Air for one


A million ways to kill Bob cross my mind as I cross the lunar surface from the pump house to the silver bubble he and I call home.

Unofficially we call it a pimple because we both fear it might someday pop.

Neither of us ever figured we would run out of air first.

Terrorists’ attacks on earth delaying four shipments until each of the dozen pimples like ours has only enough air for one, when two live in each.

With each step I dismiss another way of killing Bob.

Not because I am a moral being, but because I know I cannot reasonably explain to Central Command how my partner died so conveniently as to keep me alive.

I volunteered to check the pump house for a few more possible hours of air we both know does not exist only to keep myself from my murderous temptation, and in the isolation of my space suit, crossing the unmoving dusty lunar plain, I ponder other possibilities, such as each of us going to sleep to reduce our intake of air or perhaps holding our breath for as long as possible with the hopes if we hold it long enough and often enough we might bridge the gap that will allow us both to survive until the supply ship comes.

But I know no such options exist.

In my suit I can hear Bob talking to Earth, though my weak radio cannot reach our home planet, only Bob.

“Central Command, Central Command, this is Moon Base Seven,” Bob says. “No need to worry about delivering to this station first. My partner, Richard Dwyer has suffered a fatal accident, a space suit puncture. So I will have air enough until the delivery arrives.”

“Hey, Bob!” I yell, my voice rattling around inside my helmet like a mad hive of bees. “I’m still here, Bob. I’m alive and…”

I start to run, my earth-toned muscles taking huge leaps and bounds to cover the ground until I reach the bubble which contains my partner. I slow only because my running uses up my suit’s air more quickly, and I realize at last that it is all I have.

“Bob? Can you hear me? I’m still alive. Open the hatch. Let me in.”

But the hatch does not open. And Bob makes no reply, and though I pound on the surface of the bubble with both hands, he clearly does not hear me, and does not realize that my air rapidly expires.



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