Mother — a story of Mars

Sharp rocks gouge at my back. I’d lain there watching the greasy yellow sky grow dim for hours, unable to lift my arms to shield the sun from my eyes. My O2 nanny begs me to move, get up, get going. “Why?” I ask her. She surprises me: because of all the paperwork she’d have to process back home — if I died here. She admits that it wouldn’t be her specifically to do the work, but one of her sisters. However, since they were all connected, it would be her by proxy. And she hated paperwork.

Her pleas fail to move me. What does finally drive my elbows into the red sand that spreads like a disease all around me is this: Rhelman will take all the glory. Rhelman and his false friendship, his buddy-buddy kissoff that we had all sensed as soon as the hatch had opened and he’d crawled onboard.

Still, there I lay. If I don’t hump it and move my ass, he’ll bathe in the glory of what should be ours. Our discovery of Life, Her. The Mother. We still hadn’t plumbed her full depths. She was a vast mycelium galaxy buried a quarter mile beneath the surface. She was a fungal jungle — Janic couldn’t help herself with the word-play. The Mother was, how can I say this without sounding like a ’50’s horror flick? She was alive. She was a living thing, discovered on another planet. She represented everything we’d hoped we’d never find.

Yeah, I did say never. Some of us worry about those damn Great Filters.

And Rhelman will twist our discovery and take all the credit, as if he’d carved Her from red rock himself. I mean, the prick left used squeeze-packs on the kitchen pullout.

Nanny reminds me of my current predicament. When I’d climbed up to the cave I’d had no idea how rotten the ledge was. Like baked granola. As I’d reached the opening my camera caught sight of new, strange evidence — before I keeled back and ended up pinned, my legs beneath boulders that looked like I should be able to move them in this one-third gravity, but couldn’t. Evidence that She was much more than what Rhelman and the rest of us had speculated.

My beacon is letting them know I’m about to enter stasis — a whiff of cinnamon fills my helmet. Good, I say, I’m rather fond of cinnamon. I hope Blake has to haul my stiff corpse-like self back alone. I like Blake, but his laziness wears thin.

I would like to get one more glimpse of the setting sun before I black out, pale and sickly though it might be. But my whole torso seems glued to the ground. The cold is seeping up through my suit and, hell, it almost feels wet under there. Must be leakage or some malfunction, my urine pouch bursting in the fall. I don’t smell cinnamon anymore, though. Something more like the odor of cheese, or mushrooms, earthy, rich and consuming.

Ah, there’s the evening glow of the sun. I catch a glimpse through the fractal tendrils that seem to be growing over my visor. I can’t remember the last time I felt so-damn-comfortable. A sip of chardonnay would be nice right about now.