I’m sitting alone in my space pod, which feels ridiculous to think. I’m finally able to gather my thoughts for the first time in an hour and mostly I’m surprised that I’m not freaking out. I’m okay with this. I’m doing something I should have done a long time ago and I feel good about it.
I don’t love all the non-answers I’m getting. What did he mean by aggressive terms? Would you not have to sign all kinds of non-disclosures working here? How much worse could it get for the treatment itself? All the questions I wanted to ask start to flood my head, but I stop once I feel movement.
A voice comes up on the speaker. She sounds fake-friendly like all the others I’ve met today.
“Alright, we’re just about ready, Mr. Rowe. How are we feeling?”
“A little overwhelmed.”
“Sorry to hear that. Anything we can do to help calm your nerves?”
If this were an hour ago, I would have gone off the handle for everything they’ve subjected me to. Instead, I decide to just take it all in. I’m going to space.
“No. I’m just excited.”
“Excellent. Well, just sit back and enjoy the ride. If you need anything, just call out for customer service. We’ll be happy to assist you.”
“Do I get to hear the master control for the launch?”
“We don’t really have that, Mr. Rowe. It’s all automated.”
“I can do a countdown for you when we’re ready. Would that work?”
“I guess that can work.”
“Happy to help. Anything else I can do for you in the meantime?”
I have more questions. Not that they’d do me any good at this point. I’ve come too far.
“No. I’m ready.”
I sit in silence for a while as the pod shifts around. Outside the window, I see the complex I was in getting smaller and smaller as they bring me out into a mostly empty field. The only thing out there is a large tower.
A few minutes and a few more jolts around in my suit later, the customer service rep comes back through the speaker.
“Launching in t-minus thirty seconds.”
It sounds silly, but I get into it. I suddenly start to sweat. My hands get clammy and my heart-rate spikes. I don’t know if I’m afraid or excited. It’s probably a mix of both. I feel the pod start to shake.
“10, 9, 8…”
I think about who I was. A scared, overweight guy just coasting through life. I’m going to come back as a confident, fit, productive and happy man. My dream is coming true. I’m going to do it all right from now on.
“3, 2, 1. We have lift-off! Good luck, Mr. Rowe.”
I’m thrown back into my seat. I struggle to turn my head to look out the window. When I do, it’s worth the effort.
I’m in the clouds within seconds. A few moments later, I’m above them with nothing but blue skies around me. It’s not the same as being on a plane. The floor of clouds keeps getting further and further away. The blue starts to turn into darkness. The pod rocks around a bit, but I start to feel gravity lessen. I feel a bit woozy, then remember to breathe. It was good advice.
Before I know it, I’m floating in my seat. I’m tempted to undo my seatbelt, but I can feel the sedative start to take hold. I enjoy it while I can, floating inside my suit.
Aside from the weightlessness and the urge to take a nap, I feel very much the same. Was I supposed to feel something? How does the transformation happen? Is it slow? Will I feel the fat burning off me? Is there anything I should be doing?
Now that I’m up here, without gravity to hold me down, I’m coming up with all the questions I should have had before it ever got this far. And yet, I’m not feeling any regrets about it at all.
I feel my eyelids getting heavy, but I fight it to enjoy this as long as I can. I doubt I’ll ever be up in space again. I want to soak in every second. There’s not much to see outside my pod window. Just darkness.
I look back at the door and there’s a small window through there as well. I can’t really see it from how I’m seated. The little bit I can see out of the corner of my eye is worth it.
Through the little window, I can see the Earth. I tell myself it looks as magical as they say, but also a little bit like all the videos I’ve seen. Maybe it’s not so magical. I feel a lot like I’ve seen this before. I want to be amazed, but I’m starting to get a little bit bored.
That’s when something catches my eye at the seam of the door. It looks like grease floating around, but it looks like it has a purpose. Like it’s controlling where it’s going. It looks totally out of place in this sterile pod. My neck starts to feel sore, having to rotate myself so awkwardly to look out of the window, so I look away.
Curiosity gets the best of me. What the heck was that? Is something leaking? I turn back and I start to panic. There’s even more of it seeping in. It swims through air as though it’s unaffected by the lack of gravity.
“Customer service? Hello?” I say, jamming the buttons in front of me, not knowing what does what. “Customer service?!”
I don’t hear anything as the black, greasy blob folds in on itself, growing with each rotation.
“Hello, Mr. Rowe. Is everything alright?”
“There’s some weird grease thing coming through the pod door. It’s growing and coming towards me? What is it? What should I do? Help me!”
“Mr. Rowe. Don’t be alarmed. The sedative you were given may cause you to hallucinate. Especially if you fight it. Just allow yourself to fall asleep and we’ll see you back on Earth soon.”
Maybe that’s all it is. I’m getting bored. My brain is trying to entertain me.
Or I’m losing it. Even with the shot of adrenaline the fright has given me, I feel like I can pass out at any second. I look away from the growing grease blob and try to get comfortable in my seat. I close my eyes. If I’m going to start seeing monsters because I’m falling asleep, then I don’t need to see space anymore.
The sleep washes over me. I’m about to drift away. I’m nearly gone when I feel something hit me. I open my eyes and the blob is covering my suit.
“AHH! What the hell? It’s on me!”
“Sir, please just breathe. You’ll be okay. It’s all very vivid, I know, but just try to sleep.”
I can’t close my eyes. I’m fully in panic mode. The grease blob is growing and covering most of my suit. Even with my eyes open, I feel them start to cloud as the darkness consumes me.
I feel something touch my hand.
I hold it up to my face. The blob is getting through the seams. I feel it growing on my hand. It feels hot and slimy, but also like pins and needles. I try to shake it away, but I don’t have the strength to even hold my hand up for too long or scream.
As I’m losing consciousness, I hear the customer service rep. They sound distant.
“Oh thank goodness. He’s falling asleep. I’ve never seen this before. They’re usually out by-”