When you give me writing prompts with “Neil Armstrong” and “science fiction,” there’s only so many ways I can take a story like that. Fortunately, I was plenty entertained with the route I took here.
The Armstrong Experience,
By Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 477
Every step he took down the ladder seemed to last forever, even though there was only sixteen percent of Earth’s gravity here. But as he floated down, Neil Armstrong looked out from the landing module at the barren landscape of the Moon.
He couldn’t believe it. He was finally here. About to stand on ground that was over two hundred thousand miles from Earth. He’d be the only human being in existence who could make that claim.
Neil lowered his foot. With all of Earth watching, he said, “That’s one small step for man—”
And then everything went white.
A flash seared his eyes. Neil felt himself drop, and he felt himself begin to tumble toward the ground. He tried to call out, to shout “Mayday!” over the radio, so that Buzz Aldrin could hurry out and help. But when he reached for his helmet, there wasn’t a radio anymore. Or a spacesuit. Or even the barren landscape of the Moon.
Neil floated in a sea of pure white light. And when he looked around, weightless in the void, he heard a beautiful voice speaking to him.
“Welcome,” said the voice. “This one has discovered your presence on the Great Outlier. This one welcomes your kind to the expansion.”
“My kind?” Neil asked.
“Processing now,” the voice continued.
He wanted to ask what it meant, but then the pain rose abruptly. A thousand images and sounds came burning through Neil’s mind, all at once. He saw himself as an old man, waiting in line at a subway station where all the signs were written in French. He saw his body lying in a casket, where someone had laid a golden cross on top. He saw himself as a young man in his twenties, getting stopped at the border crossing for a broken taillight on his faded green Studebaker, with a case of Mexican beer chilling in the trunk.
All these images and more came rushing through his mind; his entire life in a single panoramic shot.
Then the rush died down, and the voice returned, a little stronger than before. “Thank you for cooperating.”
Despite clutching at his head and reeling from the agony, Neil couldn’t let it go without answers. He reached out his hand and cried, “Wait! Are you…?”
The voice laughed, and the sound rippled over Neil like a waterfall. “Indeed. We have waited a long time for your people to arrive, Neil.”
Then the sea of light vanished.
Neil found himself back in his spacesuit, still holding onto the ladder. His eyes once again beheld the distant blue gleam of the planet Earth, and his foot still hovered over the barren landscape of the Moon.
He lowered his foot with a satisfying crunch into the regolith.
“…One giant leap for mankind,” he said, more to himself than to the world that was watching.
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