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Standing there alone
The ship is waiting
All systems are go
"Are you sure?"
Control is not convinced
But the computer
Has the evidence
No need to abort
The countdown starts...

Then there was a party. Everyone wanted to pretend nothing was happening, even if just for a handful of hours. Sponges filled with water and blood were waiting to be wrung out by hands that remembered some form of kindness. When old Tom staggered into the house, everyone stopped and stared with beleaguered eyes. He was bleeding from his head, down onto his forehead, and it was trickling over his face. Tom stumbled and fell onto the new white sofa and left it forever stained.

No Scotchguard could handle the nature of this stain.

"I hate when someone drinks all of my beer without even asking.
Aren't we supposed to be living in a civilized country?"

One strike to the edge of forever. There was a girl who once worked as a nurses' aide at the local nursing home and another who had enrolled in nursing school who attended to Tom. Everyone else went back about their business. They might have called an ambulance, but there weren't any ambulances any longer. There was too much to contend with and they couldn't compete any longer. There was always something in the air. There was always too much death. There was always too much pain.

"Did anyone buy any lottery tickets tonight?
Supposed to be up to seventy million now."

Tony tore his lottery ticket in half and mused that there was a reason there hadn't been a winner in sixteen weeks. The lottery was waiting for the number of buyers to cap out before annoucing the winner of their rigged game. Or so Tony liked to believe. So much money was tied up in the grand prize. People couldn't wait any longer. Someone waved a white flag. Tom reached up and pulled it away from him.

Watching in a trance
The crew is certain
Nothing left to chance
All is working
Trying to relax
Up in the capsule
"Send me up a drink"
Jokes Major Tom
The count goes on...

An old grandfather clock was ticking in the background. Then, it stopped. No one would have noticed, except for the moment of silence that followed the witnessing of Tom trying to sit up, wincing in obvious pain. He slid back down onto the sofa and closed his eyes. He would not surrender. Not yet.

"Some son of a bitch stole my cigarettes.
I used my last ration card to buy those.
Someone better own up on I'll start kicking random ass."

Things had changed since Tom had joined those fighting in the field. Too much had changed and he barely recognized his old home. It felt so different. Even with his eyes closed he could feel that the air was heavier. Changes in the tone of his old friends' voices was evident. There was a sense of urgency. He wondered what had happened to the home he once knew. It had vanished into memory during his time away.


Earth below us
Drifting, falling
Floating weightless
Calling, calling home...

Carrie began dancing. At first, she just bounced around the room, grabbing the hands and arms of whatever man was in her path and swinging him gently about. Then she jumped up on the cocktail table and began swinging her hips and breasts seductively, bringing hoots and cheers from the onlookers. As she slowly slid her t-shirt up her stomach and over her chest, preparing to disengage from it completely, Greg turned away. He picked up the nearest bottle of cheap whiskey and poured himself a full glass.

"You used to date her, didn't you?"

"Yeah, before she started being a whore."

"She dances for money.
Otherwise she'd starve to death.
She did it for you."

"And this shit?"

"Now she needs the attention.
This is a very lonely world these days."

It might have stayed quiet if Jimmy hadn't jumped out of the second story window. It was not completely unexpected. He had been beaten three times in the past two weeks by roving hate gangs. It was the way of things. There was a certain lawlessness to the new order. While everything was being cracked down on in the interests of the safety of citizens, internal cracks were appearing everywhere. Jimmy wasn't white and wasn't straight. He had become an easy target for the roving hate gangs.

Second stage is cut
We're now in orbit
Stabilizers up
Running perfect
Starting to collect
Requested data
"What will it affect
when all is done?"
thinks Major Tom

Tom remembered his boss at the last job he held before the war called to him. He followed the call. The days when he watched the clock and waited for the five o'clock bell to ring so he could get a beer with his friends was gone. The clock no longer moved the way it used to. It only continued to tick down. Time was running away from him and the past was disappearing into a mist Tom could no longer see through. He opened his eyes. It didn't matter. Someone handed him a beer.

"You think he'll make it?"

"Do you think any of us will?"

The two friends smiled and toasted each other. The girls were giving Tom a blanket and wrapping it around him. There was a distant sound of gunfire that wasn't as far away as it used to be.

Back at ground control
There is a problem
"Go to rockets full."
Not responding.
"Hello Major Tom.
Are you receiving?
Turn the thrusters on.
We're standing by."
There's no reply

Carrie kept dancing until someone reached up to her and helped her down from the coffee table. She was down to one last bit of clothing and it wasn't a stocking. She began crying in his arms, awakened to what she was doing, and the sudden realization of where she was. Nothing seemed the same and yet everywhere felt as empty as everywhere else. Mike put a blanket around her. He took her by the hand and led her towards one of the house's bedrooms. No one asked any questions. Greg poured himself another drink and toasted someone who was no longer there.

"I knew I could count on you, darling."

"You can't even count on the sun rising, these days."

"Yeah, but at least you never change.
You were always this way."

Tom tried to open his eyes but they would no longer open. The girls who were attending to him were still kneeling at his side, but they had run out of bandages. One was holding his arm tightly and weeping. The other had her elbows dug into his thigh while her hands were clasped in prayer to a God who no longer listened to her prayers. They came too often and too loud these days.


Earth below us
Drifting, falling
Floating weightless
Calling, calling home...

Mike unwrapped Carrie after setting her down on in the much used bedroom he had taken her to. No one bothered to clean up after themselves any longer and he had to clear the bed before placing her on top of it. This was no simple affair. Mike needed more than he pretended to need. Carrie kissed him and thanked him for what she believed was kindness. He couldn't let it stop at that. He was too empty to be alone tonight. The gunfire was closer now than it had been an hour ago.

"I don't think I chased as many dreams as I should have."

"You mean there was something you would do differently?"

"Almost everything."

Greg didn't know who the girl was who spoke to him, but he didn't care. It could have been an apparition and it would not have mattered. He just needed someone to listen. Looking over his shoulder, he wondered where Carrie might be, but no longer really cared. He could see Tom on the sofa and knew he wouldn't be waking up again. In a way he envied him.

Across the stratosphere
A final message
"Give my wife my love."
Then nothing more

They had been the best days of their lives. They had known each other through many years, but they all remembered the golden time that they feared would never come again. It was not due again in this lifetime. The grandfather clock had started ticking off the minutes again, but it was now running almost an hour behind the clock outside. Greg walked over to the clock, his drink held firmly in his left hand while he began feverishly moving the minute hand of the clock backwards. He tried to remember.

"You want to call the cops over Jimmy?"

"We have to take care of him ourselves.
He'll never get a decent burial otherwise."

Tom listened to their voices and remembered their faces. He saw a field where they all stood, as they had in happier days. They looked beautiful and strong and innocent. He took a snapshot of it in his mind and vowed to remember. There was a light ahead. He moved towards it.

Far beneath the ship
The world is mourning
They don't realize
He's alive
No one understands
But Major Tom sees
"Now the light commands
this is my home,
I'm coming home."

Carrie and Greg's wedding brought everyone together. They celebrated together and mugged for every camera pointed in their direction. Mike laughed, slapped Greg on the back and told him "what a lucky man" he was. Jimmy was the best man. Some people questioned the color of his tuxedo, but it was mostly in jest.

"How did we ever get so lucky, Tony?"

"We were smart, we knew where we were going, and we got there."

"Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if things broke the wrong way on us all."

"You shouldn't worry about shit like that.
Have another drink.
Life is good."

Tom stepped back from the celebration and walked off into the green of the country club golf course behind them. Everything smelled so clean and so fresh. He felt like he was home, but part of him knew something the rest of him would never admit.

Earth below us
Drifting, falling
Floating weightless coming home...
Earth below us
Drifting, falling
Floating weightless
Coming, coming

Lyrics to "Major Tom (Coming Home)"
copyright belongs to Peter Schilling
Used without permission within the guidelines of the law

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