Astronaut Tang
by Dan Kopcow
forum: Astronaut Tang
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

......... ....... ..... ..



Astronaut Tang


           I push my way through the crowds of unregistered citizens and anti-sterility demonstrators. I am alone today. I have been alone for three weeks, wondering the whole time what's happened to my boyfriend. I trudge through the next check-point past the dark-helmeted armed guard through a series of Pod-Gates. My implanted Citi-Pod registers affirmatively on the screen inside the gates.

           Gardener Fletcher 211.


           Registered voter.




           No offspring.

           I enter the city proper. More crowds; no less disciplined, no less anxious. I make my way to the Public Square. The Government has two sets of Pod-Gates set up: one marked "Decade Erasure" and the other marked "Wait for De-Link." There are hundreds of people standing on line, waiting to vote by walking through one or the other. I haven't decided yet how to cast my vote.

           I'm still obsessing about my boyfriend. My mind drifts back to when I met him. My fellow Gardeners and I had attended a pro-procreation rally three months ago. Afterwards, we went to Public Bar 782. A group of Scientists were leaving when my eyes crossed paths with Scientist Tang 53. We were instantly attracted to each other although I'm not usually attracted to classic conflict-avoiders. Our Citi-Pods exchanged all relevant contact information. On our first date, he seemed reserved at first but slowly opened up to me, like one of my flowers. He wasn't allowed to reveal the secret project he was working on. After our last date, three weeks ago, he never called me back.

           I realize the world may be coming to an end but the reason I'm inconsolable is his absence.

           The beautifully-starred evening sky suddenly begins to glow that familiar steel-blue color as the Government Sky-Screen begins broadcasting its weekly report. Maybe it will help me decide how to vote.

           The news anchor stares down at us.

           "Citizens, tonight is the last night you have to vote for the most important decision mankind has ever faced. To re-cap, several months ago, Scientists discovered that the size of the universe was equal to the total length of the unraveled DNA strands of Planet Earth's human population. Further, as Planet Earth's population increased, the universe has continued to expand.

           "Due to the world's over-population, Scientists have proven that the universe is threatening to rip itself apart. Until this issue can be sorted out, the Government has forbidden human breeding and issued mandatory sterility radiation for all its citizens.

           "Scientists, hard at work, devised a plan to save us all. A crew of brave Scientists and Astronauts has been sent out to the edge of the universe. The Universe Mission Crew.

           "Citizens: don't let the Universe Mission Crew down. Vote. Vote for either "Decade Erasure" or "Wait for De-Link." You decide, Citizen. Vote. Vote for Humanity! Humanity marches on! Vote! That is all."

           That was fucking helpful. Well, let's see. Do I want to wake up tomorrow and have it be five to ten years ago? Do I want to place my faith in a bunch of Scientists and Astronauts who weren't smart enough to get out of a mission they'll never come back from? And if I do vote on traveling back in time a decade, will I remember what's happened since then? The Scientists aren't sure since this has never happened before.

           The steel-blue glow of the Sky-Screen again.

           "Citizens, we have late-breaking news. We are receiving a live feed from the Universe Mission Crew. We now bring you, live, the Universe Mission Crew."

           Oh my God.

           "Citizens of Earth. I was one of the Scientists who volunteered to go on this mission. I did not go for noble reasons but for cowardly ones which I will get to shortly."

           Oh my God.

           "Briefly, our mission is to interrupt the link between humanity's DNA strands and the universe's expansion so the universe can continue to grow at its own pace. Our other theoretical option is to reverse the expansion into a contraction. Scientists have proven that this contraction would cause time to reverse temporarily from five to ten years. I understand that the world will complete their voting tonight.

           "I have some good news and bad news."

           Oh my God.

           "First, some bad news. Except for me, the Universe Mission crew did not survive the hyper-drive space jump and they're all dead.

           "Some good news: I said earlier I was one of the Scientists. Since I am inexplicably the only one left, I am now Astronaut Tang. No number since there are no other Astronaut Tangs.

           "More good news: I can complete the mission. I have found the edge of the universe and both options are available to us. I can de-link us from the fate of the universe or we can go back in time.

           "But first, a personal note. This is a message for Gardener Fletcher 211. I am sorry that I didn't call you back after our last date. But, as you see, I had to go and save the universe. Also, I feel I'm at a safe enough distance away from you now and have the proper detachment from the situation to tell you that…"

           Holy shit.

           "… I want to break up with you.

           "So I'm deciding. Because I want to erase ever having dated Gardener Fletcher 211."


           I walk into the University Registrar with my forms for next semester's classes. I'm thinking about maybe majoring in horticulture. I notice a cute guy in front of me and decide to take a chance. Isn't that what being nineteen is all about?

           "Hi," I say. "I'm Kelly Fletcher."

           "Hi," he says, turning around, clearly interested. "I'm Clayton Tang. Physics major."

           "Ooh, physics. I just love science."



copyright 2007 Dan Kopcow.

Dan Kopcow's stories have appeared in The Wild River Review, Silverthought, The Duck and Herring Company, The American Drivel Review, Gold Dust Magazine, and The Quirk. He is the author of numerous short stories, novels and screenplays. He is a founding member of the Ambler Writers Group.

link to