Experiment #326

Oxygen Part 1

The astronaut breathed in and out, clinging to that most basic of human motions.

In and out…

In and out…

He’d fallen face down in the dark, red sand. His arms and legs spread out on both sides. Scratches, dents and a fine coating of red dust covered his grey suit.

He looked at the oxygen readout on his arm panel: 10% and falling.

In and out…

In and out…

#

“Hello, Sunshine,” Dave sang as he threw open Johnson’s door at the nursing home. “Come on, Mr. Johnson, time for your morning constitutional.”

Johnson turned over and moaned.

His children had dropped him off about a year ago, an “early Christmas present.” He “wouldn’t have to take care of that big old house anymore.” They forgot to ask if he wanted to. Sure, they visited, but only when it suited them.

He’d always thought of himself as a doting father. He’d spoiled them with little gifts and sneak them a sweet when their mother had sent them to bed without supper. But they didn’t return his favor. They left him to rot.

He understood why they’d done it. He’d thrown a plate at the dog, yelled at his daughter, and raised a hand to his grandson. Clearly symptoms of greater ills, not the grouchiness of an old man sleeping on a sofa. The young never did know what to do with the old.

His year inside had been as lifeless as the faces around him. His health had steadily declined. The stroke and the need for an oxygen tank made him certain he’d never get out of there.

Dave had come along about two months ago. He always wore a dopey grin and lurked around every corner.

“Come on, Mr. Johnson. Those legs’ll stop moving altogether if we don’t get up and at ‘em.” Dave opened the curtains wide. Johnson recoiled at the light. He still lay on his side facing the window, but covered his eyes with his hand.

Dave walked around the bed. He got a good handful of Johnson’s side and forced Johnson up into a sitting position.

#

The astronaut walked a mile without seeing signs of life. No footprints marred the sand save his own. No plants or trees or animals dotted the dark, red sands that surrounded him.

Jagged stones the size of booster rockets lay to one side. In the distance a range of mountains stood majestic and impenetrable.

To Be Continued…

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