There were 50 of us in the first wave.

Those of us who’d shelled out for the “VIP experience” were welcomed a few hours before the general admission crowd. Oh, excited is an understatement—the unbridled energy, the youthful screams of joy as we descended from low orbit to the lunar surface. Our lander had barely touched down and guests were already shrieking into their phones, video chatting their friends, posting a flurry of selfies: #Pyre2032, #MoonBitches, #YOLOSpaceForce. Then the airlock door irised open and we all shoved out of the cabin, a wild gush of bodies flooding into the stark sunlight.

It was about 200 meters from the landing zone to the Pyre welcome area, and most of our group broke into a dead sprint when boots hit the ground. As we neared the concierge booths, skipping and bouncing in the low gravity, the festival seemed to be as glamorous as promised. Tropical gazebos hung with garlands of faux-hibiscus, private luxury pods with stunning views of Earth through their transparent shells—the whole area encircled by bubble tiki torches burning with real flame. And the Pyre CEO, Billy McDougal himself, was there in the flesh; standing on a laser-lit dais, a heroic figure flanked by employees in name-tagged suits.

“Are you ready,” McDougal began, his eyes scanning the rows of wide-eyed disciples, “for the entertainment experience of your life?” And a resounding “Yes!” boomed in our helmet speakers.

Now, at this point, our personal oxygen supplies had started to run down a bit. After all, we’d burned a lot of energy just disembarking the landers, shouting and high-fiving on our journey to the welcome area. Hyperventilating.

But no big deal. The Pyre website clearly displayed a massive festival dome right on this spot, filled to the brim with fresh air and drinking water, artificial beaches and gourmet food service, amenities to make a Roman emperor blush.

“Hey, where’s the dome?” someone from the crowd queried on the general band, his voice crackling in our helmets.

“Uh, yeah,” mumbled McDougal, less confident than a moment before. “We’re just finishing it up now.” Then he pulled a football and some Frisbees from a bag and tossed them into the crowd. “But just hang tight for a few and it’ll be up in no time!”

So they whipped up some distractions and plied us with drinks in the meantime. Plastic pouches of cocktails and zero-G beer pong, karaoke and lunar selfie booths, even a conga line of sexy singles weaving among the sun-kissed dunes. As expected, there were drunken mishaps. One guy backflipped himself into a keg stand, but the low gravity threw him off; he just floated up and away, broke clear off into space as his girlfriend attempted a rescue with a makeshift lasso of volleyball net. I watched it all impassively, dazed by the sun and the booze, a pink bendy straw looped from my helmet into a bag of margarita.

I admit, this performance kept us occupied for a while; those precious few hours when we could have been fleeing back to the mothership, all wasted.

And then the second wave arrived.

We saw a wide swath of them ambling up to the welcome area. Hundreds of general admission arrivals, with hundreds more behind, stretching all the way back to the landing zone where a dense row of landers had been parked. The new attendees threw us confused looks as they approached.

“Hey, where’s the big festival dome?” one of them queried on the general band. More angry demands followed, a cacophony of complaints in our helmet feeds: bro, where’s the food? No music? The beach? What the hell, not even a damn toilet?

We were promised Michelin-starred chefs and exotic moon dancers—the best that our overpriced tickets could buy—and instead found squeeze tubes of gravel-flavored protein paste.

The initial euphoria of the landing stripped away, our thoughts quickly turned to escape. A few of us eyed the lunar landers, but those were meant to be remote-piloted by the Pyre mothership in low orbit. Did anyone know how to fly the damn things? More panicked shouts issued from the swelling crowd.

And then, and then… [Subject declines a tissue] No, thank you. I’ll be fine.

And then pure pandemonium broke out.

Everyone scrambled for the luxury pods, the only oxygen source in sight. With so many desperate guests competing for the few airlock doors, party favors quickly became weapons—limbo sticks, broken shards of beer funnel, anything that could pierce a suit. I watched one pair swinging wildly at each other, clung fast like tango dancers until finally dessicated and frozen solid in the shadow of a crater.

The mob quickly turned its rage on the clueless Pyre employees. McDougal made a quick escape on his personal rover as the remaining crew were run down and beaten, robbed of their oxygen tanks, helmets tossed into space like a ritual sacrifice to the moon god.

I’d seen enough. I turned and ran for my life.

My breath ragged, stomach twisted in knots, I fled in wide, swooping strides toward the landing zone. Drunken partiers fell to my left and right, some tumbling across the endless gray landscape, others plunging into narrow, hidden craters along the way.

I soon stumbled upon McDougal’s crashed rover, his body limp, chest plate cracked wide by a massive boulder. Out of respect for the dead, I lowered his sun visor and saluted once, then grabbed the keys from the ignition before moving onward; my only souvenir of the festival.

The landers were growing larger now, the modules arranged in a precarious cluster—metal dominoes poised to tumble under the right stimulus. The fastest runners had already begun hijacking the cockpits; a few even managed to override the remote-piloted controls. I watched aghast as one engine fired and overburned, yellow flame licking the rocks as the module rocketed sideways through the row of adjacent landers. The resulting explosion flared once and petered out in the airless void.

And then I saw it, a single beacon of hope unmasked by all the destruction: a Pyre executive shuttle! It was hidden a short distance from the now-ruined landers, but as I began my sprint toward, it a pack of rival guests got the same idea. Frantic, sweat beading in my helmet, I reached the single-passenger craft just moments ahead. As the door sealed shut behind me, I muttered a short prayer to mask their curses in my helmet, then inserted the CEO’s key and was quickly jolted into orbit. Salvation from the wretched moon.

As I’ve already told the Pyre technicians who welcomed me aboard the mothership, I do apologize about those attendees roasted alive during my takeoff—but the captain kindly patted my shoulder and gave me a 40-percent-off coupon for my troubles (valid for one month, Pyre online shop only).

And that, Detective, is my recollection of a day of absolute horror and carnage, one that I still remember clearly, all too clearly.


Pardon, what was the question? Would I do it again, you ask? Attend another Pyre Festival?

[Subject stares longingly into the distance]

Will Blink-182 be there?