Outer space, in a rocket.
Joseph Hitchcock - Space traveler who starts to question the reality of everything he can't experience directly.
Clemens - Hitchcock's friend and fellow crewman.
Captain - Concerned about Hitchcock.
Psychiatrist - Believes Hitchcock should undergo shock treatment.
Joseph Hitchcock, who loses his sanity in outer space and questions everything.
Clemens, who tries to help Hitchcock past this fatal doubt.
Hitchcock exits the rocket in the middle of outer space.
Clemens muses on how Hitchcock achieved his wish to be surrounded by nothingness.
As with "The Long Rain", the main theme of this story is the struggle for sanity in an insane situation. Along with this is a fascination for emptiness, the desire to become part of nothingness - which is, in a way, a death wish.
On a rocket hurtling through outer space, Hitchcock and Clemens discuss Earth. Hitchcock no longer believes there is such thing as an Earth, and whatever evidence Clemens cites - dreams, memories, the sun - are dismissed as not being good enough. Hitchcock has determined to be practical and rely only on the evidence immediately available to him. Clemens ignores him and basks in his memories. Hitchcock warns that wallowing in memories will only hurt and he won't be hungry for lunch; later, he is correct and reminds Clemens of his prediction. Hitchcock then questions whether or not the stars are real, since no one has ever touched one.
Clemens asks Hitchcock why he decided to come on this trip; Hitchcock doesn't know at first but then decides it was being in space, of being surrounded by nothing. Clemens asks about his childhood, and Hitchcock claims he was never young, that every day has a different self which is unable to contact the earlier selves. Clemens disagrees but Hitchcock presses his larger point, arguing about whether meteors exist or even if there is an upstairs to the ship. Unable to see upstairs at the very moment, he refuses to accept it exists. After Hitchcock rushes off, someone asks how long he has been behaving this way. It has been a couple of days and getting worse; no one contacted the psychiatrist, hoping he'd come out of it.
Clemens goes to check on Hitchcock, who is touching a wall and is surprised to find Clemens alive. Clemens suggests that Hitchcock see Dr. Edwards, but again Hitchcock doubts the person's existence. Hitchcock says he first got the idea of traveling space five years ago, when he lost his job, then his wife died, and his life fell apart. Wanting to be a writer, he looked at a manuscript page with his name on it and could not prove he had truly written the story on it. This fascination for the gaps in proof, the spaces between experiences, is what interested him in traveling the stars. Clemens goes to find the doctor when a meteor hits the ship, punching a hole in the hull which is immediately sealed by an emergency spider. Hitchcock is injured by this incident and is in tears, believing space tried to kill him.
Seventeen hours later, the captain and psychiatrist are watching Hitchcock, who is not in a good state. The captain tells Clemens to talk to him, but Hitchcock makes no response. The doctor decides shock treatment should begin in an hour. Twelve hours later, an alarm sounds: Hitchcock snapped and walked out into space alone, muttering how there was "Only space." It's too late to go back for him and Clemens thinks of Hitchcock being out in the space, surrounded by nothing.