In Space Everyone Can Hear Everything

J. Andrew Briseño

This is a story about you: A man paid $7,500 to have a Mark Sanchez jersey shot beyond the solar system. The jersey came from a playoff game in which Sanchez had fumbled the ball after colliding face to ass with a teammate; the other team returned the so-called ass-fumble for a touchdown, ending the Jets’ season.

The man, Jim Harrickson, has paid this money because he is a serious fan of the Jets, and wants to protect the jersey from anti-fans and others who might use it to shame him and his team, and also he feels this jersey, which he paid $810 for, making his total investment in this endeavor more than $8,000, “has no place left on this earth.”

This jersey will be packed into the cargo hold of a satellite being shot into orbit by a corporation that would like to remain nameless. This corporation uses this satellite to track people’s cellular phones — nothing creepy, one of the tracking services no one minds having. To launch satellites into space requires ballast, and so in addition they offer the service of launching any given thing into space at the rate of $10 million per square meter. Ashes are most common, and most begrieved individuals opt to send only a tiny fraction of their loved ones out into the black. Wedding rings. Photos of those who requested space burial but for whom no ashes can be located. This corporation assisted Mr. Hendrickson in packing his jersey into the smallest possible container, a vacuum-sealed plastic tube slightly smaller than a beer bottle.

This is what the story is: Not that this man loved a team so much he paid a small fortune to put a shamed shirt out of the reach of his imagined enemies, and not that a corporation that watches you while you sleep in a way that comforts you more than it bothers you is also charging a great sum of money to use the dead as ballast and set them drifting towards no one knows what.

The story is that in an infinite universe, with infinite possibilities, this, like every secret, will be unearthed. Some creatures not at all like us will find this package and will, if we can understand them at all, assume it was a message to them. And what will they make of this, the tiny capsules of ash, the grass-stained shirt packed into a bottle it could never return to, the tiny circles of gold, the photos of those lost and not recovered — whatever else was worth the price to push that far away. What will they see when they look? What will it tell them about themselves?

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