Strange IndiaStrange India

Welcome! I’ll be your captain and tour guide here today. Grab a seat, make yourself comfortable. That everyone? Lemme get the hatch all closed here and we’ll take off.

So, you know how many spaceside attractions there used to be?


Truth is, no one really knows. Space is a pretty big space to cover.

Well, it used to be. Seems smaller now. You want to travel across the galaxy? Just take a couple steps through the teleporter, little queasy feeling, then badda-bing, you’re there!

But not too long ago — OK, a bit before your time — it took a while to get to places. Even with the Haytham faster-than-light engines, travel could take a couple weeks, months to cross this big, black expanse. And along the way, folks passed these spaceside attractions floating around in that big black, typically right near an outpost station. We’ve relocated 81 of ’em to this here corner of space, all for the sake of historic preservation, so we can remember those times.

Out your window on the right, you’ll see one of the earliest spaceside attractions: the largest-ever replica of planet Earth, about 200 miles across. Nope, it doesn’t light up any more, but when it did, those blues sparkled prettier than any tropical ocean. After three weeks of your eyeballs drinking in grey ship walls and black skies, you’d just want to hug those blues.

Funny story: met my husband, Omar, at an outpost located beside this very attraction. I’d been feeling empty as space, moving so far away from my parents. Omar gave me a drink and a smile. Little thing, but it made me feel brighter than that replica Earth could glow. Got on his ship come departure time.

On your left, there’s the flying saucer, with 40 holographic aliens waving out the windows. Omar and me set up our first home in a station right by that saucer. The damn thing’s flashing red lights kept the babies up at night. We couldn’t afford decent curtains for our apartment, but the place was cheap.

Notice that window over there? That’s a pizza-eating velociraptor. What kind of toppings does a dinosaur eat? Oh, Omar and the kids would imagine the silliest things on those dinosaur pizzas, and giggles would burst out like a star gone supernova.

What’s that? Why’d people make these things? Well, they’d draw travellers to the outposts, you see. New people to pass through, and that meant customers. Suns above, did we all need the money visitors brought, but how to make them want to stop? Outposts back then looked like shit. Just boxes, their air and supplies packed inside with nothing more than the thinnest wall possible keeping it all together. You try to hammer decorations on one end of that box, spruce a place up, something nearby would fall apart. No one wanted to risk busting up an outpost — remember, these were our homes — just to add some lights and décor and make it look all pretty on the outside.

But you could do whatever you wanted in the space around. Scrape together all your trashy supplies, spare paint, leftover engine parts, and you’d make art.

So maybe someone wouldn’t want to stop at any old rickety outpost, with its metal walls making a dark spot in black space. But add a flying saucer with red flashing lights and a pizza-eating dinosaur? Well, that’s a bright little sign there, in the dark of space, shouting: “There’s people here. Come inside and say hello!”

So money, drawing customers, was one part of ’em. But the attractions were more than that. They made you smile. Made you feel welcome. Made the space between stops feel a lot smaller, truth be told.

Lotta people were just starting to travel the stars back then. Omar and me, we took the kids on a lot of trips through the black. We noticed attractions got fancier over the years. Over on your left, see that there? That glittery one’s our Crystal Stonehenge, rumoured to be the most expensive spaceside attraction ever. The kids thought it was made of stardust and wishes. Stopped at Stonehenge’s outpost a lot. Last time we visited, kids were almost ready to move out, and Omar was showing some early signs then, mind wandering around, forgetting where we were going. I made a wish of my own right then. Oh, I wished, with all my heart to capture that moment in time. It was just perfect. If only time could’ve stopped, ya know?

Anyway, time marched on. People stopped building the attractions. All of a sudden, there was no need to even see the stars and black of space any more, we could just teleport one room to another, planet to planet. No need for outposts — they got all tore up for scraps. Nobody needs to stop for supplies, medical care and such. Lotta attractions got busted too, but we saved as many as we could. Saw most of these very sights on our trips, me, Omar and the kids.

My last ride with Omar, a few years back, we just floated around here, like I was taking him on a tour. He wasn’t remembering too well then, but he’d see the replica Earth, the flying saucer, and start reminiscing about our trips. Talked about pizza toppings. Reached the end of the tour and he asked me, “Where to next?”

So many places I wanted to go with him.

Space was big way back when, but damn, did we make memories …

Excuse me. So if you’ll look out the window to your right …

The story behind the story

Table of Contents

Carol Scheina reveals the inspiration behind Welcome aboard the Silva family historic spaceside attraction tour.

What is a road trip through the United States without a stop at a roadside attraction? I confess, I used to drive past them with an eyeroll. Then I had kids, and we started going on driving trips because taking my little humans on a plane seemed terrifying. At first, the roadside attractions were just places to stop and let the kids burn off steam, but we laughed as we stretched our legs. Then we started planning specific routes to see more attractions. We stopped at fibreglass dinosaur parks, admired giant legs and found shacks built to look like gravity was all askew. We even explored a recreation of Stonehenge built out of Styrofoam.

Roadside attractions were big here in the 1920s and 1930s, when the automobile was brand new, and large, bright displays enticed people to stop and spend money. Nowadays, you can fly across the country much faster than you can drive, yet people still create these attractions. They pour their own money into building them for all sorts of reasons: love of dinosaurs, the joy of art, or just a desire to be silly. But what I love the most is that the attractions give us a moment to just stop and smile. They make trips memorable.

We create roadside attractions here on Earth, so why wouldn’t we make them in space as well? Thus, this story was born.

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