The Planet Sweets
By Gareth D Jones
“2006 HH123 Vanishes!” Read the headlines. They were not great headlines. The newspaper editors would have been happier had something more memorable vanished, like Mars or Mercury, or especially Venus that could have provided some great alliteration. The astronomers were aghast nonetheless. How could the 85th largest object in the solar system just disappear?
Unfortunately nobody had been watching at the time. Now that it had been noticed, the entire astronomical community was scouring the skies for any sign of its whereabouts. So this time there was somebody watching when several minor Jovian asteroids blinked out of existence. Quickly the observers became aware of an inky black shape disguised against the inky blackness of space.
Using instruments that didn’t rely on colour perception it was soon revealed that a huge whale-like creature was gambolling playfully in Jupiter’s wake and gobbling down minor celestial bodies like popcorn. When it closed in on Jupiter and made a beeline for Europa there was great consternation. That moon was the greatest hope for finding extraterrestrial life. But in the blink of an eye the space-whale extended its maw and sucked Europa up. Several minutes later it ejected the moon back out again, into a new and highly erratic orbit around its mother planet. Only now it was much smaller. The icy covering was gone, leaving a shrivelled up ball of rock in its place, just as when certain obnoxious people suck off the chocolate and spit the brazil nut back out.
The space whale looped away from Jupiter and began swooping sunward, altering course several times until it became obvious that Mars was its target. With a suddenness that was shocking even after what they had already witnessed, Phobos and Diemos were gulped down like a pair of M&Ms. The whale drifted slowly round in a huge curve that took it back on a course for Mars itself.
Already the Earth was in a state of panic, and as the whale’s targets grew larger the human race seemed doomed. One thing stood in the way though. Greed, which it seemed, is a universal vice. The whale extended its cavernous jaw and engulfed the planet Mars. As many children have discovered however, some sweets are just too large. It was like trying to swallow a gobstopper whole.
Thousands of astronomer watched on as earth-shattering convulsions shook the great beast’s body. It writhed and squirmed, until suddenly the red planet was ejected back into space, its surface scored with enourmous gouges that resembled a network of canals.
Put off by the experience, the whale turned away from the sun and, with a flick of its tail swept off into interstellar space in search of easier pickings.
On earth, millions of children were much more careful with their food from then on.
P.S. 2006HH123 really is the 85th largest object in the solar system.