The Garden of Celestial Delights
"No matter humanity’s advancements, an intergalactic excursion never fails to thrill. A sojourn to the stars. A promenade among the planets. The pace of life measured in light years, makes one feel light as a feather, instantly. Indeed, whatever earthbound scales might read prior to departure, soon you really will be – effortlessly, as there’s no need for spinning classes when zero gravity does the legwork for you, leaving you free to feast on the finest freeze-dried fare without counting a single calorie..."
The Galactic Expressway Resort had been in development for just short of a decade when they celebrated their soft launch "Leave to Remain" on that fateful Friday of June 24th, 2016. The intention had been to establish a viable competitor for Dick Pickle’s Coitus Galactic, a flight service offering unencumbered views of our Earth to its ordinary citizens. But the commendable group behind the Galactic Expressway Resort weren’t satisfied with offering mere moments of weightlessness and a quick selfie before plummeting friends and fuck-buddies back to reality. They facilitated, instead, a home-from-home, a glorious escape from this torrid planet for anything from a long weekend to a lifetime.
The resort, built in the Future-Elizabethan style, currently offers accommodation for 255,700 people, the population of Milton Keynes. And in a shrewd PR move, the purveyors of the resort have announced that they intend to expand their portion of outer space to offer rooms to all who voted to remain in the European Union – aiming to open at full capacity in time for the triggering of Article 50.
In its current form, the Galactic Expressway Resort’s rooms circle a central island that holds covered parklands, entertainment hubs, wellness facilities, learning lounges and a food village. On entry, opulent, threaded ropes lead guests through a bustling conservatory, planted with genetically modified trees designed to thrive in these unusual circumstances, and on past a grand exhibition of portraits representing stars of the Remain campaign including David Beckham, June Sarpong and Brian Blessed. Due to the lack of gravitational pull, to access one's room friends have to glide up the conservatory ropes and along through the complex of residences; each decorated in tasteful, muted tones with contemporary European furnishings complete with tie-down detailing.
The food village recalls peak-Las Vegan simulation, and on the same gigantic scale, with each Rue, Strasse, calle and ulica offering up a glut of continental culinary highlights, so guests can devour everything from l’escargot to Sachertorte; goulash to Pastéis de Nata in enviably authentic settings. And, of course, there is also much scope for creative self-catering, popular with committed residents who can choose to purchase nutritionally beneficial (and morally satisfying) Fresch© fruits and vegetables, as well as sterilised beef steaks, all manner of wursts and plentiful treats such as shortbread or Läkerol, from spacious hypermarkets which boast designated aisles for each member state, Scotland and a London counter serving tasty tidbits from every borough (with the exclusion of Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Sutton, Havering and Hillingdon).
The entertainment hubs comprise shopping centres to entice all guests, whether budgets accommodate Acne or Chanel, Balenciaga or Zara, while regular resupply missions mean your style stays light years ahead, whatever the season below. Naturally, there are also multiple cinemas, galleries, museums and theatres with programming at each institution bespoke to the resort, and carefully edited to remain on-message. By curating entertainment in this way, friends stay unencumbered by the stresses of divergent opinions, triggering imagery of post-Brexit Britain and those who propagated that unfortunate result. The Galactic Expressway Resort really does seem to be heaven off Earth for Remainers, or rather those who would have remained, had Britain!
Fittingly, the on-board currency is the Euro (<3), which when you’ve grown sick of retail therapy and gloriously high culture, can be utilised at the wellness facilities. There are spas, saunas, gyms, yoga and meditation studios as well as complimentary counsellors, and educational playgrounds for the little ones. The learning lounges, which host language classes as well as housing a vast array of books, films and periodicals, are elegantly arranged with contents floating rhythmically behind gleaming glass shutters.
Life on the Galactic Expressway Resort can be likened to a spell on one of Earth’s most luxurious cruises, one similarity being that due to the intricacies of the Outer Space Treaty, the shuttle cannot moor for longer than 14 sidereal days in any spot, so one’s view is ever-changing. A curious outcome being the "Overview Effect", something often experienced by astronauts from a time prior to commercial flights, where the view of Earth from space would transform their perspective on the planet and mankind’s place upon it. On returning to earth, they would often describe a new-found appreciation for the interconnectedness of life, the lack of real boundaries between nations and the importance of caring for our environment.
Joyfully, the whole place is climate controlled to a moderate 23C. Its proximity to the sun makes every day seem like a Finnish summer, 20 hours of sunlight at just the right temperature to play swingball without breaking a sweat. The swimming pool is the only location with its own gravity supply, allowing friends to hone their butterfly or just bob about during a morning chat. For moments when the blackness of space gets a bit too much, guests can also project familiar landscapes from Earth across their windows. There’s everything from the Seven Wonders, through to noisy streets, beach scenes and brick walls; as well as the option to upload your own views from home. This seems to be one of few features that actively entertains nostalgia, the general consensus being that it is best to leave the specifics of one’s recent past on terra firma. Immersion, and all that.
The pervasive air of superiority on the Galactic Expressway Resort is also terribly appealing. Founded in shared opinions and values, it appears there is little to dispute except whose turn it is purchase the next bottle of fair trade Bordeaux(!) However, one issue that seems to arise, quite literally, is that the lack of gravity causes pages from, or entire books, to disappear. This also occurs with film reels, and even paintings. According to Alex – who founded the resort but prefers to not invoke traditional hierarchies of profession or gender, so is simply known by their first name – items are occasionally discovered floating through space, having disappeared through a gap in the system. And, in my experience, these gaps may well be floating into people's memories – there have been multiple occasions during my stay where the mention of the Tory leadership battle, Stranger Things and even Bake Off has been met with bemusement. It’s as if the population has been brainwashed! In fact, on one evening, a long-term resident of a certain age grew positively upset by my conversation, and thus I was informed that I must briskly return up the rope to my suite.
I was unable to complete my stay, or my review, as the next day, while floating the aisles of the library, I was informed that “Due to unforeseen circumstances, [they] were terribly sorry, but the resort would no longer be able to host me.” I was dispatched home via the return leg of a Fresch© resupply mission, an associate having done my packing, and the whole event was treated with a strange and uncomfortable urgency.
On reflection, it seems that I may have hit a nerve. During its initial few months of opening, life had been ticking along nicely on the Galactic Expressway Resort. Their soft launch had been a roaring success, and in the way that returning to everyday life can cause you to entirely forget a holiday, the guests and friends of the resort seemed to be entirely forgetting their earthly lives.
I was soon contacted by a woman that I had met at one of the evening salons – which had bizarrely been held via a chat service so each of us sat alone in our rooms while we discussed current affairs – who informed that me she too had been evicted from the stars. Apparently, I had instigated a shift in the resort's collective consciousness by introducing a few too many reminders of life on Earth, which had until then been successfully repressed what with the friends having been so fully immersed in the culture of life on board. Soon, a group of dissidents had emerged, challenging Alex and the fellow good friends of the Galactic Expressway Resort on the location of the missing literature, asking probing questions about the development of expansive residences for Alex’s best friends and challenging the long-term safety of the resort’s safe spaces.
It would seem that in all their efforts to create a home-from-home in the heavens for those who longed for anything but upheaval, the friends behind the Galactic Expressway Resort had gone and dashed all our hopes for moral superiority. What had sounded like utter paradise turned out to be a rather questionable purgatory; where quality of life was dependent on the degree to which you were willing to fall in line. And soon enough those unwilling to adopt every intricacy of the pro-Remain stance of the resort were informed that they were not Europhile enough, and were (regrettably) advised to leave.
On returning to Earth, I took a time-out to gather my thoughts and booked a week in Lanzarote, where – if you haven’t heard – there is a wonderful BBQ restaurant powered by volcanic ash! Anyway, while there I saw what I thought was a shooting star, but transpired to be the Galactic Expressway Resort. A fight had ignited over who would be kind enough to lend an organic match to light a mindfulness candle, sparking a riot during which, in a truly shocking turn of events, the whole place had burst into flames.