art by Jonathan Westbrook
by James Luke Worrad
The man from NASA arrived the next morning. Walter Igwe met him at the crash site.
"The agency would like to thank you, Mr. Igwe," the NASA man said, "for your quick response." It was plain he wasn't used to the savannah's heat. His temples ran slick with sweat.
"It is nothing, sir," Walter said. "And my village offers the agency our condolences."
"Appreciated, Mr. Igwe." He brushed an insect from his nose. "But ultimately it's just a setback." He laughed. "Albeit an expensive one."
Walter hid his disgust. A man was dead. Their man. Was nothing sacred in America?
"The main section," Walter said. "Your capsule fell over there."
They made their way over scorched ground. Seeing the blackened capsule again, Walter recalled pulling the Astronaut out of it. It had taken much to haul the corpse from that impossibly cramped space. Walter had felt like a midwife, of sorts.
The spacesuit had been perfectly white, its NASA symbol immaculate. Walter had half-believed--had prayed--the astronaut still lived. Yet the visor was smashed and behind it lay roast flesh and bare teeth. Nothing to be done.
The NASA man spent the next two hours inspecting every piece of wreckage. He would look at some burnt device and mutter, "Write off," then move to the next.
Walter said nothing, but his hands were fists.