ONCE IN A LIFETIME – DANO

Below is a short story featuring a supporter of the Seed & Spark campaign to raise funds for the short film “Have Wine, Will Travel“. Wanna see your name in a tale? Check out the campaign page here: Have Wine, Will Travel S&S Campaign

Enjoy!

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Thom took a puff from his pipe and said, “It looks awful.” He flicked the “D.Rowley” nametag on Dano’s suit, and it swirled to the ground.

“Thanks, pal. I own this one.” Dano, still zipping his sleeves, turned away. Thom was not known as a person who showered.

“That’s my point. Why bother buying a ‘suit’ like that for one, whatever-you-call-it?”

Dano exhaled and took a deep breath before turning back to face Thom. “You’ll see. And it’s never just one. I’ve done this four times. One’s never enough. You’ll see.”

The speaker clicked on overhead. “T-minus one minute, zip up!”

Dano pulled on his helmet, grateful for the fresh air and the lack of “Thom-scent”. Just inside the lining of the helmet, a strip of lights sprang to life, dead to green. The hum of electricity coursed through his body. The suit came to life, the intergalactic freefall was about to happen, and the air, inside, was fresh.

“T-Minus Twenty. Sir? Are you ready?”

Thom struggled to pull on his first sleeve. He wasn’t going to make it in time. The red lights above the door had already started the sequence. Dano hated those lights, but hated more to watch Thom struggle. This was the moment, the one Thom had been calling him about for weeks. I ain’t gettin’ any younger, Thom kept telling him.

Dano knew the feeling, and had promised his friend a once-in-a-lifetime rush. If it’s once-in-a-lifetime, how do you keep doin’ it?

But how could Dano even try to explain what was about to happen? He just promised Thom the experience would be worth it the price.

The red flickers increased frequency.

The zipper jammed on Thom’s second sleeve. He tugged at it, then looked at Dano. Not desperate, not sad, just bitter. “I better get a refund.”

“Relax and just wear this.” Dano pulled Thom’s helmet from the wall and slapped it on his head. The electric hum under his fingers was a good sign, despite no green lights. He smacked Thom on the side of the head, and Thom gave him a look that said Don’t you ever. Do. That. Again.

The green lights clicked on.

“…two, one. Release!”

And Dano and Thom tumbled over each other, out the airlock, towards deep space.

Darkness surrounded by swirling galaxies, a purple yellow, bright white center. Dano tried to absorb the sight, but was distracted as Thom slapped at his arm, trying to tighten the hole before running out of oxygen. But Dano knew, from experience, that it would only last another few seconds, and then –

He woke up crying. Helmet smoking as he pulled it away, and the crunch of Thom’s helmet smacking the ground.

They both sat up to breathe in the sight: Sunset over Saturn, the planet’s rocky rings speckling the sunset skies.

Thom whispered, “It’s beautiful.”

“I told you.”

Dano noticed a rock, floating nearby. He reached out to touch it.

Fingers around the rock, Dano said, “I think they’ve made improvements. I actually feel nauseous. This time feels… different.”

The sky flickered, and fizzled to a black darkness speckled by white-purple stars, until they faded, too. Then fluorescent ugliness blasted their eyes.

Dano lifted his hand, pulled off his headset to return to the sad, gray room, walls and floor padded “for your protection” while thirty other people were all removing their helmets and equally dazed.

Thom said, “It all looked so real. Dano? Buddy?”

Dano smelled Thom’s stench as he got closer, but it didn’t matter.

In his hand was the rock.

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