Our Summer 2017 issue, FLAPPERHOUSE #14, is sure to be a deep-flying, head-flipping odyssey. The issue launches next Wednesday, June 21, but in the meantime we’d like to offer a sneak peek of what to expect with Peter H.Z. Hsu’s trippy & unearthly flash fiction “Mission Concept.”
The astronaut sometimes leaves the Earth to travel to the Moon. The Moon is very far away. Sometimes the astronaut travels further away than the Moon, much further. On these trips, the astronaut stays away for a very long time. The astronaut sometimes does not return.
The astronaut is sometimes a fighter pilot. The astronaut is sometimes a geologist. Sometimes an astronomer. Sometimes an electrical engineer. Sometimes the astronaut has a job specific to being an astronaut such as mission specialist or payload specialist or mission commander or administrative services manager. Sometimes the astronaut has a job that is not specific to being an astronaut. Sometimes the astronaut is a high school history teacher, an ordinary person making an extraordinary impact.
Sometimes the astronaut is an actor in a science fiction movie where he goes alone on a 40-year mission to a far-away solar system. When the astronaut returns, he walks a long, grey corridor to meet his lover. He is surprised at what he finds. The astronaut has grown old, but his lover has stayed young. This is scientifically inaccurate, yet this is what happens.
The astronaut touches his fingertips to his lover’s face. He stares. He recognizes her in her young face, her old eyes. He wants her. She is all he wants.
She says, “All is well. My lover has returned.”
He looks at his hand, still on her cheek. His hand is grey and dry like bone. His hand looks like a dead person’s hand, like a ghost hand.