Eccles Grammar School

Essayan – Spring 1967




Wainwright pushed the lever to bring his ship into normal space, and, as the stars reappeared, started to look for the familiar solar system on his astro-screen.

Twenty long years ago he had disappeared beyond radio contact with the universe, on this first manned voyage to the stars — now, back to Earth, with the saddening news that nowhere, not about any of the stars he had visited — the Alpha Centauri, Vega, Orion, Sirius, or any of the other dozen or so — was there a planet capable of supporting more than a fractional number of Earth's teeming billions. By now, he re­flected, the number would be nearly doubled since he left — fervently, he hoped that the next journey would be successful. If it was not — ­what then?

He made a routine check of the co-ordinates; yes, everything appeared to be all right in the solar system, viewed from this distance, far outside the orbit of Pluto. Then he realised something — the radio which, when he had left, had been alive with the crackling of the many stations in the solar system, was silent — not even the call-signs of the interplanetary beacons, made up of a radioactive core, which should never die out, broke the silence!

First, he checked the set, tried the laser receiver, the deep-space radio-telescope — yet he could find nothing to reassure him. Something dreadful had happened!

He then switched to transmit, for the first time in twenty years, and sent out his call sign, agreed upon before he left the orbit round the moon, where the ship, never designed to go into the earth's atmosphere, had been built specially for the one and only trip it would make. No reply penetrated the eerie silence of the cabin and he began to be a little worried. Still, in a matter of days, his ship would be in orbit round the Earth, waiting for a service craft to come and take him home, and to check his tiny, one-man interstellar probe with the equipment on board that had taken years of research and the finest brains on Earth to develop. This equipment had worked perfectly, generating the field that had carried him on a grand cruise to the nearer parts of the Milky Way. Without developing any noticeable faults, it had brought him home­ — to what? He did not know and dared not guess.

A few hours later, he shot past silent Pluto, freezing under its eternal blanket of solid hydrogen, and headed inwards, still receiving no replies to his urgent signals. Soon, he should find out what had happened.

Uranus, Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter — all appeared now uninhabited, as if the small exploratory stations had been withdrawn and their dwell­ings left to decay.

The asteroids were the same, hardly depleted at all yet, by the mining operations necessitated by the growing need for the metals they contained. His ship had been built from most of one of the smaller ones, XK 657, he remembered. He did not check very closely, because he was still worried about the continued radio silence from all sources.

Deeply worried now, he turned up the power on his radio trans­mitter, and explored the moon with the searching fingers of the electron telescope — no sign of man appeared at all, and the moon seemed sud­denly larger, and less pockmarked with craters than it had been before.

Then he went cold all over, as he realised that the Apennine range, cut through in many places over the years of increasing colonisation, was completely whole — not a mark of the work of centuries appeared!

Now with a real sense of urgency he accelerated down towards the Earth. Surely he must find something — his telescope would show him everything more than a hundred yards across, on the earth. What would it reveal?

Settling into orbit just outside the atmosphere he subjected Europe to an intense scrutiny. Where were the City of Britain and the European Community. Only rolling hills and ubiquitous forests mets his gaze.

All over the world it was the same — forests covering all the land, with the polar caps shrunken and thin. The continents, too, were out of place — somehow bunched together and mis-shapen.

Then his numbed mind realised that there would be no service ship to take him home. Wainwright burst into insane laughter as it came home to him — he must starve and die there, stranded on the fringes of the atmosphere in his twenty-fifth century starship, above the primeval Earth.

R. H. Britton, 6USc. I



Do you know Borrowdale, the wettest area of the British Isles? We can now state that this fact is true. Miss Green and Miss Boulton bravely assumed command over seven misguided fifth and sixth form­ers, and took us to camp at Grange-in-Borrowdale from the 8th to the 15th of August, and we would like to thank (?) them for doing so.

We soon discovered that the quickest way to enlist help, concerning such complicated mano’euvres as erecting tents and lighting primus stoves, was to stand about looking pathetic, and wait for more experi­enced campers to offer their services.

Throughout the week we enjoyed such things as hikes, swimming in the River Derwent (for the hardy ones only!) and drinking coffee in the cafe at Grange. Most of the days ended with a sing-song and supper (biscuits and hot chocolate, drinking chocolate) in the large tent.

Saturday night was most exciting. Borrowdale's worst storm in living memory occurred that night, leaving a trail of destruction through­out the valley. The nine of us huddled together in the large tent, sing­ing to keep out the thunder and endeavouring to mop up the stream that was flowing through the tent.

The rain finally gave way to beautiful sunshine on the day that we came home.

We did enjoy ourselves. Honestly!

J. and N.


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