“Hey, Johnson. Are you sure you are ready for this?”
“Yes sir,” Johnson whispered to hide his trembling voice. “But are you sure this isn’t just a joke?”
“You’re lucky you’re the only one willing to do this, or I would fire you like I fired the other folks who asked. We have a reputation to uphold. Now buckle up, and good luck!” The shipping manager stepped away from the hatch and sealed it shut, as Johnson buckled up.
“You’re gonna need it” He muttered to himself as he walked away, the steel of the docking arm creaking high up over Kennedy Space Center. Johnson steeled his nerve and tapped a rhythm on his legs after quadruple checking his helmet.
The bonus had already hit his account, and his wife needed it to cover their son’s medical expenses. This deal was too good to pass up. It was more than he made in a year! The thought about how they could afford to accommodate such a ridiculous request didn’t even cross his mind.
“Sir,” The headset in the helmet crackled, startling Johnson into a weak yelp. “Everything is automated. Amazon hired us some contractors to improve the ship’s computer. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.”
“Sure, just enjoy it! No problem.” Johnson chuckled nervously. A coping mechanism of his was humor. It had passed to his son, who made the same nervous chuckles from the hospital bed amidst the beeping of computer panels and the sounds of machines working to keep him alive. Tears began to form under his eyes as he thought of his pale face, so starkly contrasted with his dark hair. So young. Too young to have been cursed with such a lot in life.
The rocket began to shake, and a countdown echoed into his helmet. Fuzzy sounding. Garbled. But Johnson didn’t hear it. He was thinking of his family, and if he would see them again. But it didn’t matter. He actually preferred not to come back, as he had a great life insurance policy.
“It’ll keep you alive, maybe even pay for the surgery. Son…” The tears flowed freely from clenched eyes as the rocket began to push itself from the Earth’s surface with a thunderous roar. The shaking was incredible, and the force of the launch pressed him into the seat and he could feel his insides shift within. As if resisting the urge to fly to space. He was an older man, and his body could not take the fear as well as the force. He died before leaving the atmosphere, before he could see the glorious vista of Earth hovering like a God in the darkness of space.
The technicians were right in their calculations, and the phases went flawlessly. Automated, the craft made its way to the ISS. It docked with a little help from the astronaut. The rest of the crew was confused, but not Jeff Williams. He knew what he had coming to him, even if he was a bit surprised. Opening the hatch, he saw Johnson, floating softly against the seat belt. Peaceful.
“Amazing dedication to customer service” He mused. “I’m going to leave a 5-star review.” He took the package from Johnson’s hands, and brought it back into the ISS airlock, shutting it behind him. He disengaged the docking lock, and the small Amazon-branded craft fell from the ISS, softly descending into the atmosphere. It would land in the Pacific Ocean to be recovered by a U.S. Navy ship.
“I’ve always wanted to play Cards Against Humanity. This will help pass the time, maybe even make those Russians laugh!”