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“Smith? Smith, are you there?” the instructor’s voice reaches him broken and he nods. “Smith?” she repeats. Right. He codes back a reply - ‘Lost.’


   He’s shaken to the core. Of course he would be. This wasn’t what he signed up for when he decided to let the world know of the miracle his mortal body could do. Not every day did a man come along claiming to be able to hold his breath for a good thirty minutes and forty-seven seconds. He’d proven the world that he indeed was a wonder and it’d earned him a good amount of attention and Records.


   When men in white coats paid him a visit and offered him a job that paid well, young, naïve Melvin Smith had accepted the offer in exchange for some good change in his pocket even though he was given a briefing of the risks that come along with the job. (In hindsight, he did sign up for this)


   “We hope to uncover the secrets of the Bermuda triangle” The men in white coats had stated. “And we wanted to recruit you as our main man. We’d train you to pilot, train you to succeed, equip you and you will be crowned for your discovery.”


   “Like a water astronaut?” Melvin had asked, index finger on his chin. The men smiled. They shook hands on an agreement and Melvin had signed a couple of contracts. Everything seemed perfect till he actually went to the training station.


   It’s not like they had disrespected him. Or treated him poorly. Well, maybe a little poorly. He was given the cold shoulder by all the staff. The workers, the officials, the lovely ladies who’d come quite so often to visit their fathers working at the station. And he’s shameful of the fact that it had taken him almost a month to figure out what had caused the distance people kept around his presence. “There’s no use getting attached to a man who signed up to be a part of a suicide mission.” He’d overheard someone say once. Ah.


   Melvin had signed the contract when he was twenty. It took him four years to get people to warm up to him and to train himself to the maximum capacity. He wouldn’t let his effort in making so many people care about him a waste by going on the mission and dying.


   When he was twenty four years of age, the date of the mission was announced, Melvin had been overjoyed. All he had to do was finish the mission. Go underwater, find the source of suction or methane or whatever it was, note it down and get back safe and sound. If only it had been that easy.


   His first attempt had gone smoothly. In fact too smooth, he hadn’t faced any issues at all. A successful failure, he told himself. The second time, the third, fourth, fifth and sixth attempts went by uneventful too. A year of successful failures were all that he was being fed. Turns out it wasn’t just his patience which was wearing thin. The government and other top science institutes seemed to have been having enough of the money expenditure going into a project solely based on decoding a ‘mythical’ force.


   “We have only two more chances left, Mr. Smith.” The head of the project had told him. “It’s either we use the best of these opportunities or we fail over and over and have our rights revoked.”


   “I’ll make sure we succeed this time, sir.” He had taken off the seventh time with a confident demeanor and a heart filled with good luck wishes. He was going to succeed this time.


   At some point he’d felt the turbulence. It was a small and innocent tremor but he knew about how to always expect the worst when it came to situations like this. Things had only gone downhill from there.


   The crash was bad- obviously. Everything had seemed to still when the impact happened. The shuttle was made in a way that it would dismantle on impact and dismantle it did. They had calculated everything, but some things tend to remain defective even with thorough trials and that was the case with his oxygen supplier. It was originally built to provide him oxygen for an hour. That combined with his ability to hold his breath for about half an hour gave him a solid hour and a half. Except it didn’t. His oxygen supplier hadn’t survived the impact and he inhaled one last time before holding the air in his lungs.


   At 3:59 PM he sent a coded text message ‘my 30 minutes begin now.’ Melvin thought he heard shuffling and something about the mechanism of the oxygen supplier gone wrong, and then his coordinator on his ear piece “You can do it, Smith. You’re our hope. Just search for the source of the suction”


   2:04 PM, he sent ‘Nothing seen. Black depth’ and on further notice, he added a coded image he clicked with his communication device and sends it to the station. It isn’t more than a black blob and that could be anything. Probably even just the depths of the ocean. He decided to swim closer to the depth and five minutes and several meters in, he began to realise that he might not have been making the smartest decision by swimming towards the source of danger.


   2:11 PM, ‘Nearby, force stronger.’


   2:12 PM, ‘VERY fast. Getting sucked in.’ The force and pressure was painful on all parts of his body. It felt like he was being skinned alive but he knew somehow, his skin had remained intact. The stumble and push and pain had seemed to last for what felt like forever but after a point everything calmed down. Everything calmed down a little too much. He feels extremely light-weighted yet heavy at the same time.


   “Smith? Smith, are you there? Smith?”


   2:23 PM, ‘Lost’ he sends before he opens his eyes. The sight in front of him shocks him just as much as it mortifies him. He adds ‘I see Earth.’


His coordinator seems stunned given by her voice. “Earth? What do you mean? What else do you see?” Melvin doesn’t have much he can think of, his brain feels like mush and he can feel his muscles numb. No amount of training would have ever prepared anyone for this situation.


   At 2:26 PM, he sends a reply to her question ‘Ruins and Carcasses. Old, new. All Fresh. In vacuum space’


   At 2:27 PM, he manages to pinpoint his location and click a picture of what he sees in front of himself and sends it to the team on earth. The gravity of the thought hits him when he realises that he’s stranded in outer space, looking at the people trying to guide him. At 2:28 PM, he musters up the courage to send ‘I’m scared’


   The coordinator, still hesitant yells “Stay confident, Smith! We’ll do everything to get you back safe!”


2:30: ‘No, you won’t.’


2:30: ‘We didn’t plan a space adventure.’


   The line goes silent. They knew. All of them did. There was a high chance of him not surviving. Someone yells out that the location pinpoints the area where the strongest magnetic forces of the earth and sun meet. A natural space portal.


   “Thank you, Melvin,” There’s a drop of tone in his coordinator’s voice. She calls him by his first name and there’s something oddly personal about it. Melvin hears people crying. “You’ve taken a big step ahead for humanity.”


   2:33 PM, he sends ‘That’s good’ followed by ‘Time’s running out.’

   A minute later, he sends ‘Sing me the song about the light that never goes out.’ This is one last thing he could ask for. It’s nothing big, but if he was to die in a couple of minutes under circumstances he didn’t want to, he might as well die having had at least one last wish fulfilled


   The instructor doesn’t hesitate at the slightest for the first time since she started communicating with him. She sings There is a light that never goes out by The Smiths till the part of the song where the first chorus ends. Her voice is shaky. Melvin smiles.


   2:36: ‘Thank you.’


   2:37: ‘Letting go.’


   There’s heavy static. The instructor bursts into tears. She repeats “Thank you” over and over. And that’s the last thing Melvin hears. Funny, all this for failed success.


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