Spacewalk is a scary science fiction story about two astronauts who are traveling back to Earth on a spaceship.
The silence was maddening. Day after day, week after week, month after month, I sat there listening to the endless silence. I couldn’t take it anymore.
When we left earth, there had been 20 men on board. Now there were only two – myself and Burnsey.
We were on the last leg of a three-year mission to explore deep space. Every day, Burnsey sat there, reading his books. Whenever I tried to talk to him, he just ignored me. He wouldn’t even look at me. Ever since the accident, he only spoke to me when it was absolutely necessary.
“It wasn’t my fault,” I said. “It was an accident. That’s the truth. You’ve got to believe me, Burnsey.”
He flipped the pages of his book, acting as if I didn’t exist.
“It was a momentary slip,” I protested. “A lapse of concentration. It could have happened to anyone.”
Burnsey didn’t even reply.
It had been six months since the accident. One of the engines had burned out. It had to be repaired. Eighteen men went out on a spacewalk to fix it. Burnsey and I had been left alone on the ship.
Our job was to test that the instruments were working correctly. There was a checklist we had to go through. Burnsey went through the list, calling out each test one by one. I flipped the switches.
Something went wrong. I don’t know how it happened, but I flipped the wrong switch. The engines roared into life.
Some of the men on the spacewalk were incinerated immediately. At least, I hope that’s what happened. The others were sent hurtling into space. Their bodies are still out there somewhere, floating aimlessly. In less an hour, their oxygen would have run out. They died a terrible death and now their corpses are doomed to drift forever, somewhere out there in the vastness of space.
“I didn’t mean to kill them,” I said. “It was an accident.”
Burnsey turned and glared at me. “It was murder,” he growled. “Plain and simple. If it hadn’t been for you, those 18 men would still be alive. I’m sure you would have killed me too if you had the chance. In another six months, we’ll be back on Earth. Then, you’ll stand trial for your crimes. I’ll testify against you and I’ll make sure they know exactly what you did. They’ll find you guilty and you’ll rot in prison for the rest of your miserable life.”
I sighed and looked at the clock. “It’s time for the spacewalk,” I said.
Every day, we had to do a spacewalk to check the integrity of the spaceship’s outer hull and make sure there was no damage from stray meteor strikes. It was my turn today. It was always my turn. Ever since the accident, Burnsey didn’t trust me one bit.
I didn’t trust him either. While I went out on the spacewalk, he stayed on the ship. If he wanted to, he could lock me out. I wasn’t going to let that happen, so when he wasn’t looking, I took the key to the hatch so I could open it from the outside if I needed to.
I put on my spacesuit and my magnetic boots and stepped into the airlock. Sealing the door behind me, I climbed up the ladder and opened the hatch. Then, I stepped out onto the hull of the ship.
I stared out at the vast blackness of space, dotted with tiny, twinkling stars. It was completely silent. I walked across the side of the ship, my magnetic boots clomping against the hull. After examining the outside, I didn’t find any problems. Then I had an idea.
I clicked the button on my communicator and shouted, “Burnsey! One of the plates is badly damaged. It needs to be repaired immediately!”
“OK,” Burnsey replied. “I’ll get the tools.”
After a while, Burnsey emerged from the hatch, wearing his spacesuit. He was carrying a toolbox under his arm. He came walking towards me, his magnetic boots clomping slowly along the hull.
“Where is it?” he asked.
I didn’t reply. I just pointed towards the rear of the spacecraft. Burnsey started walking. As soon as he had his back turned to me, I slipped down the hatch and closed it behind me.
I unsealed the door and stepped out of the airlock. Over the communicator, I could hear Burnsey shouting and screaming and trying to reason with me. I took off my helmet so I didn’t have to listen to him.
I could hear his magnetic boots clomping back and forth across the hull of the ship. He was probably trying to pry open the hatch, desperate to get back inside the ship before his oxygen ran out, but it was no use. Soon he would be dead.
Suddenly, Burnsey appeared outside the port window. His face was contorted and his eyes were bulging out of their sockets. He was slowly suffocating.
I watched as his face turned red, then purple. He clawed at his helmet as he struggled to draw his last breath. Blood began running from his eyes. I couldn’t stand to watch anymore. It made me sick.
With Burnsey dead, there was nobody to tell the people back on Earth about the accident. His body would be burned up on re-entry. I could make up some story to explain the disappearance of the rest of the crew and nobody would suspect a thing.
Days passed as the ship continued on its slow progress back to earth. Whenever I looked at the port window, Burnsey would be standing there, swaying back and forth, staring in at me. His magnetic boots kept him fixed in place. His dead eyes hung out of their sockets. I tried not to look, but I couldn’t stop myself.
Eventually, I couldn’t stand the sight of him any longer.
I put on my spacesuit and my magnetic boots and made my way to the airlock. I made sure to bring the key with me. I didn’t want to get stranded on the outside.
I opened the hatch and stepped out onto the hull of the ship. The hatch door closed behind me. I clomped across the ship towards Burnsey’s corpse. I couldn’t bear to look him in the face.
I tugged at his magnetic boots, struggling to free him from the ship’s hull. One of his legs came loose and then the other. I gave him a hard shove and his weightless body began to drift away.
“Goodbye, Burnsey!” I said. “See you in hell!”
I turned and started clomping back towards the hatch. Then I stopped and looked over my shoulder. I looked back at Burnsey’s corpse as it drifted off into the vastness of space. His bulging, lifeless eyes stared back at me. His twisted mouth seemed to grin at me. One of his arms moved slightly, as if he was waving at me.
Then, as he slowly floated away, I caught sight of something in his gloved hand.
“No!” I cried. “No! No! No!”
His hand was clutching the key to the hatch door.
The silence of space is all around me. For almost an hour, I have been standing here, fixed to the hull of the ship, swaying back and forth, listening to the silence. I stare in through the port window and I wait.
I’m waiting for the moment when my oxygen supply runs out.
Waiting until my face turns red, then purple.
Waiting until I start clawing at my helmet as I struggle to draw my last breath.
Waiting for the blood to start running from my eyes and then I will know it’s finally the end.