The Boy who Lassoed the Earth | Sunday Observer

The Boy who Lassoed the Earth

James looked up at the dark star-covered sky and wondered aloud, as he always did when he lifted his head to look up at the heavens, “I wonder if a little boy like me could go to space and see the Earth from up there.” He often expressed this thought to his parents, who just laughed in amusement, like James was cracking a witty joke. But James was very serious about it.

He’d gotten about to build a “rocket ship” in his backyard with cardboard boxes and duct tape, but he was frustrated when he realised he couldn’t make it fly. He’d heard about Neil Armstrong, and all others who’d ventured out to space, and his dream was to become an astronaut like them.

But he didn’t want to wait until he was older. He wanted to go up there right away. He didn’t care that the others thought how impossible it seemed for a ten-year-old boy to do things astronauts did. And that night, he realised his long-awaited wish. James was lying down in his bed, hiding beneath the covers and reading one of his books about the space with the help of a torch.

He liked to do that once his parents forced him into bed; reading his space books as the last thing for the day made him feel very satisfied. It was as he was getting to the section about volcanoes on Mars that his ears caught a loud pop sound.

James pushed back his duvet in alarm, and found a thick rope hanging from the ceiling in front of him by the feet hidden underneath the duvet with patterns of different planets and galaxies. But the rope didn’t seem to start at the ceiling. The top part of it wasn’t there, as if it extended above James’s roof.

There was another pop sound, and the next second, a cluster of small shimmering stars appeared in front of James and drifted about until James could make out a message: Hand on to the rope! A rush of adrenaline surged through James, and his hands almost robotically flew towards the rope. James was far too excited to scream as the rope immediately lifted him upwards and off his bed at the speed of sound, everything a blur as James passed through his ceiling like he was a transparent ghost, and went up and up. James shut his eyes tight when the speed became too unbearable and his eyes started to sting like a scorpion bite.

When he sensed that he was slowing down, James tentatively cracked open an eye, which almost rolled out of its socket at what he saw. He saw his planet, the Earth, below him, getting smaller and smaller as James seemed to drift further and further away from it. Soon, he was far enough to have a complete view of all the planets in the Solar System, even Neptune, all just the way his books had described them. James was so fascinated and ecstatic that he was actually in space that he didn’t even wonder how he was able to breathe without any oxygen. James saw the Sun, burning hot and looking bigger than he’d ever imagined it to be. He was glad he was far away from it; he had no desire to be burnt like a human marshmallow.

He marvelled at the balls of fire he saw at a distance, and realised they were the stars he looked at almost every night from his backyard. Now he had such a close-up view of them; it was the best sensation he felt in his life. James saw colourful cloud-like things that clashed with unusual but attractive colour combinations, and remembered the pictures of various nebulas he’d often looked at in his books. He saw all that and more—even things he’d never seen or read about. James was so happy that he felt he could burst. “I’ve been further into space than any astronaut has,” He said proudly.

“I’ll be famous when I get home!” Then he paused, and saw his home, his Mother Earth, getting more out of reach every passing minute. “Oh, my home!” He exclaimed wistfully. As much as James loved being in space at last, he didn’t like the fact that he was drifting away from the Earth, and would probably never make it back. James didn’t want to spend his entire life in space. “I’ve got to go back,” He said. “But how?” James suddenly became aware of the thick rope he was still holding on to and had a crazy idea. He wasn’t sure if it would work; it seemed pretty far-fetched. But he had to try.

James gathered as much of the long rope as he could, and tied a very wide knot that he hoped was enough for his plan. James took a deep breath and started swinging the rope over his head like a cowboy. The Earth was now the size of the next fullstop. Desperately and determinedly, he threw the rope forwards, holding onto the other end as tightly as he could. James watched anxiously as the rope sailed through outer space, getting closer and closer to his target. It’s a magic rope, He tried to reassure himself. It brought me here, so it would certainly know how to take me back. At last, James saw the rope hover over the Earth, cut through its gravitational field and wound itself firmly around it, squeezing the Earth like a lemon.

James didn’t know what that would do to the planet’s inhabitants, but he couldn’t worry much about it. James swept his eyes one last time at all of the remarkable things he’d seen, and tugged at the rope. He felt that whizzing sensation of travelling at the speed of sound again, felt that he’d left his stomach somewhere near Jupiter as he buzzed past the large planet. I suppose I’ll have to answer a lot of worldwide questions when I get home, James thought with a smile.

Binadie Ratnayake

Dedicated to and inspired by my little brother, Yenul, who’s a little astronaut himself.

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