The Space Race

Entry by: safemouse

22nd January 2016
Once, the constellations clamored for an audience in a mime as quiet as a grave. Like an encyclopaedia of pain to those without a sense of touch, nothing they said could be understood. We smiled serenely at fire. No wiser than babes that gaze at plastic stars above their cots.

The light of the universe shone upon us but it was a truth we were too blind to see. Like a billion billion channels on a TV set we never turned on.

But mankind began to crawl from his crib. And then she ran. And, like a parent chasing after a toddler that rushes headlong, we were pulled back from the brink.


I remember the day the president announced the construction of the first moon base, wearing her lucky cashmere cardigan. It was like being an extra in a movie. ‘Man watching TV screen.’ I could hear the first foreboding chords of an orchestra, the tinkling of a piano down a corridor, the slinky voice of a saxophone. It was an erotic ‘I lived to see this,’ moment but it was also unsettling. The holographic internet had been awash with rumours that we had been ‘warned off’ the moon. That we had signed a deal with the aliens. That none of this was true.

I went to my room dabbing the sweat on my neck with tissues held in clammy palms. I called my mom and ordered a pizza. Finally, I breathed out and felt my own heartbeat. This was it. This was us moving out into the wider world that was ever so much bigger than out little town. What really was out there? The aliens in our movies were just us in disguise. I went outside and looked up. Those tiny specs of lights had defied the territorial ambitions of our imaginations for so long, their secrets were not as we imagined, I was sure. I was sure the universe contained an exposé that ordinary people could never guess. How did I know?

Just as we were on the cusp of breaking into outer space we were making important strides in inner space. That was my line of work. Thrust upon me by my government, all done in strictest secrecy. I worked in a mind research facility in China. I was given drugs that were a key to a multi-verse of remarkable truths and whopping fabrications. In short, a black hole of inconclusive data not applicable to everyday life until, one day, I pushed the barriers. They were going to destroy an intoxicant that they, even by their harsh standards, deemed unsafe for me to drink. But drink it I did and collapsed.

The next moment I was standing outside a room. Inside there were twelve genderless beings sat round a table. I could read their thoughts.
“Let us celebrate the expanded mandate of the Mass Experiment Corporation, which has been working in a junior capacity for eons but after a hostile takeover bid, assumes a controlling stake,” said one. The others bowed their heads.
Another one continued. “From now on, it's year zero for Planet Earth. Some souls will be transferred in their containers, most will leave their containers during the catastrophe. A very few will live in a post-apocalyptic scenario. I hope we can thrive again and return a profit for our shareholders.”
I awoke on the floor.
“Are you ok?”

“Yes, fine. I just saw some people.”

I had to give the details of hallucinations for the record, no matter how silly. No matter how like the stuff of comic-book clichés. I sighed.
“The Solar System is just one big laboratory, we're all doomed. I just met the ones organising the doom.”
“I'd better make a call,” my colleague said, evidently worried.
I didn't see why. It was routine for me to see things that didn’t make sense. The mind was the consummate storyteller, with more plot holes than all the galaxies combined. Why was now any different? Why was this one dream any more persuasive than countless others?
Within the hour I was sat in a windowless room.
“You should be dead all ready,” a voice said.
“Why aren't I?”
“I don't know, a glitch in the system. The chances are less than one in many trillions.”
“Do you know who those people were?
He shrugged and went to look out of where a window would be if there was one. “Not exactly.”
He turned round. “They are far beyond language, that was for your benefit. They can move between dimensions quite easily.” He looked down, as if ashamed. “They control things down here.”
“Do you think they were joking?”

“You have to go back and find out.”

I went home. I was just a boy of 32. Why me? My girlfriend sent me a fake suicide letter. A speciality of hers. My droid fixed me some noodles. An advert played when it opened the soya sauce. I put my VR headset on and went to the moon. It wasn’t that unusual for my superiors to have a paranoid turn. Hopefully this would all blow over.

The next day I was taken to a different place and given a set of instructions I had to memorize and recite. Finally, when they were satisfied I could remember I was given a second dose. A much larger one this time. The room simply faded away as if all along it had been a mirage. I was stood looking at Saturn. It was massive. I gasped. Fell on my knees. Just felt incredibly emotional looking at Saturn. Then what we have become accustomed to calling a woman approached me.

I had seen beautiful before but it was magnified in every one of my senses. I felt like a village idiot with straw in his mouth staring at a princess. She was wearing a dressing gown, not done up very tightly, and had her hair done up in a towel. My trips certainly had their perks.
“You know you shouldn't be here. It's lovely to see you. Really it is. But you have to go back," she said, sat beside me, with one hand on another, and looking into my eyes like I was the only person that existed. I love that trick. I'd tried it on girls but never quite pulled it off without seeming creepy.

“But I...”
“I’ve been asked to find out how long we have. And I...I also have a question of my own.”
“Which is?”
“Well. Why can’t we continue as we were. Reaching for the stars?”
“You are not allowed into space. Not yet.”
“But you let us get so far.”
“You’re not ready.”
“You mean we aren’t...good?”
Then she leant forward and blew air on my forehead so that my fringe momentarily danced in the air and pulled a face, like she was an eight year old girl, not an enlightened one.
"Okay, my little one. Seeing as you asked. I don't suppose there's any harm in telling you."
She drew a circle in the sand of a beach. As I peered inside it I saw the history of the Earth. The dinosaurs, the rise and fall of civilizations. The secrets of the pyramid and who built the moon. I saw that from the dawn of the space race we had known about the aliens but had ignored them like lions in a savannah do those strange people in four wheel drive jeeps. I saw that they had tampered with all our probes that sent back pictures of lifeless planets.
I looked at her with eyes of supplication.
"Tell me, is this true? Or is this just another story?"
"To you humans things are dead or alive. True or false. But words themselves only contain the understanding of the person that hears them; not their ultimate reality."
Then she whispered in my ear and I was back on Earth.
“Are you back?”
“Yes. Look, tell your people. We've only got 24 hours to save the world.”
He shook his head. “There's nobody on our payroll that knows how to do that. It wasn't long ago we were all defenceless, crying babies.”

“So then what?”

“The best advice I can give you is to be good to people. Do yourself a favour and give your soul the best future prospects. You may as well start now.”
“Is that it? Be nice to people. You mean all those other distractions are just...”
He nodded. Duh. The space race was over. For now.
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