August 9th 1996

GOOD MORNING. Here is the news. Experts can now confirm the evidence that there was once a very primitive form of life on the planet Earth. For a long time this was thought to be Impossible, because the chaos and confusion on Earth seemed incompatible with any life-form previously observed.

It now seems that God made and populated this planet in the usual way, but that the race he put there to run it, known as “humans”, took an extraordinary decision at the beginning of their history. We can’t think of any rational explanation for this, but they apparently decided to reject God’s rule on the planet, and go independent. Consequently, disaster ruled from day one. Strange and terrible phenomena, sickness and death, unknown to us, raged over the face of Earth.

Ironically, they named our own planet after one of their invented gods, Mars, the god of war: we’re not sure what “war” is, but the name is clearly a great compliment – we know they regarded “war” very highly, because of the great energy and resources spent on it, even at the expense of basics like food.

After numerous messages and warnings sent to this unhappy planet, God visited the humans in person. Not, as he does with us, simply on a social call; and not, interestingly, to save the whole planet from mismanagement. But simply to give individual humans a chance to opt out of this inevitable destruction and live for ever, like the rest of us.

A small proportion seem to have responded. Meanwhile, however, the human race continued to hurtle towards its own nemesis. In their latter days humans grew so lazy that, instead of walking anywhere, they sat In metal boxes, knowing that these boxes were not only consuming the earth itself but also killing the humans in their thousands. They grew so greedy that, instead of caring for the trees and forests which kept the planet in balance, they exchanged them for small paper and metal tokens. They grew so depraved that, instead of sharing these tokens out fairly, they pooled them all and drew lots, so a few people would have all the tokens and everyone else have none. Even so, all need not have been lost. About two thousand years after God’s Visit, the race was at crisis point: with staggering folly, they had drifted into thinking that their advanced technology would save them from their primitive morality. Nevertheless, even at this late stage, they could have turned back to God, and saved what was still a most beautiful planet. sadly, the opportunity wasn’t there for much longer.

As this is potentially one of the loveliest of God’s creations, we have decided to colonise it, and run it properly. There’s now no sign at all of human life on God’s Earth. Perhaps it’s just as well.

Anne Atkins is a novelist and broadcaster. Her most recent novel ‘On Our Own’ is published by Sceptre at £16.99