Sunday, 19 May 2013

Armstrong’s Bogey.

Darren Worrow.


No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that the introduction to HG Well’s book “War of the Worlds” would be altered so much by influences greater than disco. No one could have understood Jeff Wayne’s reasons as he scrutinised and bluffed, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a recording contract might scrutinise the transient pop stars, like David Essex that swarm and multiply in a pop chart. With infinite complacency Jeff went to and fro over this globe proudly showing off his gatefold sleeve, serene in his assurance that his successful empire would matter decades on. However only to Gary Barlow was it so. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same, they just don’t have such nice hairdos.

Decades on, no one gave a thought to the developing worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea that life could mutate, evolve and multiply from human nasal waste upon them as impossible, improbable or just plain dirty. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days, Blake’s Seven especially so. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise, so they named a chocolate bar after it, yeah they are sure to like that. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to that of Steven Fry, intellects low, pathetic and a bit squidgy round the edges, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us, with big wax crayons on a wall that washed away with the rain. And early in the thirtieth century came the great disillusionment, the Bogey came back and this time it was god damn pissed off, like a teenager that was forced to watch Question Time.

“Stop picking your nose!” screamed Commander James Lovell, “this is supposed to be a sterile area!”

July 16th 1969, Neil Armstrong is worried, to be understood and expected, he was going to be the first man to land on the moon and his commander was treating him like he was his mum or something. In a sterile room at Kennedy Space Centre in Merritt Island in Florida he carefully put on his heavy spacesuit, “blast this damn cold,” he muttered to himself, sneezing. “What was that?” asked Commander James Lovell.

“Nothing,” replied Neil, he couldn’t tell anyone and jeopardise his place on this historic mission. He wiped the snot on his spacesuit and continued with his preparation.

After the blast-off he felt much better and history never knew of this common cold he was suffering with. Would it have mattered in the scheme of things, would it have really spoiled the momentous moment? No, everyone was far too excited for such petty concerns.

However a petty concern it was not, at least not for the population of planet Earth in 3275.  As by this time the single bogey that detached itself from the sleeve of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit and drifted slowly off across the gulf of space had time enough to mutate, evolve and multiply into an army of fierce warriors that were hell bent on taking over the planet Earth. It was one small snot leek for mankind but a giant leap for a silly book’s plot.

Zak was a young lad in 3275, only 55 years old he was halfway through his school education and he hated it. The virtual reality classroom program was set to a 1970s preference and due to a population increase during those historic years Zak had to sit in a freezing cold mobile hut where the only fun to be had was if you rocked your chair hard enough one of its legs would eventually crunch through the rotten wooden floorboards.

The disadvantage was the board rubber, a teacher’s weapon that with the birth of the white board and progression onto IT computerised screen styled blackboards meant that it was, until the invention of a virtual classroom, a long expired instrument. However Zak suspected that it was the reason the teacher chose this time zone, that and the excuse to grow a beard and wear leather patches on his elbows. At least it was this instrument that was hurled at his head as his chair leg pushed its way through the floor and tilted him over in merriment.

“Zak! Pay attention!” shouted the teacher. Facial hair was long ago eliminated so the teacher revelled by the fact he could store little bits of his marmalade sandwich beneath his chin, and he scratched to confirm that it was still there. Zak screamed when the board rubber bounced off of his head, pain receptacle pads placed around his body sensed the pain and sent a message to his brain to tell it that if this really happened it would hurt.

“Now, observe through the telescope young man, the planet Mars,” the teacher said and Zak stood up, moved to the front of the class and placed his left eye over the end of the telescope. “Note that despite man’s attempts to prove that life once existed here still to this day no one has any definite proof. See that its surface is completely void of anything but red rock.”  

“But sir,” protested Zak, “What about that strange green gas that is protruding from its surface that appears to be quickly spreading out towards the Earth?”

 “What? Don’t be such a fool!” shouted the teacher and took the opportunity of the 1970s classroom to legally flick his finger at the boys ear. Zak quickly moved his eye away and the teacher took a look through the telescope, “What idiot has sneezed on the end of the telescope again?” he demanded.

All the kids laughed except one kid, a 55 year old John Lovell, and then the bell went. They took off their virtual glasses and logged off the school website system.

John was Zak’s best friend, he was round his house at the time and so they both went to ask Zak’s robo-mum for some juice. In the kitchen they chatted, “sneezed on the telescope my butt!” said John, “did you know that my ancestor was James Lovell, the commander on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. It is a well-kept secret in our family history that James noticed that Neil Armstrong had a cold and wiped snot onto his sleeve before the launch. He passed this information onto his grandchild who came up with a theory that if a bogey detached itself in space and floated off it could genetically mutate and evolve into race of warrior aliens that would one day take vengeance upon the Earth and organise a deadly invasion?”

 “Stop on,” said the robo-mum, “the chances of any human nasal waste mutating into a race of warrior aliens and them coming from Mars is a million to one they say……” And then she continued to burst into a terrible disco song. Why Zak’s dad choice to update Zak’s mum to a robot version with variable chest expansion was beyond Zak, I mean he never even downloaded the standard nagging app or anything.

Zak and John went upstairs to his bedroom to find his telescope and when they did they located Mars and took a peek, sure enough they could still see a green spray of gas coming out of the planet. “Look!”

“Told you,” said John, “we have to speak to the US President; Morgan Freeman clone as soon as possible!”

“We can use the warp-drive Lamborghini hover jet,” said Zak.

“Too slow, is your teleportation drive not working?”

“Well, it is but last week I wanted to go to a brothel in Sweden; it sent me to the Brunel shopping centre in Swindon.”

“Just needs a bit of tweaking,” said John, tapping away on a devise that resembles a tablet computer, “I’ve deleted all locations in Wiltshire, now come on let’s go!”

In seconds their bodies were broken down to their atomic particles and said particles were transported to another place, “Wow, great views, now let’s find the President,” said Zak enthusiastically.

John looked around him at the beautiful downs below, the scattering of farms and small industrial units, “I don’t think we’re in the right place….”


John flicked about on his smart phone, “GPS says we aren’t at the White House in Washington DC but The White Horse in Westbury, Wiltshire.”

Zak was confused, “Oh, I thought you deleted all locations in Wiltshire?”

“Thought I did, perhaps I set it to only locations in Wiltshire; I don’t know why do you buy these Apple products? You know they’ve been rubbish since the iPhone 7677235,” John told Zak, “now get us out of here!”

“I can’t, screen’s frozen up,” said Zak frustratingly tapping his devise.

“Told you, Panasonic 6767, best smart phone out,” said John waving his devise about.

“Has it got the teleportation app?”

“No, mum says I should get the bus to school like she had to, anyway, take the back off, pull the battery out and restart it.”

Zak tried but it did no good, “we’re stuck here…..”

John waved his phone about, “according to this time/space app the alien invasion is just two hours away from the Earth. If we can’t get to the White House now we seriously need to take cover.” He started examining the hillside, “look, a hole with a ladder, this hill is hollow.”

“What could be inside it?” asked an inquisitive Zak as they examined the hole.

“Let us hope that there is some secret international rescue organisation hiding out inside just waiting for a mission to save the Earth from a giant bogey army from Mars!”

“Is that likely?”

“Highly.” The boys crawled down the tunnel and could hear some wonderful music coming from bellow them, “schh…do you here that?”

“Who or what is making that music?”

“My Shazam app will identify the song,” said John, waving his phone in the air. “Processing… says it does not register and its leading me onto a Wikipedia link, hold on….right it says here that this style of music was popular over one thousand two hundred years ago…..”

“Wow,” said Zak, “listen to the beautiful melody, the lingering harmonious vocals; this is the music of the ancients, a tribal bass that has not been heard for a thousand years; simply magical!”

“Yeah, it’s got a good beat too! Let’s climb down; we need to know where it’s coming from, come on!” exclaimed John going further down the ladder into the darkness below them.

The friends climbed down to the bottom, they could see a red glow coming through a small gap in the rocks, they climbed into it and found a huge opening, coloured lights lit up a stage and a group of people were playing the music from it. Three guys stood around a mountain of keyboards, synthesisers, speakers and other musical items that the boys had never seen the like of before. A tall dark woman in a purple flowing dress stood in the middle of them with a pole and a large round sausage shaped item on the end of it, she was singing into it. Suddenly they noticed Zak and John, “Hi!” they shouted and came down to see them.

The boys ducked back into the gap in the rocks that they had come from, these guys looked strange to say the least, their clothes were so outdated, and they didn’t even have the standard USB port inserted into the sides of their heads. “Hey don’t be afraid,” one man said as he approached them with his hands outstretched, “we are the M People, we come in peace.”

The boys came out of hiding and looked at the strange people before them, Zak plucked up the courage to speak first, he asked, “what are you doing down here?”

“Singing, y’know, making some music,” the man said, “that one was called One Night in Heaven, did you like it?”

“It was amazing, we have never heard music like it, where are you from?” asked John, thinking they must be aliens or something.

“Manchester, we were quite popular back in the 1990s,” said the woman, “my name is Heather by the way, and this is Mike and the other guys over there are Paul and Shovell.”

“How old are you, you must be ancient?” asked a confused Zak.

“We are eons old, I cannot tell you as we have no idea what year it is now. You see at the peak of our music careers we were very rich and famous. We set up many business ventures and unfortunately we got involved with a crazy scientist that made us immortal.”

“Oh right….”

“What are you boys doing here anyway?” asked Heather.

“Oh nothing really, well, to be honest we were hoping to find a secret international recuse team operating in this hillside, it was a long shot I suppose but we are getting short of time to halt an invasion of Earth by an alien race that evolved from a stray bogey left on Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit, is all. However it seems we have only found a bunch of immortal 1990 pop stars, so we best be off really. It was nice to meet you but we really need to find a rescue team……”

Just then the woman known as Heather grabbed her pole and began to sing beautifully through it, the sound echoing across the vast cave under the White Horse hill, “Day-o-umba-day-o-mamba-ji-ay-o, don’t look any further, don’t you look no further….”

“Yeah!” perked up Mike, “well done Heather, it’s been so long I plain forgot; we do have a little side-line in international rescue as it happens. Hold on, I’ll go get the rocket prepared!”

“Ok boys, have you got any theories on how we can stop these alien bogey people?” asked Heather, squeezing into a rather flashy tight spacesuit.

Before Zak and John knew what was going on they were in the spacesuit attire and they were with the pop group, sitting inside a giant rocket with “M People: International Rescue Craft 2,” written on the side of it in big fancy neon letters. A voice from nowhere came over a loudspeaker, “…..5…..4…..3….2…..1….M People are GO!”

As they looked up at the top of the hill from the inside the sky suddenly came into vision, the hilltop had lifted off on a hinge and the rocket blasted off like someone had a bit of string tied to a model, but they hadn’t. Heather was singing, “Movin’ on up, nothing can stop me!”

“So boys what’s the plan?” asked Mike.

“Well,” explained John, “what we need is a giant handkerchief which we can stretch across the gulf of space so that when the bogey aliens come they will splat into it, then, and here is the clever bit, we screw it up and put it in a giant pocket, or perhaps a black hole, I hadn’t thought that bit through properly yet.”

“Like where are we going to get a hankie the size of Russia out here in space?” questioned Mike.

Zak suddenly had a thought, “I know, the Lords of Streisand!”

They all looked at Zak in a state of mutual confusion, “Who?”

“I remember reading about them,” continued Zak, “back in the last half of the 21st century when plastic surgery was commonplace and cheap, before we could clone and then realised that it was all a bit vain, a bunch of rebels lived; a tribe of people refusing to have plastic surgery. Of course back then it was all about the nose, big noses were seen as a very bad thing and big nosed people were outlawed, hunted like vermin. Only people with big noses would ever mate with people that had big noses and as a consequence of genetics the outcast’s noses only became larger and larger until their whole bodies were completely nasal, they just have small eyes on top of their nose and little legs and arms. Needless to say the human race was horrified by their appearance and so they made a commune on the moon where they live to this day.”

“Great work!” said Mike, “listen I will drop you off at the moon, you meet with these Lords of Streisand and get the biggest hankie they have, I mean they must get colds right? Therefore they must have really big hankies. Meanwhile I will call on some friends, they have spaceships too. We need three more of us and then we can each grasp a corner of the handkerchief with the robot arms that are standard on every spaceship these days.”

Zak and John were dropped off on the moon, they called the Chief of the Lords of the Streisand and let him know of their mission, and at first he was reluctant to help, asking what the earthlings had done to help him. Zak gave told him that he had a vision that one day big noses and people would learn to live as one again and it was so convincing that the Chief agreed. It was a joke of course, Zak himself couldn’t stand to look at anyone with a big nose but this was only due to years of conditioning in a world where everyone’s nose was so perfect and tiny that Specsavers had to completely redesign their range of glasses.

Within no time at all they were picked up again by the mighty M people and they were introduced to the crews of the other three spaceships, The Shamen, The Stereo MC’s and the Utah Saints; Zak and John had heard of none of them, but they all seemed to be best of friends and shared bottles of water, chewing gum and spoke of parties of yore with a vague recollection. Each corner of the giant handkerchief was held by the robot arm on the 1990s pop band’s spaceships and they took off in unison.  

The Shamen headed over to Siberia where they sang songs about moving mountains and crazy men that like something called E’s. The Stereo MC’s orbited over China, making sure they were connected to the hankie. The Utah Saints stretched it across the Atlantic Ocean and made the coast of the Americas, that was something good. Meanwhile the M People held their end of the hankie over Africa and the whole world facing the invasion was covered.

They tensed as they saw the alien bogey fleet descending upon the earth, “Hold tight!” commanded Zak and sure and behold the alien spacecraft’s poised for war all went splat into the giant hankie and were nothing more than green plops on that giant white sheet. Everyone cheered and the Earth was finally safe. The M People’s craft continued on with the screwed up hankie to find a black hole big enough to swallow it in one big vacuum.

Heather looked stunning in her spacesuit as she prepared to hold out the hankie and thrust it out of the airlock; she was so pleased with the result and said in her beautiful song “What have you done today to make you feel proud?”

Just before the airlock opened and she put on her smashing gold helmet she sneezed and wiped it on the sleeve of her spacesuit. “Well done all,” said Zak, “we have saved the world, we just have to be certain that from now on anyone putting on a spacesuit is totally free of snot!”

They all laughed and all agreed, failing to see the tiny green particle of Heather’s nasal waste slowly floating off into outer space………………

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  1. For me - WOTWs was all about Richard Burton:) Claim to fame: Heather Small went to my school. Great little story!

    Julia x

  2. Thanks Julia i am glad you liked it! Yes my brother and i used to turn the lights off and listen in fear of Richard Burton's voice at the begining of WOTWs, i did consider him when writing this but figured that a gag about david essex was much more amusing!

    I do love the M People, i saw them play once at Glastonbury and she was so wonderful it was a bit surreal. I don't know why they popped up in the story, quite a surreal concept too. Was she told to stop singing and get on with her maths coursework?!