[This is a story I had written for Liars’ League HK’s “Inner Space & Outer Space” evening, back in December 2016. It wasn’t selected — hey, it happens –, but it still makes me smile when I read it. And feel ashamed, too. I thought I’d share, so you can tell me what you think.]
Excerpts from the special report on the disappearance of the United Nations’ Space Mission Endeavour.
Captain Denver’s log, February 1st, 2061.
We are now approaching the crux of our mission, halfway through our six-year round-trip: the heliopause. The place where the solar wind dies off, and interstellar vacuum begins. I have deployed the plasma sails, which will now drag us automatically back toward the Sun. It will take a few months. In the meantime, we will collect tons of data, to help scientists design the next generation of starships, those who will finally allow mankind to bridge the chasm, over to the nearest stars and beyond. How do I feel? Elated, of course. I think we should celebrate, but you didn’t let us bring any alcohol. Well, rehydrated orange juice will have to do. Denver, out.
Dr. Jones’ log:
Mission Control, this is Rachel logging in. All biological systems are operational – and I am very well, thank you. Could you please check the ship’s initial manifest? When I did the monthly stocktake yesterday, I found two fewer bags of potatoes, and one fewer bag of sugar. Thank you. Jones, over and out.
Engineer Welsh’s log:
Mission Control, Welsh here. All systems nominal. Over.
Control, if there’s one thing I like less than talking, it’s talking about me. Over.
Control, received. I’ll ask him to make an effort.
Control, you want to know how I feel? Well, I’m mad. I just spent two hours scrubbing cat shit off a ventilation shaft – because cute Felix here loves nothing more than scurrying into dark, confined places. And who has to clean up after him? Not his mistress, of course not. I hate that bastard.
The solar wind’s strength is dropping precipitously. This is it. We are leaving the Solar System. I went out to see. The Sun is still the brightest object, but not by much. It’s just a single point, without feature, without any sense of proximity anymore. For an instant, I even thought I had lost it. I was afraid we were lost, forever unable to find our way back. I… No, nothing. Denver, out.
Control, for the past few days, I’ve noticed some ‘pings’ coming from the hull. Requesting permission to exit the ship to make a visual inspection.
I’ve now safely returned from the EVA. We have indeed taken a few impacts on the hull, probably from micrometeorites. Nothing critical, but this region of space must be denser than we thought. Sending you pictures right now.
That fucking cat’s got diarrhea. Do you know how cat diarrhea looks like in zero-gravity? Bubbles. Bubbles that float everywhere and explode when you try to catch them. There’s liquid cat shit on our clothes, in our hair – even in our lungs right now! For fuck’s sake!
Mission Control, I’m requesting formal authorization to terminate the cat.
Mission Control, I ask you to reconsider.
Fuck you, Mission Control.
I did some calculations today. We currently are a hundred times further from the Sun than Earth is. Twenty times further than Jupiter. Even Pluto is two times closer. If we walked day and night, it would take three hundred and forty thousand years to come back to Earth. Well, except that’s it’s always night outside, so we’d have to walk night and night. God, we are so far away…
Captain Denver, were you inebriated on your last message? Please remember that you are not alone — you can always go see your teammates if you need company…
Mission Control, what the fuck did you tell Denver? He came to the greenhouse drunk and crying, and tried to assault me. I had to physically kick his ass out, and lock the door to prevent him from coming back. Please revert. Jones out.
Control, you were right – Denver did brew some moonshine behind our back. I destroyed it all while he was in the loo. Can’t say he took it well – I really didn’t like the look he gave me when he discovered. Over.
The pings are becoming more frequent. This doesn’t make any sense – our instruments don’t detect anything outside. Although… No, I must have imagined it. Over.
Control, I would like authorization to access the drug cabinet. I think I’m hallucinating – whenever it’s dark, I can see things moving. Like… tendrils, or something. Please advise.
Denver scares me. He doesn’t leave his cabin anymore, except to grab food. I saw him glare at the greenhouse door, from afar. I now keep it locked day and night. As for Welsh, he walks in a complete haze. Did you give him drugs? Additional question – the cat threw up today, something that looked like a tentacle. Yet I cannot find any seafood on the manifest. Can you please check? Jones out.
I can hear them trying to get in. Welsh, and that bitch Jones, with their little tools, going ‘ping, ping, ping!’ against the walls all around me. They’re trying to drive me mad – but I have a surprise for them. What good is it to be Captain if you don’t have an ordinance gun, eh?
The pills don’t work – I can still see them, wherever light doesn’t shine. The darker it is, the more solid they get. I think that’s why they keep so far away from the Sun, why we never saw them until now… But they are here, outside – and inside, too, if it’s dark enough… Probably not entirely from our dimension… They’re trying to drill holes through our hull, and I’ve just noticed they’ve ripped our sails to pieces. I don’t know how we’ll ever manage to get back on course to Earth… I need to talk to Denver…
Mission Control, Denver has gone mad – he has taken hold of a loading droid, and he’s now trying to tear open the greenhouse door… I think he wants to kill me… I… No! No! Please no !
Engineer Welsh’s last entry:
Control, Welsh here. I’m aboard an escape pod – many things happened over the past few hours. When I knocked on Denver’s door, he shot me. The bullet lodged into my shoulder, and I lost consciousness. I think he believed me dead. I was awakened by the emergency signal – the hull had been breached, and we were decompressing fast. I only had time to rush to the pod. On my way, I saw the greenhouse door ripped asunder, and Jones… smashed to pieces. I ejected the pod without waiting for Denver. I didn’t have time – and he had just shot me. I couldn’t risk it. I’m not even sure he was still alive. I then spent the next hour extracting the bullet and sewing me back shut.
I’ve calculated the pod’s trajectory. It’s not ideal, but if you send a mission my way in three years, we should be able to rendezvous. I now must survive, alone, for a thousand days, in forty square feet. Those yoga videos will get handy…
On the bright side, I no longer see those… things… Although, to be on the safe side, I have switched on all the lights inside and out…
No, wait – something has moved.
Can you see it?
Right there, on the floor, between the cables?
Not the fucking cat!