The Crypt-Rocket of Robert Halem

(prose action)

The Crypt Rocket of Robert Halem

October is a month for fire.

Maybe it’s the changing of the leaves that I remember from Long Island as a child. Passing the old Grumman Testing Grounds( of The Philadelphia Project fame) on the Sunrise Highway, the leaves rolling off the trees and burning in the sunlight is about all I can remember about my early years in the north. It shaped my idea of what a fall should look like.

Later on I began to think of the leaves dieing everytime I watched the launches from Kennedy Space Center. I had forgotten what seasons where like when I moved to Florida – it was either hot, wet, or both. A few times a year it would drop into the 30’s, but it was hardly what I’d ever call “winter”. It just meant I sweat alot less when I wore my favorite three piece suits.

This year, though, October is a month of fire because I am watching the camera on the launch pad as the last solid fuel rocket carry the body of Robert Helam into the air, out of the atmosphere, and away from terra firma. Away, that is, towards the sun where the body of the most important man in the history of space exploration – that is, since John F. Kennedy bent the Russians and NASA over one giant chair and let rip – is going to be incinerated in the universe’s largest sarcophogus.

Helam, as you know, is the science-fiction writer who first adopted the “Shut the fuck up, you bastards, I know what I’m doing!” attitude of his contemporary American presidents to silence critics of manned space flight. I don’t think, though, any of you knew that he really enjoyed the music of Kylie Minogue. Of course you didn’t. You never drove in a car with him. It was maddening.

See, Helam and I were good friends. We skulked in the same circles. He was a science fiction writer (at a time where things like “curing cancer”, & “terraforming Mars” were something we all wanted but we too busy snickering at – the basis of most science fiction,) who became proactive in much the same way that Stephen King became a speed bump. It was if Sci-Fi was a new religion, and Robbie had fashioned himself a cult-of-personality.

So, sadly, in September of this year – amid the laughible Hurricane Cader – I watchced as the man who pioneered the use of social networking sites as tools to better expand the reach of SETI@home (and applied the same structures to NASA’s mission computers and tied advertising dollars to fund early Constellation Project missions,) leaked brain matter out of his nose.

Halem, the giant of human inginuity was struck dumb by Cerebral Deterioration Virus. CeDeV, the disease created when the earliest cancer-fighting nanobots began attacking the wrong sorts of bio-matter, was literally rotting the brain of one of the world’s brightest men.

It struck me as ironic. Not in that mildly horrifying Stephen Hawking/Professor Charles Xavier way. Not for Halem. He had to die in that fatally poetic Indian Larry sort of way.

I remember – some years ago – Robbie remarking that the only way “they’d get him is if they liquified his brain.” He wanted to come back as a giant floating monstrosity that scared women in into fetal positions and shot ray beams. The best we could manage was an AI with no personality at the Constellation Museum of Space Exploration next to the oldest space port on Earth.

(Which, to say, is a bit more endearing than the Alan Moore AI we erected at the Museum of Witchcraft and Extra-Spatial Exploration in North Hampton, UK. Basicly because a fifteen foot tall computer generated face of Alan Moore is creepy. Everywhere you go in that building feels like the thing is staring at you.)

So here I sit, some 75 years after my birth, in a state which I refuse to leave, watching as my good friend Robbie is rocketed off to become star-fuel. President Marsh sits in attendence straightening her skirt, standing next to her is Markum Futures – the noted Extra-Terrestrial Biologist & Sociologist – in a Def Leopard t-shirt. And it dawns on me, that just moments after his bloated and brainless corpse rocketed towards the sun and as I stare at these two mental “giants” set to take us to the next stage of human exploration, that I missed nothing more than my friend Dr. Halem hanging around.

Because, as with all great minds, everything just felt brighter with him around. Instead, I’m stuck not with the fiery leaves of a gorgeous New York fall, but the sickly brown of a wet Florida October. And that is no way to frame a goodbye.


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Mike Black is…

A writer, reader, commentator, music lover, art lover, futurist, tech lover, pragmatist, romantic, DepDecoist, and a bastard. Hopefully you enjoy.

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