If you are ever bored, and scrolling through the Galactapedia records of early spaceflight, you might find a brief entry for the Spaceship Phobos. Apart from a diagram of the ship, the record contains just three short sentences. This was normal for the time; back in those days very little was known about the effect interplanetary travel can have on human behaviour.
‘You should see the radiators in heaven, they are all solid gold, and the walls are white …not just white paint, but pure white right through to the brick’
‘Uh-huh, that’s great John’, said Kevin absentmindedly. He was focussed on the dashboard in front of him.
‘Do you like sausages?’, John asked eagerly, ‘because every morning in heaven they make a huge pile of…’
Thud. A bottle of water landed noisily on the dashboard.
‘You took my coat hanger!’.
Martina had returned from her cabin to the control room, after an absence of two weeks.
‘There’s no way John took it as he’s been in heaven’ she continued.
‘Yes, you should visit…’ interrupted John.
‘So, as Sherlock Holmes said …when you eliminate the probable, what you are left with, however improbable, is the truth. You took it!’
‘Martina, Sherlock Holmes is fiction. It’s not real. I didn’t steal anything from you, and if we don’t turn this ship around soon we will all die’.
The first five months of the mission had gone smoothly. It was during the sixth month that things started to go wrong. Kevin quickly realized that he was the only one still capable of navigating.
‘Martina, you must trust me when I tell you that you and John are hallucinating. I need you here, in the control room. Not hiding in your cabin conjuring up conspiracies’.
Martina slowly sank into a seat across from Kevin. There were three seats in the control room, and three cabins which entered into it. Each cabin had everything required for living. The door to Johns was wide open, as always.
It was filthy.
‘Take a look’, Kevin gestured towards the open door; ‘does that look like any form of heaven to you?’.
Martina was silent.
‘Now look at the control panel’, Kevin continued, ‘you must recognise that we are no longer heading towards Earth’.
‘I, I don’t know Kevin, it looks the same to me …are you sure?’
‘Very sure Martina. I’ve been monitoring it for weeks. Something must have been wrong with the telemetry’.
John burst out of his room and sat down on the third chair. He was holding a coffee mug. There was a sock dangling from it.
‘Look at the size of the teabags they have in heaven’ he beamed.
‘Ooh, that’s lovely John’, said Martina, ‘could I get a cup?’
‘John, go back to your quarters’, barked Kevin, ‘…sorry, I mean heaven’
He turned to Martina.
‘I need you to reverse the thrusters, you’re the only one who knows how’
‘But John was about to make tea’
‘Martina, it’s a hallucination, please focus …our lives depend on it’
Kevin’s hand danced over a keypad and the control panel in front of Martina lit up.
‘Martina, please, do it …before it’s too late’.
The spaceship shuddered at the change in course.
John appeared at his cabin door with another mug.
‘Hey Martina, I’ve got that tea for you‘
‘Jesus, not now John!’
Kevin leapt from his chair to close the door but his left leg locked up. He tried to move. His knee would not bend. He fell.
‘I’ve made that change Kevin, and that‘s the last of the fuel, I hope you’re right’, said Martina.
Kevin looked back up at the display.
Suddenly he was no longer sure. He grasped his leg. To his surprise his fingers rounded on a coat hanger stashed within the lining of his trousers.
If you are ever bored, and find the Galactapedia record for the Spaceship Phobos; you will see the following entry:
The Spaceship Phobos was the first manned craft to make the trip from Earth to Mars. It departed from its course during the return journey. No trace of the spaceship or its crew of three has ever been found.