This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
and I'm floating in a most peculiar way
and the stars look very different today
for here am I
sitting in a tin can far above the world
planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do...
(Space Oddity. David Bowie, 1969).
Stars look very different today
Every night streaks of light had appeared in the sky. The first night it happened he wondered if he had gone mad. The movement of the wisp like patterns were both terrifying and beautiful. He had never seen anything like it. He knew that such strange light patterns used to occur on Earth.
Jake closed his eyes. It was only a week ago when he had been conducting a standard analysis of the planets in system X-IV. He had been searching for minerals, metals, crystals, oil and anything else that the Black-hole Protraction company would find of value. He was four galaxies from the Milky Way in a solar system with nine planets. When he had arrived, it had seemed to be just another standard solar system. As soon as he saw this planet he knew he would get some good coin from BP for finding it. He had come in close to the planet so that his sensors would be able to easily access the data needed to be sent back to HQ. His eyes widened as the sensors on the ship began to relay the amount of valuable resources. Then everything had started to shut down. First, the sensors, then the engines and then everything else. His ship had drifted into the gravitational pull of the planet. It had been badly damaged and he wasn't really sure how he survived. He must have blacked out after the ship was passing into the atmosphere. At that point he thought, "...and now I'm going to die." When he woke up he was lying among the smoldering remains of the ship wondering what the hell just happened.
Jake opened his eyes to see that the lights above him were shifting and turning gracefully. The night light patterns seemed to be dancing slowly, bowing, turning. Jake was no longer afraid and he thought to himself, "Well there are worse ways to go mad."
The lights faded away and Jake walked back to the remains of his ship. He had assembled what he could salvage into a temporary shelter. He ate some of the emergency rations. They all tasted like dry cardboard. Jake was running low on food and knew he would need to start to explore for edible wildlife and fresh water. He had had been hoping that the signal from his ship would have been picked up by a rescue vessel. So far nothing had happened. He could hear the rain coming down hard on the outside of the shelter.
In a tin can
Jake woke to the sound of insects. There must have been a hundred of them circling the top of the shelter. Usually there was only a few of them. The rain must have lured them in and now they were crowded around the tiny gaps in the roof. He wondered why they didn’t try and sting him. It seemed they were as afraid of him as he was of them. He opened the wire mesh door of the shelter and looked out at the dew settling on the grass. The silence outside was unsettling. He decided that he had to get used to the idea that he could be here for a long time and started to walk toward some mountains that were in the same direction as the rising sun.
He had no compass so he knew he had to be careful. Much of the area he walked through was full of tall thin grass up that grew wild and bent easily under his boots. There were plenty of insects around that hovered over the grass and that flew away as he approached. He let his hands rest on top of the grass and wondered why he hadn't stopped on any of the other planets that were uninhabited and just taken the time to wander freely. Of course, it was strictly against the regulations of BP. If all of their employees decided to wander around like this who knew what might happen. He grinned to himself and thought about all the times he had to be polite to his boss and all the other scum he worked with just to keep his job. If only they could see him now as free and happy as he had ever been. He stopped walking and his smile broadened. It was true he was feeling so peaceful right now. He looked around at the tall grass and made his way to a small cluster of trees to his right to take a rest for a moment. It would only take him about ten minutes to get there.
Half an hour later he reached the trees. The sky was clear and the weather humid. He had forgotten how such a flat stretch of ground could let you misjudge the distance of objects. Even though he was sweating and starting to breath heavily he still felt pretty good. Not bad for a guy who was almost forty and had lived off nothing but space food for the last couple of years while working for BP.
He sat there under the clump of trees and saw something moving in the branches above him. It moved swiftly and easily among the coiled branches and matted leaves. It was hard to make out its shape. Jake stood up cautiously and waited.
When it dropped in front of him he almost let out a scream. Jake stood still and tried not to appear nervous or afraid. It was covered in sleek green fur with flecks of brown and it rolled toward him with most of its body being made up of an enormous torso. The legs and feet were thin as the branches. It had three splayed fingers on the hands and three similarly long splayed fingers on its feet. It moved quickly. It wasn't tall but it appeared incredibly strong and agile. It looked up at him and very slowly reached out one of its long fingers and prodded him in the stomach. Then it proceeded to sniff, prod and feel the skin on his arms and face. Jake wasn't sure whether it was just curious or testing out if he was edible. he felt dizzy and crouched down. Now they were looking each other in the eye. Then very quietly Jake said, "Listen...I don't know what you're doing but I don't think you and I are going to be friends."
The creature sniffed him one more time. It opened its mouth and let out a god-awful belch that smelt like rotting weeds and god knows what else it had been munching on. It climbed back into the trees. Jake waited a few more moments and then ran back into the open fields. As he ran a chorus of screams and howls echoed behind him. He didn't look back but kept running until he was sure nothing was following him. He threw himself into the grass and waited. But there was nothing but the buzzing and whirring of the insects. A slight breeze began to shift across the grass plains. Streaks of sweat were rolling across his face and down his chest. He knew he needed to get back to the wreck to change his clothes that were damp and making him shiver.
He stood up and began to walk back. Clouds were starting to gather but he could still see the sun. It was late afternoon now and his hands and arms itched from the long grass he had been attempting to hide in. The fear of being in an open field with alien creatures nearby was starting to make him paranoid. He watched where he stepped. Every twig or clump of weeds made him look twice. He made it back to his shelter just as the sun was setting. He breathed out slowly and realized now that he had been very lucky and needed to be more careful the next time he decided to take a walk in the woods.