Ann strapped herself to the rocket. It was a solo job, fastening the safety harness to the underside, laughing as she hooked up.
'Safety,' she said.
Launch happened an hour later. The stars were out, clear weather for December but still with a nip in the air. Things heated up soon enough.
There was, of course, an objective but reaching the highest point in the atmosphere would be enough for her. She wanted her breath to catch, giddy tingles in her brain. A perspective change.
Ann clung onto the rocket, her chin pressed against the cold metal of the tube. The vibrations rattled her skull. Her eyes were already watering. She couldn't quite tell all that from the tears.
Ascension. Her eardrums shattered. The pressure exerted outside her head overpowered the pressure from within. She screamed but couldn't hear it. All that ringing and rattling: she didn't anticipate it.
She hadn't been thinking. Even her objective was hazy now she thought about it, something so close to fiction it suddenly lost all worth.
The sky that was once above her was now around her, thin veils of cloud swirling just below. There was a peculiar scent to the air: iron and salt.
She felt herself loosening. The tether lasted just long enough to catch her, to hold her upside down.
Ann glimpsed something. There was little oxygen up here and her view was wrong.
Nevertheless she mouthed 'Santa' and fell.