And the Envelope Please ...

by John R. Dilworth

I was strapped tight in the 20 ton silver rocket ship named To Infinity And Beyond with countdown within minutes. I reminded myself to "breathe" according to basic manual training. "Body Functions" read high normal. Don't want to get too high, it distorts the mind's reaction time and I'll probably go in my suit.

So much prep goes into sending "off planet" pioneers into new places. The training period alone takes years. Some trainees never get assigned a flight. Some just get lucky. Like me. But, I love to travel "off planet".What else would I do?

Two minutes to "Take Off". No matter how hard I concentrate I begin to release water from every pore. I could feel the ship contracting with compressed energy like a Cobra ready to strike. There's noise coming from all directions. It becomes muddled. Ground Control is speaking to me over the transmitter. I cannot understand a word they're saying. It could be a laundry list.

Through a submarine telescope. Thirty seconds. I begin to want out. Somebody get me out of this thing. How did I get into this in the first place. Ha ha. I laugh from how ridiculous I feel. Who am I kidding? Mighty Mouse couldn't drag me out of here.

I have thoughts of every timid event I ever experienced. I cannot remember the actual events only the feeling of embarrassment and helplessness. And the wish for it to end. Twenty seconds. My heart beat accelerates. It forces the blood to expand the veins in my temples. More noise from Control. "Stay cool, starting countdown..." Ten seconds. This is a reality. All I want to do is curse. Every obscene word in the world gushes out of my mouth like flushing a clogged toilet . Five seconds. I'm going to blast off. Four seconds. Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Three seconds. I do not recognize my physical self. Two. Suddenly the worst possible event occurs.

ABORT! ABORT! ABORT! ABORT! The flight is terminated. The rocket shuts down. An incredible release of energy escapes from my body and from the ship. I am completely wet.

Every "off planet" pioneer knows there is an 80 percent chance your flight will be terminated at the very last second. And for whatever the reason you accept that as part of the training. I exit the rocket and wipe down. I need to eat. Food becomes instant gratification. I am exhausted. Hollow in fact. I was looking towards the stars and imagined the force of ascent pressing against my face, till I looked like The Joker.

The next scheduled flight is undetermined.
Dil at the Oscars®

Exclusive drawing by John R. Dilworth for Animation World Magazine

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