“After Eight”  (6) 

By Paul Larkin 


No hiding place


            The zapping of an astronaut who had refused orders to return to earth because he just wanted some peace had happened in the early dawn of space travel. His fame, however, had grown with each passing generation, especially as details of his unrequited love for a former army comrade came to light. Add to that, the piquant fact that it was this former comrade who had zapped him with a laser beam and you can understand more easily how ( with the onset of Smart Space Travel!™) the place of his zapping over Paris, France (a fitting and tragically romantic spot just above the Eiffel Tower!) became a place of veneration, of pilgrimage.. The astronaut’s name was Lenin but he had been dubbed “The New Lennon” by his adoring acolytes and they sang peace songs on the way to his orbiting urn. So great did his fame become, gurus from the Himalayas began to make the journey. Although it is true that most of them were more interested in exploring the idea of being a hermit in space rather than  commemorating Vladimir Illych ‘Lennon’.

            The problem of space in the Himalayas, or the lack of it, had become acute for any self respecting hermit. No sooner had they found an even more remote cave in which to reflect on the meaning of life and the universe when a bus would turn up and disgorge a group of fat tourists who would proceed to enter their refuges of reflection and shoot the shit out of the place before disappearing again having “done” a guru and getting T-shirts to prove it. Finally, the rental of orbiting satellites became cheap enough for group purchases so that by the end of the 22nd century, a loose collection of gurus formed a company called Karma Heights and managed to send 30 hermits into space before the company was bought out by a travel chain after a fake fakir  decided to literally sell his fellow hermits out.  Now, once in space, the hermits had very little do with each other, but they did hold monthly meetings via satellite just to ensure that everyone was safe and healthy and to learn of news from earth.

            The news was not good. A group of feminists had banded together in protest at the lionising of Vlad Lennon and the demonising of the WOMAN who had zapped him. After all, wasn’t Vlad Lennon’s zapping entirely understandable, given that he was oppressing her with his threat of bad poetry and ridiculous declarations of love? The whole thing had been a blatant attempt to belittle her authority. Add to that the fact the Supreme Commander – a role model for all women – had suddenly become Superbitch, not in the privacy of a domestic screaming match but on the world stage! Thus, the nonplussed gurus found that their orbiting cans of karma were subject to attacks by female protesters and their non alpha male supporters who blew whistles via bluetooth and bombarded their floating cans with shrapnel and all this was posted back to earth onto YouTube.

            Things couldn’t go on the way they were and one day a hermit made the ultimate sacrifice for his peace of mind by stepping from his spacecraft into the final astral karma that we all must face. He was quickly followed by most of his fellow maharajas. Shrines were erected in the mountain villages of the Himalayas in their honour and for a while a genuine debate ensued about the meaning of life and the coarsening of relations between men and women. But just at the moment an extraordinary thing happened; one by one, the orbiting feminists began to commit very poignant acts of suicide and it was left to their representatives on earth to explain that the Male Hermits had committed the ultimate act of bullying by walking off the way they had done and that women could make dramatic gestures TOO YOU  KNOW!