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Cowardice 


Raiyan Siddiqui


Fear. It’s a strange thing, this fear.

Said to be the most primordial of emotions, this fear is what can essentially be called the main driving force behind life, or the urge to live. But Richard Stevenson took it a little too far. Completely ignoring the daily dosage recommended at the back of the packet, he inhaled (and rarely exhaled) fear. He had a rather unique and large collection of fears, too. So for him to be on the Apollo 15 shuttle on its journey to the moon was quite baffling. The reason was his parents. Richard was born to a very wealthy household. He rarely travelled anywhere without private transportation and was always escorted by at least 5 bodyguards. Living in such overprotectiveness was one of the main reasons he grew up to be so fearful of the outside world.

So, it is safe to say that Richard’s parents were the definition of controlling and forceful. Their lifelong dream was for their son to become an astronaut, regardless of what his opinion was. Quite a contradictory aim for such narrow-minded people, considering how open and large space was. They forced their son to prepare to venture into the great beyond, while still not letting him roam freely in the very close mortal world.

Still, Richard remained the obedient son and strived to fulfill the dreams of someone else. That proved to be particularly difficult for him, what with all the fears he never learnt to deal with even in his adulthood. Starting from the basic fears like upsetting his parents, talking to people, failing at exams (though he got straight A’s throughout his student life) to the slightly complex ones like death, to the absolutely ridiculous ones like what if there actually was a Jurassic Park somewhere and they had a breakout; he had it all. The man was so fearful of everything that could happen (or, in his mind, would definitely happen), that at one point it started to feel like if he was, for one moment, not afraid, the world would self-destruct. Whenever he faced a new situation, he momentarily became Doctor Strange — thinking about and actually believing all the ways it could all go wrong. He was the perfect recruit for the Yellow Lantern Corps and would have surely climbed its ranks really fast. 

So, it was a miracle; no, not just a miracle, but divine interference that he became an astronaut for NASA. I don’t know how, but I theorise his greatest fear was his parents and the fear of disappointing them helped him suppress all his other fears. Still, a small part of him believed that if he was antisocial and mediocre enough at his job, he might not actually have to go to space. But he was still an oddly intelligent person and his higher-ups quickly recognised that potential. So, he was shortlisted for potential recruitment for the third manned moon exploration mission. And he got the invitation after a couple of days (although daddy’s money did play a part in quickening the selection process). As usual, Richard wanted to be terrified. All those suppressed fears of his wanted to burst through, but without giving it much thought he agreed for the mission and found himself one fateful day in the Apollo-15 spaceship.

Richard was strapping on his safety belts at the space shuttle of the Apollo-15. Then suddenly, without any prior notification, he properly realized the weight of what he was about to do. The initial feeling was pride, followed by…you guessed it: Fear. His overthinking mind started thinking of all the ways this mission could go wrong. The spaceship might not even take off, rather it might just burst and kill the crew. Even if it does take off, what guarantee is there that it will not malfunction mid-air and fall straight to hell? Just to remind you, the guy had a Master’s degree in Engineering, but that didn’t stop him from being so superstitious. His paranoia was interrupted when the control center announced to start preparation for the final countdown. Shaking with fear and with a thousand dystopian scenarios running through his mind, Rick strapped the final belt. He was not at all prepared for this.

Much to his surprise, the spaceship had a really smooth takeoff and didn’t malfunction mid-air. That didn’t stop Rick. Space is described to be a soothing experience for many. But not for Richard. He was terrified of space, now having seen it up close. Each star seemed like a threat to him, the darkness seemed like a big malicious monster waiting to strike. By the end of the journey, he was almost insane. No way could someone convince him that the shuttle would land safely on the moon. 

Richard was proven wrong again. They had landed safely on the surface of the moon. His mind was finally put to rest, or so he thought. Over the course of this five day long scouting mission on finding suitable places to colonise on the moon, Rick felt like he saw shadows. It was a feeling he couldn’t describe to his colleagues. Whenever they went on a drive on the moon, he felt like he was constantly being watched by someone. Once, he thought he saw a ghost-like figure in the distance, which quickly vanished. He was reminded of all the conspiracy theories from back home. Once, he actually heard someone in the distance, but upon closer inspection, found it was just a tape recorder left behind by the previous team. Being Rick, he was scared out of his mind.

So, when their mission ended, he was easily the happiest man on the moon. The Apollo-15’s thrusters roared in the airless space as Rick said bye to a nightmare of a trip. He fell asleep immediately after take-off, because there was only so much energy left from being afraid all the time. When he woke up, he saw that the proposal of joining the moon exploration mission had just come. He was clearly surprised, as he vaguely remembered doing it just a while back. But he dismissed it as a dream, and went ahead to show the proposal to his parents.

Oookyu was watching the mental feed from the 6th alien prisoner they had captured. Records said that his name was Richard Stevenson, and he was part of an alien group from Earth that wanted to colonise Earth’s moon — Ookyu’s homeland. This was unforgivable. Not only did it violate the Galactic Law of non-interference in the sovereignty of a planet’s own satellite, it was a serious blow to the Jhyunder’s pride. So, peaceful negotiation was off the table. They hired the Martian military force, said to be the best in stealth warfare around the solar system. They skillfully detained the wannabe colonisers, and now, the prisoners’ minds were set on loops  where they had to experience the same scenarios over and over again.

Oookyu decided to continue watching Rick’s mental feed to gain a better understanding about these scourges. Records said that the Earthling was very cowardly. But really, just how much of a coward could he be?

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