Original script by NICK BROWNLEE
From the audio series “WELL WEIRD, WITH ADRIAN CLAYPOLE”
For millennia man’s fear of the unknown has been matched only by his insatiable thirst for knowledge.
Slaking that thirst has taken us beyond the bounds of our own planet, freeing us from the shackles of this blue-green orb that we call Earth.
But what happens when, in our quest for understanding, we are confronted by a knowledge that is itself unknowable? When we step from the realm of logical reason to be confronted by that which is beyond our capacity to understand?
In 1969 astronauts on the Apollo 10 mission heard what they thought was music emanating from the uncharted depths of space.
Such were the implications of this unworldly sound, the tape was suppressed, the astronauts sworn to secrecy.
Why? Was it because the authorities believed we would not understand? Or was it because, by knowing the unknowable, man’s innermost fears would be realised?
The town of Flimby in West Cumbria is unremarkable in many ways. Unremarkable because is so utterly typical of the many former mining communities that cling to this rain-lashed stretch of remote English coastline.
The people here are no-nonsense, rugged, hardened to the realities of life through generations of struggle.
They have no truck with the unworldly. No time for the mysteries of life.
Until, that is, you mention the name of Martha Bevir.
You see in the long hot summer of 1976 this 51-year-old office cleaner was at the centre of a mystery which not only gripped the town, but called upon its residents to fundamentally question the meaning of their place in the universe.
Even now, some 40 years later, Martha Bevir still divides Flimby between those who believe – and those who don’t.
At an industrial tribunal in late July of that year, Martha astonished everybody present when she described how she had been abducted by aliens more than 30 times over a period of 18 months between November 1974 and May 1976.
Furthermore she alleged that on each occasion she was subjected to intimate “sex experiments” by her captors.
The purpose of these experiments, she said, was simple: to see if she was capable of being impregnated by alien seed, thereby enabling her to save the dying Zorgon Federation whose females had been wiped out by a devastating space plague.
Her claims, however, were refuted by her former employers, a local firm called SupaBrite Contract Cleaning Ltd.
According to them, Martha Bevir was in fact a malingerer who had been sacked for serial absenteeism over that same 18 month period.
Inevitably, it boiled down to a case of their word against Martha’s – each as compelling as the other.
When a surveillance film was shown to the tribunal, allegedly showing Martha drinking super-strength cider and sunbathing in the garden of her council house when she should have been at work, she claimed that on the day in question she had in fact been substituted by a cyborg replicant that required UV rays from the Sun for power.
The cider, she added, was lubricating fluid necessary to protect the machine from the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere.
“While that thing was down there on my sun-bed pretending to be me,” she told the tribunal, “I was up in the Mother Ship getting bowling-balled by a 16ft Zorgon with three cocks.”
In a hearing lasting less than twelve minutes, Martha Bevir’s appeal for wrongful dismissal was rejected and her claim for £500,000 compensation thrown out.
And there, you might think, the story ends. Just another sordid tale of a workshy chancer stretching the bounds of credulity to con her employer – and exceeding them.
Except two nights later, Martha Bevir disappeared, having last been seen leaving a public house near her home in the early hours of July 28, 1976.
According to local residents, a number of bright lights were seen in the sky over Flimby at the same time.
There have been many explanations for this. Aircraft. The aurora borealis. A uranium leak from the nearby Windscale Nuclear Power station. None were ever substantiated.
What we do know is that an extensive police search failed to find any trace of Martha Bevir – other than scorch marks in the car park and a pair of leisure trousers covered in green slime.
We live upon a small planet, just one of many billions floating in an unimaginably vast universe.
In the face of such knowledge, perhaps the only way we are able to keep our sanity is to cling to certainties: that seasons will change, that night will become day, that death is the inevitable consequence of life.
When those certainties are challenged is when we begin to question our own existence. The unexplained holds a mirror to our own insignificance.
Perhaps, many light years away, Martha Bevir is indeed a Zorgon Queen.
And perhaps, if we choose to listen, we too can hear music from beyond the stars.