Evacuation: Mars

Evacuation: Mars is the last part of a series of four.

Part 1 – Destination: Mars
Part 2 – Location: Mars
Part 3 – Contamination: Mars
Part 4 – Evacuation: Mars


























































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Evacuation: Mars is the last part of a series of four.

Part 1 – Destination: Mars
Part 2 – Location: Mars
Part 3 – Contamination: Mars
Part 4 – Evacuation: Mars

The complete Destination: Mars collection (containing all four parts) is available to buy as an ebook on iTunes and Amazon for £4.99.

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Notes:

1. Written in January 2018
2. This is the final part
3. And the longest
4. And the one with the most cats
5. Also I’m sorry about all the smudges
6. And the spelling mistakes
7. And the crossed out bits
8. And everything else that went wrong over these four chapters
9. Which I never corrected
10. Especially that page where a hair got in the scanner

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Location: Mars

Location: Mars is the second part of a series of four.

Part 1 – Destination: Mars
Part 2 – Location: Mars
Part 3 – Contamination: Mars
Part 4 – Evacuation: Mars

































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Location: Mars is the second part of a series of four.

Part 1 – Destination: Mars
Part 2 – Location: Mars
Part 3 – Contamination: Mars
Part 4 – Evacuation: Mars

The complete Destination: Mars collection (containing all four parts) is available to buy as an ebook on iTunes and Amazon for £4.99.

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Notes:

1. Written in September 2017
2. The second part of four
3. As it clearly says above
4. A couple of times

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Destination: Mars












































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Destination: Mars is the first part of a series of four.

Part 1 – Destination: Mars
Part 2 – Location: Mars
Part 3 – Contamination: Mars
Part 4 – Evacuation: Mars

The complete Destination: Mars collection (containing all four parts) is available to buy as an ebook on iTunes and Amazon for £4.99.

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Notes:

1. Written in August and September 2017
2. This is the first chapter of four
3. The other three chapters are Location: Mars, Contamination: Mars, and Evacuation: Mars
4. I hope those chapter titles aren’t spoilers
5. This isn’t actually named after the Tintin book Destination Moon
6. Despite it seeming obvious that it should be
7. Somehow I had never read that one or even heard of it until a couple of months later
8. When one of my nieces or nephews had it out from the library
9. Having previously only read Explorers On The Moon out of the Tintin moon books
9. It is also not named after the film Destination Moon
10. Which I had never heard of at all until exactly now
11. While writing these notes
12. And looking up the Tintin book on google
13. Which also showed me there’s a book called Destination Mars
14. And another book
15. And a film
16. And a tv show
17. I’m going to give up looking now
18. At least mine has a colon in the title
19. To differentiate it
20. From all the others
21. I hope that’s enough

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Tale #7: The Woman Who Was Granted Her Wish

There was a woman whose mother had died giving birth to her, and who thereafter lived alone with her father in a cottage in the woods. Although her father loved her very much, the sadness he felt for his lost wife whenever he looked at his daughter overwhelmed him, and for the rest of his life he never spoke to her without weeping.

On her 18th birthday, her father died and she was left alone. She ran outside and went into the woods and wept there under the stars.

While she wept a cat came down quietly from the branches of a tree and sat on her lap and said to her, “It breaks my heart to see someone so sad. Let me grant you a wish, so that you may know happiness.”

The woman thought of her father, weeping without his wife. And she thought of the mothers and fathers of her friends, and how much happier than her father they must have been, for she never saw them weep while talking to their children. So she said to the cat, “It must be companionship that stops one being sad. I don’t want to grow old on my own.”

The cat said, “So is that your wish, to not grow old on your own?” And the woman wiped away her tears and nodded her head. “And so it is and shall be,” said the cat, and it climbed out of her lap and was gone.

The woman felt no happier, although no sadder either. She went back to her cottage and went straight to sleep, expecting to find there beside her in her bed a husband when she awoke. But in the morning she was still on her own.

She scolded herself for believing in dreams and wishes, and resolved to find a cure for her unhappiness herself. That afternoon she went into town and chose for herself a husband. He was a sailor, and spent 11 months of every year at sea. Every January she would see him to his boat, and every December, after almost a year on her own in her cottage, she would welcome him back. And while she seemed not to age a day while he was away, he looked older by the year.

When he came to retire she appeared no older than 25, and more beautiful by far than ever, for her beauty was now complimented by her kindness and her wisdom. Yet he by now was aged and weak, his back bent, his hair grey, and his features set in a permanent scowl of discontent.

During her long years of marriage she had learned to love being alone, for it gave her the freedom to think and to dream, and to learn and grow wise. When her husband came home for good, by day she tended to his needs without complaint and with a gentleness he was not necessarily deserving of. At night, while he slept, she would step outside into the woods and take a moment for herself, for in the day she felt at times more like a servant than a wife. She could feel her life ticking away with each moment that passed in his service.

On the morning of her 70th birthday she noticed her first grey hair, and that very afternoon her husband died. For the first time in ten years she was alone. She ran outside and went into the woods and wept there under the stars. While she wept a cat came down quietly from the branches of a tree and sat on her lap and said to her, “I granted you a wish once, so that you would know happiness. It breaks my heart to see you so sad once again.”

“I am not sad, although you granted me no wish,” she said. “I am on my own again, and happy for it.”

“I granted you no wish?” said the cat. “Yet you are not old.”

“Old? Look at this grey hair and tell me I am not old.”

At that moment the sky cleared and she saw the cat clearly in the moonlight.

“Dear cat, my friend,” she said. “How is it that you are still so black, with not a grey hair anywhere upon your fine furry coat?”

“I grow not old, for I keep myself to myself, and am always on my own.”

And with that the cat climbed out of the woman’s lap and went on its way and was gone. And the woman was left on her own to ponder the wish she had been granted all those years before.

They say she is still out there somewhere in the woods, more beautiful than it is possible to describe, and although she is on her own she is not alone, for she has herself. She waits now for no-one, and shall never let you see her, no matter how long you look.

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Notes:

1. Written in July 2014

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The Old Woman And The Cat

One of our cats was stolen once, by the old woman who lived across the street.

It was a slow crime, committed by kindness day by day for months, maybe even years. Leaving food out in her garden, calling him over, petting him, letting him into her home and out again when he wanted, his body squeezing itself through the gap as her front door opened a crack, his tail flicking back and forth as he paused half in, half out, deciding whether to go forward or retreat. Curiosity always compelled him forward, and only on its satisfaction would he leave.

But then, eventually, curiosity claimed him completely, and he didn’t want to come out again. Or was it satisfaction that stole him? Was it kidnapping, or a divorce? Who can tell.

When I told the police she’d taken him they thought I was mad, or an idiot, needlessly wasting their time, pointlessly, hysterically. They never called me back. Never, as far as I know, even spoke to the old woman.

Even if they had she would have denied it. She did whenever I asked her, and when I shouted, when I pled.

And yet of course I could see him, sometimes, sat at her window, the net curtains rucked up awkwardly around him, looking out. Looking at me.

What did he think when he saw me. What did he think about everything he looked at out of that window, not just me or my mum but the street, the gardens and the green, the cars, the kids on bikes, the birds in the trees. All the world he used to love. That he used to rule, in his way.

Did he still mewl at the birds as he watched them through the window, imitating their cries and imitating his own, his cries of victory and pleasure at his imagined captures and conquests? Did he still purr so loudly – too loudly – in the mornings, just to let you know he was there, that he was happy to be there with you? Did he miss the summer and the sunlight, lying out in it in the dirt until he was hotter than the sun itself?

Did he miss me?

***

I tried to break in to her house once, when I saw that she’d gone out.

I edged my way up the side of her house, climbed over the fence into her back garden, tried the back door and found it locked. I looked around for something to smash a window with – a brick, a branch, anything really – and found a stone tortoise half-forgotten under a bush. I stood there, holding this absurd thing in my hand for an age, gripped with inaction and indecision. And sorrow, the sadness of rejection, of a baffling terrible jealousy I couldn’t quite understand or control.

I put the tortoise down and went home and cried and left him there in her lair.

***

We all know how it would have ended, anyway, if I had broken in. I saw it clearly through my tears. She’d have returned, found me searching in vain through her immaculate, eerily empty house. I would have stood there awkwardly before her, making my excuses and my apologies and my threats and she would have said nothing, perhaps even smiled.

And then she would have opened up her handbag and out he would have come. Him and a thousand others, a wave of cats, a torrent, raging over me and onto me, claws and teeth, fur and fury, ripping away at me, at everything I ever was, until there was nothing left of me but bones.

She picks them up one by one and puts them in her bag and no trace of me is ever found by anyone and I am as forgotten as my cat and as unmourned.

***

This was over five years ago now. I never saw my cat again, although I saw others, at her windows, in her garden, peering out from behind her legs as she answered the door to the postman or whoever.

And in my mind he slowly ceased being whole, became this memory in two parts: his tail disappearing through her front door into the darkness beyond, the door slamming shut behind him; his head staring down at me from a window as I pass by on the street below, his mouth opening in an unheard cry.

Did I ever actually see either of those things? I don’t know. It seems doubtful, in hindsight.

But they are as real in my mind as any memory of the truth.

***

Last week, the old woman died. I asked some of our neighbours about her cats, about what had happened to them, or what would happen to them, whether they needed homes or anything, but nobody knew a thing. Nobody even knew for sure if she even had any cats, if she’d ever had any.

Her house was still a council house, and she had no next of kin, or at least none that cared enough to come and take away her things. So the council have been sending people round to clear it all away, putting everything into black bags and flinging them into skips, day after day, skip after skip. A lifetime’s accumulation of things that nobody wants, nobody needs, nobody remembers.

I wonder what I would have found if I ever had gone inside. I wonder what I would have learnt if I had ever really spoken to her, ever listened, ever cared.

I wonder where my cat went and I wonder if he was happy.

***

I used to dream about him at least once a week, then, slowly, less and less.

In the dreams all those nameless, imagined cats surge forth from her handbag and overwhelm me, strip the flesh from my bones and leave me lying there on the carpet. I’m nothing more than a skeleton with a chest full of organs, a skull with eyes, a tongue, somewhere, and, somehow, still, a brain. Then they retreat and he climbs up onto me, lays down on my ribcage, looks me in the eye, purrs.

Purrs.

I try to lift my arms to stroke him but I can’t move, my muscles all torn away, these bones useless by themselves. My cat just sits there, a king on his throne, a dragon on his gold.

And he lazily dangles a paw down between my ribs and hooks his claws into my heart.

***

Last night some foxes got into the skip and ripped everything apart and now the wind has picked it up and blown it all around. Letters, old newspaper clippings, clothes, flannels, teabags, yoghurt pots, tissues, medicine packets, shampoo bottles, christmas decorations, chicken bones, photos. A single slash across the swollen belly of one black bag reveals it was filled entirely with scrunched up supermarket carrier bags, and now they blossom forth from the wound like roses, caught by the wind one by one and blown tumbling down the gutters towards my front door.

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Notes:

1. Written (mostly) in March 2016
2. Probably the origination of the name of this website, although it’s possible I’d used it before somewhere, too.

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