Chapter no 9

Winter World

IMAGINE PLAYING a game of darts where the stakes are your life. And the dartboard moves. And you’re the dart.

That’s what this is like.

The capsule hangs in space, floating side to side, its thrusters constantly correcting its position.

Jump, the message said.

They want me to untether from ISS and jump into the capsule. I get the logic. They can’t bring the capsule closer; if it collides with the ISS wreckage, it could trap me between the two. I’d be cut in half. Or paralyzed.

One option is to untether from the ISS and push off quickly. Let’s call that the “dart option.” If I miss, I’ll simply float out into space. My compatriots on the ground have positioned the capsule so I’m between it and Earth—so if I miss, at least I won’t burn up in the atmosphere. Still, I’m not okay with that.

I choose the alternative. The non-dart option. Let’s call it the “smart option”—meeting the capsule halfway as opposed to flying out there.

I untether from the ISS wreckage, push off gently, and free-float in space, moving slowly toward the capsule. It’s an unnerving, helpless feeling, like walking on a high wire with no net below.

The capsule inches closer, puffing out white plumes on each side, like a dragon drawing near. The pace of the thruster blasts grows faster. I imagine the person at ground control who’s trying to line this up is sweating bullets right now. I am.

Twenty feet away.

On target.


I’m veering left.


Too wide. Maybe I can grab the rim, pull myself in. The distance is stretching. I’m going to graze the side.

The thrusters fire, harder than before. The capsule rushes toward me.

Everything happens in a flash. The mouth of the berthing connector engulfs me and I tumble inside the capsule.

I’m lying in the crew compartment, staring at the white padded walls, instruments strapped to it, along with a great big sign with handwritten block letters that reads:



STARE AT IT A MOMENT, and then I start crying. The sobs shake my body. For the first time since the ISS broke up, I think I’m going to live.

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