I’m pretty sure I’m about to die in space. And I just turned twelve and a half.
The frayed end of my tether whips around like a lasso as I flip front over back and sideways.
I see the long blue smear of Earth hurtling past. The silver hull of my ship, the Aether, whizzes by in a blur before I gasp at the once-glorious International Space Station. Now, just wreckage. The ISS spits pieces that twinkle in the sunlight. Sparks sizzle and blink against the black backdrop of the endless universe.
My spin continues until all I can see is the void of deep space, punctured by bright pinpricks of gaseous stars millions of light-years away.
The horizon of Earth again, with its clouds and land and water. Home.
The shiny tube of my ship, the Aether. It’s. So. Close. And yet, it can’t save me.
The ISS, Earth, the Aether, and here we go again on this terrible merry-go-round— You get the picture. It’s not good. I close my eyes.
I’m tumbling, and I think I’m squirting oxygen from my life-support backpack, which isn’t helping my somersaults. My suit is losing pressure. At least that’s what I guess is causing the fuzz in my brain. It’s hard to think. My vision is narrowing, dimming, like I’m about to wink away.
And the thing that I think is actually going to kill me? Water is leaking from somewhere inside my suit. Quickly it builds up and clings to my face like a wet rag. It’s a film over my eyes, it plugs my nose, and it slides into my mouth like alien slime whenever I try to cough. I shake my head violently to jiggle the liquid free, so hard that a nerve cries out in my neck. The head-whip kinda works, and I’m able to suck in a tiny breath. I choke down some water and, though the idea sounds ludicrous, I think, Am I going to drown . . . in space?
At this point, you might be asking, “What is a twelve-year-old doing in space?”
And I’d say, “That’s what you’re worried about? Not that I’m going to die?!”
It’s cool. Let me answer both questions. Why I’m one of the first kids in space, and how I ended up in this mess, adrift from my craft and about to become a permanent orbiting satellite. If I don’t plunge into the atmosphere and burn up first.
I’ll pause my death scene to explain a bit about how I got here. Because that’s a thing, right? Aren’t you curious how I got into this impossible quagmire? It’s a pretty amazing story. And 100 percent true.
The books I tend to enjoy reading are about kids being brave, or learning how to be, and I’d like to tell you this is one of those. But I’m not feeling it right now.
To be fair, in those books the kids are fighting fantasy monsters that disappear into dust when you stab them, or they’re in a simulation, or a video game, or you kind of know everything’s going to be all right, right? It’s fake danger.
This story is different. This one’s real. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to survive this. Adrift in space with my oxygen running low, all alone, spinning uncontrollably, a water leak in my suit threatening to drown me.
It all started innocently enough when a harmless package arrived in the mail . . .