Cole Skyles has been at the space station for the last eight months. While conducting research on growing flowers in zero gravity, he heard about a horrendous viral pandemic sweeping across Earth that infected millions and killed thousands. Altough the situation worried Cole very much, he expected the whole debacle to be over by the time he returned.
Only that did not happen. His landing day approached, and the virus kept raging on.
The day of touchdown was finally here, and with a heavy heart he, alongside two other fellow astronauts, made a successful parachute-assisted landing on a clear patch at Kazakhstan.
From space, Earth looked the same before and after the Pandemic. It was difficult for Cole to wrap his head around the fact that a huge change had taken place. It was one thing to watch the news of an event, and entirely another thing to experience it firsthand.
After coming back, he spent a whole day relishing in creature comfort - walking around in a large space, which was impossible in the cramped space station. Eating fresh fruits and going for runs were also things he enjoyed. However, the next thing in his bucket list was to eat out at a burger joint, and that simply was not possible given the current condition.
Cole could not even take a step out of his home without feeling like something was wrong. The streets were deserted, and none of the burger joints were opens.
"My long anticipated burger…" he thought to himself and felt like crying. Dejected, he went home, slapped together a homemade burger and ate it while watching Netflix.
Without the constant challenge of living in space and carrying out research, Cole soon became anxious. There was only so much Netflix one could watch.
"Do some meditation," Elin Rodett, one of his fellow astronauts who came back to Earth the same time him, advised. But no matter how much incense he burned and how long he spent in his lotus pose, his mind did not rest.
After a while, the novelty of being back on Earth wore off and he became impatient about being stuck at home like everyone else. He could not sleep well, and the lack of food from his favourite restaurants made him cranky. When he got a bad cold and wanted to go to the hospital, he was firmly told to stay home and suffer through it. The sports events he was anticipating were called off, the concert he wanted to dance at was cancelled. His neighbour's children were home and their incessant yelling gave him a headache.
Moreover, he had to witness some things he never thought he would witness. Some people were actually trying to break the lockdown saying it was their right! Some employers refused to let their employees work from home and either forced them to come to work or slacked them. He tried to spend his time on social media, and it worked for a while as he was entertained by people trying new things. But after a while, some people started preaching how these creative things like cooking and dancing were bad in a time of crisis. Infuriated, Cole stopped checking social media as well.
All in all, his life had become unbearable! So, he did the only thing he could imagine doing, he signed up for the next space station stint.
"Bye bye Earth," he thought. "Being in a spaceship feels much better than being in lockdown!"