Mars for Beginners, Part Three

 

Getting back to Earth from Mars was, in many ways, the most eventful part of our holidays. We’d been told that the Mossad people would pick us up “in about ten days”, so on Day 10, we didn’t leave the hotel. We just hung around the lobby waiting for something to happen, and wow, did it happen..!

 

The weather was fine all the time we were there. It never rains; sometimes there is a bit of a breeze which blows the red sand around, but it never gets to the stage that you can’t go out. But, on that fateful day, Mars was struck by a violent solar storm, the likes of which had never been seen for hundreds of years. How to describe it? Fierce hurricanes of boiling mud and interstellar debris lashed the planet surface; everything and everybody was hurled about; buildings were smashed to pieces; dazzling multicoloured lightning bolts crashed out of the sky, slaying Martians left, right and centre.

 

Our hotel was in tatters. We didn’t know where to turn. All our belongings had disappeared. Our hopes of returning to Zaragoza were becoming less and less likely, and I was almost resigned to the fact that I would die on Mars, when suddenly Kevin Costner emerged out of the swirling mayhem. Yes, it was Captain G. He yelled at us to follow him, and led us to a cave, where two other crew members lay injured. We learned that the situation was critical – there was no ship to take us back to Earth!

 

Captain G’s ingenious plan was to wait for the storm to pass, then wait for a search party from Israel to come and rescue us. He estimated this could take months…

 

We had plenty of water to drink but no food. (By the way, yes, there is water on Mars, loads of it. Get over it, it’s no big deal. It’s only water, for Pete’s sake!) The cave was deep and dark; we could see and hear the stormy chaos going on around us, but we were safe for the moment.

 

We slept as best we could that night. I had to gag Sheen as she started singing in her sleep – I think she was having some deranged nightmare about being Whitney Houston, getting whisked off her feet by her bodyguard. In the morning I stuck my head out of the cave (the Captain had forbidden us to move from our sanctuary) and surveyed the aftermath of the cyclone or whatever it was. A few bedraggled Martians floated aimlessly around, looking very confused. One bowed politely and said “Good morning, I hope you’re enjoying your stay”, before starting to hum Tom Jobim’s Aguas de Março and drifting away.

 

A few hours later, Captain G confessed to Sheen and me that the situation was “one degree beyond desperate”. As a Zionist military spy, he and his men were used to the idea that death was always around the corner, and, as he put it, “Mars is our final corner”. Sheen sobbed melodramatically at this point, needless to say.

 

“I have no authority over you any longer,” said Kevin Costner. “Please leave the cave. We are going to commit suicide or something.”

 

So, on Tuesday August 12, 2008, the Zaragoza Twins walked out onto the surface of the desolate destroyed surface of the red planet, alone and stranded. What was to become of us?

 

I remembered a guy I’d spoken to a few days earlier, who had asked me if I was interested in visiting Fwoaa, a small moon of Venus, where he had a holiday home. He told me he had his own spacecraft, which he’d built out of the scraps of old spaceships that had landed or crashed on Mars. I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not at the time, but as I walked out of the cave that morning, I knew I had to find him.

 

I remembered his name clearly, because I’d tried not to laugh when he introduced himself: Ankipanki. But how could I locate this man? Sheen and walked around shouting his name, and people turned to look but nobody could help us. After a few hours, we were on the verge of giving up, and maybe joining the Mossad guys in their suicide bid but, believe it or not, our man came up to us with a broad grin.

 

“Hi there, Sheen!” he said, shaking my hand enthusiastically. “Rather boisterous spot of weather, what?”

 

“Hi, Ankipanki! I’m so relieved to find you!” I cried, not daring to point out that I was Heen, and that Sheen was the female by my side.

 

“I heard you were looking for me?”

 

“Yes! We wondered if you could help us get back to Earth.”

 

Ankipanki furrowed his brow. Then it dawned on him. “Ah! You want to borrow my ship, right?”

 

“Right!” I gasped. Was this actually going to happen?

 

We followed Ankipanki to an underground cave like a hangar. Sure enough, there was his spaceship. At least, it looked like a spaceship.

 

“And does this thing fly?” asked Sheen doubtfully. “How can we get back to Earth in this?”

 

Ankipanki looked hurt. “Of course it flies, Heen!”

 

“Hey, that’s Heen. I’m Sheen, OK?”, pointed out Sheen and I wished she hadn’t.

 

“I see. I get everything wrong, don’t I”, said Ankipanki, evidently grieved. “Well, in that case, maybe you shouldn’t trust my spaceship.”

 

It took twenty minutes to convince Ankipanki to let us “borrow” his ship. Understandably, he wanted something in return. A weekend in Zaragoza with a visit to the Expo didn’t sway him, and we had nothing in our pockets.

 

“I know!”, said Sheen desperately. “Do you want to sleep with me?”

 

Ankipanki’s eyes lit up. “You mean sex? That stuff Heen was telling me about the other day?”

 

I did the big brother thing and told Ankipanki that she was only joking.

 

“Ah, OK, no problem”, he replied. “It’s not really my scene, anyway.”

 

“You wouldn’t like it”, I assured him, as Sheen mumbled something unhelpful behind my back.

 

“You’re probably right”, he said with a sigh. “Ah, what the hell. Take my ship. I can always make another.”

 

Ankipanki gave me a crash course in piloting his strange craft. It was more like a Formula One racing car than anything else.

 

“And there’s a manual in the glove compartment if you aren’t sure”, he said, reassuringly.

 

We didn’t hang about. Five minutes later we’d programmed the sat nav and were sitting down, waving at Ankipanki who promised he’d come and visit us as soon as he’d assembled another space ship.

 

We blasted off and the ship lurched in every direction. I wondered if we’d ever make it, but within a few minutes we were smoothly zooming towards our planet. The return journey was quicker and much more comfortable than in the crummy Israeli rocket.

 

We had set the coordinates to land in the river Ebro just near our house, but Sheen decided to pay her friend Soraya a surprise visit, so we fiddled about with the controls a bit and tried to land on Soraya’s balcony. Her attic apartment made a perfect landing strip, and I was able to plonk our ship neatly between the giant cactus and the little table where she puts her vodka when she’s watching the telly. 

 

Understandably, we made rather a noise landing the contraption on the balcony, and Soraya was alarmed, to say the least, but as soon as she saw our beaming faces, she even forgave our squashing her cat Ronaldo, who had frozen in fright on seeing the Martian space craft descend on his mat. 

 

And that was that. I’ve written this in a hurry because I wanted to share it with all our readers, and also because I don’t want to miss any more of the Olympic Games.

 

Right now we are still trembling. If no posts appear on this blog in the next few days, fear not, dear souls. It’s just that the Zaragoza Twins are on holiday. 

  

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