I took a deep breath and fogged up my helmet in the process. It felt like we had just got there but it had been much longer. I wish we could have spent more time just looking around but we hadn't brought too much oxygen other that what was already in the ship. We hopped into the space shuttle and started on the long, long journey home.
I woke up about two months later. I know it wasn't possible, but I could've sworn I saw a huge double rainbow hanging over earth.
"I'm coming, Lilian, I'm almost home. Your rainbow is leading us home." I also thought California looked awfully small. Oh well, probably because my eyes weren't used to seeing good old earth.
"Cos Santa Cruz,you're not that far,Oh Santa Cruz,no, you're not that far"
I had caught Aled singing Santa Cruz (You're not that far) by The Thrills :a song he sang often . Sometimes I would sing along but today I resisted the urge and just smiled to myself. Glad to know that will never change about him.
We splashed down in the Atlantic, no big deal. I got a little seasick as we waited to be towed in but other than that I was so happy; I would get to see Lil and Tim/Skyler very soon! But after we received congratulations from Mission control and got the usual paparazzi treatment we headed into the showers in case we brought any Mars germs to Earth. As our taxi was speeding along, taking us to the Orlando airport where Aled and I would take the plane to Santa Cruz we came to a red light. It was hot inside the taxi so I rolled open the windows and immediately became alert. The pedestrians on the sidewalk were talking about California.
"Massive earthquake... California."
"Yeah, such a same."
"Isn't there a huge crack over there?"
"Yeah I heard.. sinking."
"Multiple dead." I only had one thought:
"Lillian!" I asked the driver what had happened.
"Didn't you hear? Massive 9 on the Richter in Santa Cruz where you guys lifted off. I heard the rocket actually agitated the ground so much that it set off the quake. Half of the coastline is underwater now. This happened about four months ago when you guys took off, so it's old news."
"Nada. Zilch. No one could evacuate the coast fast enough. Santa Cruz obviously suffered the most damage. Why, you know anybody up there?"
I didn't answer, but asked him to step on the gas. Aled wouldn't meet my eye and I knew that he was panicking on the inside. Were our wives ok?
We got on the next flight to San Jose where we would collect my car and head home... hopefully. After landing and collecting our luggage we went to the parking garage to get my car.
"I'm really worried about what I heard if it turns out it's true." Aled said worriedly to me.
"Don't worry; I bet they are safe. You know how they take trips to San Jose often."
I tried to sound confident even though I was freaking out on the inside
As we got to Santa Cruz we were greeted by the National Guard.
"I'm sorry, Sirs, but we are not letting in anyone in to the city."
"Didn't you hear Santa Cruz sunk into the ocean?"
"No, we've been away on a mission to Mars and thought it might be a rumor."
"Congratulations Sir, but I'm sorry; I'm afraid I can't let you in."
"But our wives...?!"
"You'll have to leave now, Sir." Aled looked like he was ready to punch the guard but instead he opened his mouth.
"Oh you gotta be, oh you gotta be Still living by the sea Oh you gotta be, oh you gotta be..."
I knew as soon as Aled started singing to himself it was because he could feel, deep in his heart, that Delilah was gone forever. I forgot to mention that this was Delilah and Aled's favorite song. Not just because Aled proposed to Delilah at a Thrills concert during this song.
"Cos Santa Cruz You're not that far, Oh Santa Cruz,, No, you're not that far..."
Subconsciously I started to sing along to try to calm myself down. But really what I wanted to do was rewind time and never go on this stupid mission. It's all our fault. It's all my fault. Now I thought about the rainbow. By scientific definition,it's just a spectrum of colors. Blue, violet, yellow, green, orange, and red. Red. Red, red Mars. Mars swam in my mind with surreal beauty. If I hadn't had left, I could've spent more time with Lilian. I didn't want to think about Mars. But them I pictured Lil, with her sweet face and big lashes.
"Oh you gotta be, oh you gotta be still living by the sea Oh you gotta be, oh you gotta be Cos Santa Cruz You're not that far, Oh Santa Cruz, no, you're not that far."
"We'll see them on the other side, Aled. On the other side of the rainbow..."