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“Ugh, climbing is so tiring!” shouted my brother Will.

“Well, we don’t have much to go,” I said. “Only about 150 feet. Want to stop for some water?”

“What else is there to do right now?” asked Will. “I’ve been thirsty for the last 10 feet!”

“Well, let’s take a small water break,” I said, “then we won’t stop until we get to the top. Come next to me, and I’ll get our bottles.”

“Okay,” said Will. He was a good 5 feet below, but he managed to get up to me. I reached down to my belt to get the water bottles–but I felt nothing there. I looked down–only to see melting shards of plastic and a puddle of water on the ledge 100 feet below us. Then, I looked up again–only to see that my harness was melting right before my eyes! My brain took over the rest of my body–and I found myself pushing off and letting go, only to feel open air from that point on.

 

01

I jumped out of the SimChamber™ in a cold sweat. Oh, these simulations. They prepare you for anything. And when I say “anything,” I mean “anything that could possibly happen, no matter what science says.”

Well, maybe not THAT much. But basically, the SimChamber™ programs are designed to prepare you for anything that you might encounter: spontaneous human combustion, unexplained happenings, even stuff that would be described as a “glitch in real life.”

Oh, and did I mention that I live in an experimental space colony? Yes, that’s right. I, along with 99 others, were hand-picked to be a part of an experiment to see if the world can fix its overpopulation issue by simply sending us humans out into space.

But hey, there are some upsides to being a part of the space colony. You get an absolutely AMAZING view of the earth, the moon and the entire cosmos. In fact, there is an entire room made of completely indestructible glass-like material (with a floor, of course) just for “observing the solar system”.

Okay, I lied, that’s the only real upside. Plus, “observing the solar system” gets very boring after a while because you are just passing by the same stuff you have seen about a thousand times. Plus, there are really just five things to do when you’re part of the space colony: eat, sleep, take care of yourself, help around your unit, and “observe the solar system.”

We are also not allowed to bring ANYTHING from Earth. Not even clothes, for that matter. We are forced to just wear these weird “body suits” that are just kinda like a skin-hugging onesie with sleeves, pant legs, and built-in shoe-like footwear. There is no form of entertainment in the colony whatsoever (other than “observing the solar system”), and almost no free time to just chill out. The colony has very strict rules, such as “you must be asleep in your unit by 22:00 and out of your sleeping capsule by 06:00” and “you must use the simulator once a day with the daily simulation”. Plus, our food is just a small portion of freeze-dried, flavorless “superfood” with water.

Ah, and speaking of simulators, my brother Will was not actually with me in the simulator. In fact, he’s not even in the space colony with me. He’s on Earth, back with my parents, my two cats, and my dog. Speaking of which, I have been here in this space colony three months and twenty-seven days out of the year I have to spend here. After that, I am free to go back to Earth.

But let’s stay on point. The earth is MASSIVELY messed up, and most of us in the space colony have forgotten what is really going on. That’s why the simulators give you some of the craziest things that can ever happen. The colony clock has just turned to 22:00 and I must go to my unit, or risk being caught by a security camera.

 

End of message, 06/07/2199, 22:00:14

 

02

The computer system got hacked today. I woke up to the sound of a siren being played at full blast in every one of the colony’s speakers. At the same time, everyone’s personal message screen in their sleeping capsule said, “EXTREME EXPLODING COWS WILL KILL US ALL!!!!!!!!!” Even weirder, it was 02:39! I was sure someone would be exiled for this, but they probably just did this to get out of this test-site-of-a-living-space.

I woke up later, at 04:27, to hear the sound of an exile rocket being launched. It is very loud, but I think they do it on purpose as to let people know that there has been a departure for a criminal act.

It’s 08:19, I am woken by a patrol officer. “You better get up,” he says, “or face bein’ exiled like dat prankster! Don’t expect to be able to sleep through the alarm like dat!”

“But don’t we get an extra half hour of sleep when something like this happens?” I say.

“No! Don’t ya ever read da rules around here?”

“To be honest, not a lot of people actually read the rules…”

“Bah! That’s like not reading the ingredients lists on your food packages!”

“Actually, nobody really reads that, either…”

“You better stop bein’ a smart-alec. Me an’ the management can put you into solitary confinement for thi--!”

The patrol officer is cut off by a hand pulling him back by his collar. The colony leader is here!

“Now, what’s going on here?” asks the leader.

“This ‘ere kid was sleepin’ in past the alarm!” says the officer.

“Only because I, along with everybody in the whole colony, got woken up twice last night,” I say. “Wouldn’t anybody sleep in to recover a bit? I mean, we only get 8 hours of sleep here!”

“Now why would you need to do that?” asks the officer.

“Bec--”

“Never mind that,” says the leader. He points at me and says, “You, get a little bit of extra sleep. But be up by 09:00 for breakfast. And YOU,” he shouts, pointing at the officer, “YOU, BEGONE!”

“Geez,” says the officer. “I’m not deaf, you know.”

“BEGONE, I SAID!”

As the officer walks away, the colony leader says, “You do realize that the first rule on the list says that every citizen in the colony must read the rules?”

“But how would people know that if they never read the rules?” I say. That’s just me. I’m just naturally a cheeky smart-alec.

“Good question,” says the leader. “I’ll make an announcement at 09:00. That can act as an alarm for you, I’ll also channel it to your capsule. Now, get some sleep, and remember to wake up for breakfast.”

The leader has left.

 

End of message, 06/09/2199, 08:20:49

 

03

01:28, reads the clock . And yet, the whole colony has been awakened. The announcement speaker in the main sleeping wing blares, “ALL COLONISTS, PLEASE AWAKEN. WE HAVE BEEN SCHEDULED FOR AN EARLY RETURN.”

I rush over to the observatory to see what was going on. We are going to collide with the Earth itself! I can see the practically apocalyptic planet getting closer and closer by the second, most of its trash holes were already in view. Suddenly, everything on the earth starts to melt away. The oceans drain, the land sinks down, but the planet doesn’t get smaller. Instead, a barren rock face appears.

“BRACE FOR IMPACT,” blares the speaker. “EVERYBODY MUST GO TO THEIR DESIGNATED SLEEPING CAPSULES, NO DOUBLING UP. EVERYBODY HERE WILL BE SAVED BY SPECIAL AIRBAGS BUILT INTO ALL SIDES OF THE CAPSULE.”

I am running to my capsule. I press the “open” button and dive in, being sure to close the door completely. I must now end this message, or I shall surely die.

 

End of message, 06/12/2199, 01:29:38

 

04

I am now on the planet where we had a crash landing, and there’s basically nothing to be said: it’s just a ball of rock floating around in space with no atmosphere whatsoever. When we put on our emergency space suits, (which takes two entire hours) the person who sleeps in the capsule next to me found an extremely tiny box-like device that turns out to have a lens. Could the illusion that we were about to collide with Earth be just a projection? No, I think. How could a device that tiny project something around this small planet? And what would it possibly project on?

When we were in the emergency oxygen chamber, a sudden thought came to my mind: How could that illusion happen without life on this planet to create it? Then, when I saw the tiny device that looked like a projector, I knew there must be life on this planet. But how? I ask myself. How could this chunk of space rock possibly support life? Another thought comes to my head: Maybe these creatures on this planet are existent, but just too small to see without a microscope!

I know it. I have to venture around the planet and find where these life forms are residing. The only thing that stands in my way is getting enough oxygen. These tanks have to be refilled every two hours, there’s no way I can make it there and back in that time. The only option is to bring multiple tanks of air–but then people might notice that the spare tanks will be missing! Whatever, I think. People will probably notice that I’m gone, anyway. Maybe I’ll just tell them.

“Attention,” I say, turning on the microphone on the wireless communication system built into my helmet. “Did anyone see what happened when we took a crash landing?”

“Mhm” and “Yes” are a lot of what I hear, along with many microphones turning on with that clicking noise.

“Well,” I say, “That illusion couldn’t have happened without something to create it, right?”

Again, I hear lots of answers, along with mentions of the projector-looking device.

“So basically,” I say, “There must be some form of life on this planet. And to find this life, I am going to venture around this small planet to try to find it. Who’s with me?”

“HALT!” shouts the colony leader. “You cannot go off exploring like that! It is very risky! You could even die out there!”

“Sir,” I say calmly, “I’m only going to--”

“NONSENSE!” he shouts. “Everyone must stay in this crash site! It’s only for everybody’s safety!”

“Okay, geez,” I say. “Why do you always have to shout like that?”

The leader stops and thinks for a second. “You know what?” he says. “Go exploring all you want. You are no longer welcome in this colony! Now you can do whatever you want here! Go exploring! Find these life forms you keep talking about! Go get yourself killed! Just leave! If our exile rockets worked, you would be outta here!”

“Fine!” I shout. “I never really liked living in this test site in the first place!”

The leader pauses again. “One more thing,” he says. “You may take three full air tanks with you. But only three. If you run them out quickly, it’s your own fault. You may come here as often as you want to refill the tanks, but only under my supervision. You’ve already caused enough trouble around here!”

“Sounds good,” I say. I take two spare air tanks and go to the oxygen-generating fusion reactor.

 

End of message, 06/12/2199, 11:57:34

 

05

I have been trekking along the planet for quite some time now, toward the end of my second air tank, and I still haven’t found anything except some strange pebbles in a grid. I step softly on one–but it doesn’t move, break, or sink into the ground in any way. Excitedly, I look down closely at the grid of pebbles–and find that they are indeed not pebbles. I tap my finger on one–and it makes a metallic noise. They still look like pebbles, but there’s definitely something inside. Suddenly, my helmet speaker makes a loud static noise, then some faint sounds become audible that I can’t quite make out. Then, some words begin to play in my helmet.

“I see you have found us,” says the voice. It sounds like it was put through a translator device. “Welcome, being of Earth. We have been waiting for your kind to arrive here, so we made some accommodations.” A chunk of the planet rises up, and an elevator door opens. “Please get in,” says the voice, “And make yourself at home.”

I get into the elevator, and feel it smoothly descending. “This elevator also acts as an airlock,” says the voice again, “So feel free to take that cumbersome space suit off.” I remove my helmet and take a breath, the cleanest breath of air I have ever taken. “Welcome,” says the voice, “To your new home, specifically built for your kind.”

As the doors open, my whole body quakes with fascination. “Inside this planet,” the voice says, “Is your ideal living quarters, the future Earth–or as I should say, many Earths. Right now, you are on just one of over one billion tiny asteroids that will act as space neighborhoods. There is adequate room in this asteroid for one hundred people, as well as a hospital, pet care room, and recreational areas like an exercise room, a pool, and a game room, as well as an adequate area of empty space for every family. Families also get a wide selection of fresh, healthy food that is flown in every month. Every family also gets their own clean-energy-powered rocket to travel to other neighborhoods if they want to visit some friends or family. Speaking of family, your family, along with every family that lives in your Earth neighborhood, are flying here right now in a manned transportation rocket, even the pets. They should be arriving soon, the flight between here and Earth is only about an hour or so. Speaking of Earth, we are working on applying the latest technology to make Earth a natural place again, but still with the places you enjoy, like beaches and theme parks. And don’t forget, school. There will be an option to go to a school asteroid or to take classes from an e-school at your home asteroid. You should radio the people back on the crash site and tell them to come here. Don’t worry about them getting lost, they will be able to see your footprints thanks to a special substance on your boots that glows when it touches the rock.”

I wonder for a second if this is real or if I have just gone completely insane. This is just too good to be true, I tell myself. But I must give it a try. You can never be certain on any given thing, at any time.

I turn on my radio. “Attention,” I say confidently. “You may not believe it, but this is your new home.” I wait for a second, then say, “Simply follow the glowing footprints across the landscape. You will find me eventually, I promise. Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to bring a few full oxygen tanks, they don’t last very long.”

 

End of message, 6/12/2199, 04:02:26

 

Epilogue: 2200

Life’s going pretty well here in the asteroid colony. For the whole “turn of the century” thing, all the asteroids lit up and there was a huge party all across the asteroid field. Another thing I’ve noticed is that’s much easier to travel around than I thought. The rockets are pretty high-power, so they can travel long distances in a reasonable amount of time.

Oh yeah, and the food here is nice. On the spaceship colony, they were being minimalist like that on purpose as to save a bit more money for the colony I happen to be living in. We test subjects and our families get a bit of extra swag as a reward for having to go through something like that.

Anyways, maybe I’ll send some more stuff later. Right now, I’m just chillin’ out with the fam. By the way, I saw a video my dad took of my cats on the shuttle they took on the way out here. The cats were sitting in their little box when the ship was taking off, and they both got super scared when we went out of the Earth’s gravity range. They started floating up in their box, so to them, it must have seemed like the universe was moving without them! They started spazzing out and one of them even launched off one of the walls and jumped right through the entrance hole! I’m sure that video will get pretty popular on YouTube. Anyways, bye for now. It’ll be interesting to find out who gets all this at some time.

 

End of message, 5/06/2200 04:13:57

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