Being in space is impossible to imagine. It is like being outside on your patio at night, and it’s quite a starry night and you are very tall. In fact you are so tall that your head ends up in space, but you can breathe like a scuba diver but without equipment, and it’s normal. And with your head all up in the darkness of the night sky and near all the stars you look around space. That’s what space is like, but you can’t breathe unless you are an alien or an astronaut or cosmonaut. Or an Chinese or Indian astronaut. What are they called? A racist would call them Bollynauts, but I will not. In the future there are not more racists. We learn this from Star Trek. What Star Trek doesn’t tell you is that everyone is really really judged on how well you can draw. “Stupid awful Draftsperson” they might say to someone. But they don’t show these scenes in ‘Star Trek’.
Anyway. Fifty Zastrons in the future is where we tell our story. And in space, which we have already established is impossible to imagine. A zastron in a measurement of time that came into being after years became too old fashioned. And Fifty Zastrons in the future, the Earth, or Erath as it came to be known after centuries of wrong iPhone automated spelling corrections, the Erath was just a few years away from destruction, even though they basically recycled everything, especially garden waste and metal. It didn’t matter, they had recycled everything and the world was still going to blow up as what no one had ever worked out is that in the middle of the Erath is lots of naturally occurring dynamite, and one night a man in Dorking had a bonfire in his garden and lit the fuse which was at the top end of some bracken, and when that happened they had only five jontins to get off the planet before it would explode as there was no way to put the fuse out without blowing the world up.
And so a new colony was formed on a brand new planet in the solar system. This brand new planet had never been seen because it was always night on this planet and from the outside it basically just looked like space. But one day a comet bumped into it in the same day that a scientist was looking at it through a huge telescope, and then we knew there was a new planet in the solar system which was named ‘Erath’. It was named ‘Erath’ before ‘Earth’ was renamed ‘Erath’, and could possibly explain the autocorrection mistake that happened with Erath. I mean Earth. I might call ‘Erath’ ‘Earth’ to avoid confusion. By Erath I mean Earth. I hope this it clear.
Anyway, it turned out that Erath was completely habitable, and the next couple of space-years were spent building a new colony to live in. A few hundred families were sent out there, and got on very well with the new place except that it was always nighttime, which mean that flowers didn’t grow much and people often felt very snoozy - a bit like after Christmas Dinner. But, because it was dark and the stars were out all the time, it also felt like being in space which was great as they could finally imagine what being in space was like.
All of the families lived in enormous metal tube houses which anchored to the ground with metal ropes to stop them floating away. In fact, there was no chance of them floating away - the gravity on Erath was the same as the gravity on Earth, but the man in charge of the buildings and indeed the ropes wasn’t a scientist he was a builder, and didn’t want to take any chances, not with the reputation he had built up on the website ‘trusted tradesmen’ which is one of only three websites still going that far off into the future. One of the others is the website created to publicise the film ‘Space Jam’. Which has remained unchanged since 1996 our years.
The families settled in and lived together in perfect harmony, growing new and exciting space vegetables, and hunting for alions, which as everyone knows is the secret real word for aliens. A lot of them were excited to be the pioneers of this brave new world and it made them feel like the olden day pioneers who were also pioneers and probably felt excited about being pioneers.
They would head out onto the surface of Erath with their laser lassoes, and also normal guns and see what they could catch. It was always nothing, and they would normally have nutrition pills for supper, followed by meteor pudding which is the future name for crumble.
But one family in particular had a different experience to everyone else. After experiencing a movie experience file in the family experiencing chamber - normally one of the Shreks or a Gavin and Stacey christmas special - they would go to their sleep tubes as normal.
That’s when the peculiar noises started to happen. Firstly it was footsteps, when everyone in the colony was as normal suspended at 45 degrees off the ground in their sleep tubes. Footsteps padding up and down, and now and again a mechanical sliding sound. You have to remember that these people are alone in space apart from the company, many miles away from the Erath. I mean Earth.
This was very strange, and shitted them right up.
As the nights went on, the noises continued. They heard more footsteps and mechanical sliding. And then they heard voices becoming clearer and clearer. They always moaned in monotonous tones. Eventually they picked out words. Egg. They heard. BLT. Tuna - is it line caught? Doesn’t say. How much is that Kit Kat. Can you ask him if they’ll give me a napkin? These words were nonsensical to these future heads, and sounded as weird to them as hearing medieval voices talking about peasants, and drawbridges and dragons would sound to us. But whenever they tried to descend from their sleeping tubes to see what was making the noise, the colony seemed empty and dark, with only the gentle hum of the natural deuriniser working in the background - an excellent machine which means you no longer have to go for a wee - the machine does it for you. It does not work for poos.
But as the disembodied voices went on later and later, they suddenly took on a new and terrifying twist. There was an awful sound of screeching metal and fire if fire made a sound but it doesn’t but you can imagine that, I promise you it’s not as hard to imagine as space is. And screaming and screaming and finally silence.
So this mystery continued - and as I said before it shitted them right up.
They soon lost all interest on colonising the planet properly which was a shame as they were there to save the whole population of Earth. Instead the people became obsessed with solving the mystery of the voices.
They didn’t have a word for what they were experiencing. You see, in the future, lots of words have changed. They have a word for rocketsickness - which is rocketsickness, timetravel sickness which is timetravelsickness and teleportationsickness which is ‘prunk’.
But they had lost some words too. Like Oxo, self-service till and haunting.
So scientific is our future that people had entirely forgotten about fanciful notions like haunting, doing your hair and also picnics because the outside is so terrifying what with all the broken glass rain and out of control robots.
But these people. These people on the virgin planet, hidden for so long in our solar system were experiencing emotions that hadn’t been felt for several zastrons. And they came up with a brand new word for it. They were being haunted. Because you see - the word haunted describes perfectly what it feels like to be haunted. So that’s the word they came up with.
They became obsessed with the haunting, and sat for night in the small section of living tube that the voices and eventual screaming was coming from.
Eventually - one of the children - came up with the notion of checking to see what the heat sensitive cameras covering the living areas had caught. They weren’t seeing anything, they were only hearing noises. But perhaps the cameras were seeing the full story.
They went back to control centre which was all upside down because gravity and they looked cool in it and reviewed the tapes.
What they saw took their breath away. In the always empty section of living tube, was fully occupied on camera. People dressed in primitive clothes - by which I mean jeans and tops from Fat Face were walking up and down - pressing buttons to open doors, and perusing what seemed to be a refrigerated cupboard which contained sandwiches. The people came and went and talked weirdly into rectangles they held up to their ears.
The images weren’t crisp of course. On the virtual monitors they came and went, leaving wispy trails of white and blue, like zantromorphs. You probably don’t know what they are.
Then all of a sudden the image changed. The tube was ripped apart like something being ripped apart easily. Bodies flew left and right and also up and down. Flames licked the walls like a hungry and hot tramp eating an ice cream.
And then nothing.
The tube was back to the way it was before. Empty, silent, brand new.
Soon after that the families started to leave. They couldn’t stand what they had seen.
But the leader of the pioneers, a man called Human 9 stayed on, and because he had once been a spy or a secret agent or something he had the phone number of the the president of the most powerful and successful country on old Earth - Africa.
He called the president and asked him to look into exactly what the living tubes were made of on the Erath colony.
He phoned back after he’d done some other chores, and he had got the correct information.
Apparently, that section of living tube was made out of the buffet car of a 21st century train that got smashed up in an accident killing thousands of people.
Remember - they recycled everything. Everything comes around again. Even ghosts.