Andy Warhol’s Space Junk by Christine Sherry

It’s me.  Please call back, we should talk.  I’m walking a trail right now and the sky is pink with cold.  Behind me the hills rise from the mist like the scaly back of a sleeping dragon.  I couldn’t sleep and came here early to scream where no one would hear.

I heard the news earlier and thought of you.  Scientists plan to remove rubbish from Earth’s atmosphere.  Space junk, he called it and I thought of fly tipping in outer space – sofas, mattresses and old washing machines in orbit among the cigarette butts and dog turds – way up there in the altitude of God.

But in reality space junk is just dead satellites.  There are thousands of them and they collide with active satellites causing a massacre of dead machines and more space junk.  Funny how the instant something stops being useful it starts being rubbish. I know that first-hand.  Scientists want to lasso dead satellites and either bring the wreckage back to Earth or let it burn on re-entry.  Like us, come back or burn.  I’m phoning to ask.

And we need to communicate, that’s why satellites are so important.  Without them, if they all die in collisions, the Earth will be sent back to smoke signals, pigeons and Morse.  But for now there are mega constellations of satellites beaming the internet to our analogue brains.  We go to our computers to search for a sourdough recipe and come away believing the Earth is flat.  I think of this and the cowardly email you sent and conclude the only good satellite is a dead satellite.

The Moon is no better.  It’s littered with failed space probes.  Other things left on the Moon:  An olive branch, golf balls, a family photograph and art by Andy Warhol.  Not the Monroe or Campbell’s soup, but a sketch of a cartoon penis.  And this is when I thought of you.  I knew you’d find it funny.  Can see your eyebrows rise with the curve of your mouth.  You’d say something like, Warhol’s dick pic or Warhol’s space junk.

Look, if you don’t answer my calls I’ll keep leaving messages.  I’m like the satellites that send the same message into deep-space over and over:  Tum-tum-ta-tum-tum, because no-one can resist the reply, Tum-tum!  I think it’s sad that we broadcast into the infinite black of the universe because we can’t bear to think of ourselves alone.

Anyway, I better get down from this hill.  My eyes hurt from the bleached artic sun.  You can tell Spring has arrived because the birds are returning to their nests, makes you wonder where they’ve been.  And without Summer the spikey trees somehow lack significance.  You know how you only realise something has gone the moment it returns.  Often we dread the silence but in reality it’s better than the constant sense of having said something before.  Anyway, call me.

Christine Sherry is a Londoner born and bred and a West Midlander by choice. She lives and works in a beautiful part of Worcestershire. Although she has been shortlisted and longlisted for various prizes, this is her first published piece of fiction. She has also been published in The Guardian. You can find her on twitter @cp_sherry