Written by Carolyn Ward
(A Runner-up entry in the Off the Beaten Track Writing Competition.)
It was quite by accident that we discovered the secret launch site, built as an addition to our tiny local airport. The vineyards around Bobbinfield were our original aim, a day out sampling a few glasses of local wines, until I spotted a huge aeroplane sitting vertically alongside the usual helicopters and small planes.
We wandered across to take a closer look, and a man in a red spacesuit hurried over. He offered us the chance to hop on, to join the next flight. ‘But where to?’ asked Raymond.
‘The dark side of the moon.’ His dramatic tone was matched by the sun being hidden by a swathe of black clouds, and I gulped.
‘Oh let’s do it!’ Raymond was thrilled at the chance to visit somewhere so different. I was more reluctant, considering the risks…the G force…and my wine. I hadn’t finished…
A door opened, and a set of steps extended. Raymond forged ahead, finding at the top a luxurious cabin with enough space for twenty travellers. ‘Only you today!’ the man winked.
The seats were large with a pink pill and a glass of water in the arm of every one, and I examined the pill closely.
‘So you sleep for the journey,’ said our guide. He was sitting next to Raymond now, and they clinked glasses as they took their pills. ‘Can’t we stay awake?’ I asked as they leaned back.
‘The view is a tad…monotonous. And the journey is about 50 hours,’ he looked apologetic.
After a refreshing snooze which honestly only felt like an hour, we awoke, to see the awesome sight of the moon close up.
‘Wait till you see the dark side,’ said the man, as Raymond stood by the window with his eyes wide. I strained to look the other way to try and see earth, and caught sight of a ghostly blue blob. I felt emotional to see our home planet so reduced, but Raymond was like a small boy.
It was rather bumpy as we shot through the moon’s atmosphere. We stared down at the darkness, and then spotted a surprising patch of light.
‘Welcome to the Secret Lunar Complex.’
My mouth fell open. ‘A holiday complex? Hidden on the moon?’
‘It has only just been completed.’ He smiled. ‘You are incredibly lucky to have hopped on like you did.’
The plane swooped down and landed on a runway just like the ones on Earth.
‘How will we breathe?’ I felt panic at the thought of being in space.
‘Modern space-wear is awaiting you near the exit.’ He ushered us down luxurious corridors. ‘Just pop it on over your clothes.’
The suits seemed to stretch perfectly to fit us, and Raymond snapped us both in a selfie. At last the big door opened and the steps flowed down.
We descended, feeling like royalty. At the bottom there was a buggy, and our guide drove us to the source of most light, a hotel built in the shape of a crescent.
‘You will be our first guests!’ he called over the radio link in our suits.
The hotel had a sealed door, so once it was air-tight, we hung our suits up carefully. It was magnificent, all marble and metal.
‘We have time for dinner.’ We followed him to a sumptuous restaurant, where we used robots to select our meals. I had lobster, while Raymond picked steak. Everything was delicious. The wine was an odd experience though, not as complex as the Bobbinfield vintage.
Outside the hotel there were various bits and bobs under construction. ‘There will be a swimming centre, a zero-gravity shopping mall, golf range, cinema, ice rink…you name it!’ All too soon we were ascending the plane’s stairs, and settling back into the comfy seats.
Pills again, this time with a gin and tonic. Lovely. Then we woke just in time to glimpse the Great Wall of China from space. Raymond held my hand as we stared down. Heavenly!
Back at Bobbinfield we were a tad wobbly on our feet as we shook the guide’s hand.
‘Did you enjoy our little trip?’ asked Raymond as we headed home.
‘It was out of this world, darling.’
We popped back a week later to thank the man, but to our shock, the whole airfield had disappeared. The staff at the vineyard hadn’t got a clue what we were talking about.
‘Was it all a dream?’ I asked Raymond, but he shook his head.
‘We’ll always have our spacesuit selfie.’
POSTED 21st FEBRUARY 2017 by STEVE HANSON on behalf of CAROLYN WARD. The photographs were supplied by the author after the competition had been judged. The spacesuit photograph was taken by Mark Hudson of www.Identity-Studio.co.uk.