Life on Mars

Click the pic for the original challenge. Written for Ermilia’s Picture It & Write.

Kiri bent her arm down carefully, slowly and deliberately to the dirt in her new back yard. The important purpose of her mission raced in her veins, filling her with pride. I must let base know I’ve begun, she thought. Everyone will be so proud of me! She stopped and popped her thumbs excitedly on her text pad.

“I am collecting my sample now,” she typed out.

The responses from the team averaged more than thirty minutes. Ordinarily, Kiri would initiate a system timeout while she waited, but the excitement of her mission was too great. She reverted through her memory banks to the images of Earth after she first left the atmosphere. One frame in particular with the sun sinking behind the horizon was mesmerizing. It was more than beautiful. It was a perfect picture of the home Kiri left 350,000,000 miles behind. She missed the Earth. She missed the team.

It was lonely in her new home. Suddenly, Kiri was sad. She knew the team back home would be trying to determine, through her research, if there was any possibility she was not alone. The red dirt surrounding her didn’t promise much company. Not even so much as a beetle. She returned to her text pad.

“When will I be coming home, Richard?”

She lowered her arm again and scooped up a handful of dirt. She shook it up and deposited it into one of the analysis chambers in SAM. She powered up CheMin, synchronized the processor and started the analysis process. Then she sadly began to survey the landscape while she waited. The exhilaration when she had first arrived was beyond belief. She was a hero! She would be the one to discover once and for all if there were signs of life on Mars. But that excitement was gone. The more she looked around, the more obvious it became that she was the only life on Mars.

SAM was a magnificent portable laboratory, but he wasn’t much company. Kiri’s mood sank deeper and deeper, lost in the hum of SAM’s analyzers, until finally she was interrupted by a transmission. She jumped in excitement, but then she stared in horror at the words.

“Mars is your new home, Ms. L. You’re not coming back.”

“Kiri’s heart snapped. Depression flooded her. Tears started. They backed up inside her and with no place to go, she could feel them leaking inside, into her circuits, drowning her in a flood loneliness. There was a horrible sizzling sound and just as everything was fading to black…

“Emily!” Her mother’s voice called out across the yard. “What are you doing with your chemistry set outdoors? Didn’t I tell you not to play with that unsupervised?”

Kiri was indignant. “I’m not Emily! I’m Kiri Ossity, the Martian Science Laboratory. I’m collecting Martian soil samples for SAM.”

“Well, go put SAM back in your bedroom and wash all that Martian soil off your hands. It’s almost time for dinner.”

“But Mom…”

“But nothing! The guys at Cape Canaveral will still be there tomorrow.”

“They’re in Pasadena,” Emily grumbled. She dumped the dirt back in the garden and stuck the test tube back in her little fold-up laboratory. She took one last disgusted look around the back yard of their new home. There really wasn’t any other life on Mars.

★★★

Houston Texas: John Grunsfeld, associate administrator at NASA answered his phone. “Hello, Richard, what’s the news?”

“John we have a huge problem. It looks like we’ve lost communication with the MSL.”

“Lost communication? What are you talking about?”

“It’s been well over an hour with no response from last command, and John… there was something really strange about her last communication.”

“What did it say?” John shook his head to himself. Richard insisted on referring to the Curiosity as a her.

“She wanted to know when she was coming home.”

© 2012 Anne Schilde

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About Anne Schilde

Image "Webster's Kiss" © 2011 Anne Schilde Thanks always for reading! ♥
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24 Responses to Life on Mars

  1. joetwo says:

    Nice twist in the end! I+ reminded of an old comic on xkcd about the spirit rover (the little trooper) and how after the first ninty days it expected to go home. But was trapped on mars forever. Poor guy.

    • Anne Schilde says:

      Ha, well I have been saying lately that there are no such things as new ideas. 🙂 I think I might have been more influenced by Wall E. I’ve just been really perplexed lately by the whole idea that they think Mars once had running water so the pic was instantly the view on my way to Mars.

  2. Ermilia says:

    I love that he refers to curiosity as a her. I was a bit confused as to how the two stories linked up, was her imagination THAT powerful or is she psychic? 😛 Or am I just looking too deeply into it. Regardless, I loved Kiri’s adventures on mars. Thanks for contributing this week, Annie. 🙂

    – Ermisenda

    • Anne Schilde says:

      I’ll always go with the power of imagination, but I think this is equally about empowering a young girl with a chemistry set, and a dream of space exploration. I really liked the name Kiri and I’m glad you enjoyed her adventures.

  3. great story, I loved the ending. meaning the post script or follow up.

  4. Tanitha says:

    I really loved this 🙂 I thought that she was just going to be a child, but I didn’t see that last bit coming! Really sad and lovely and a bit mindbending!

    • Anne Schilde says:

      Great! That sounds like a good mix for one of my stories. Haha, I was going to name her Annie, but then with Curiosity landing in August that would make me about ten. Thanks for reading, Tanitha!

  5. Love this one. It was fun to read and had such a good ending. You are an amazing writer Annie!

  6. Haha… Anne; I’m getting used to your wonderful twists. However; that one still surprised me! Great work… 🙂

    • Anne Schilde says:

      Would you believe I don’t actually try to put twists in my stories, Carolyn? People comment on them all the time, but they don’t seem like twists to me… just kind of how the story goes and I’m trying to tell it right. I do like to create ambiguity. It’s the beauty in a metaphor. Ha, maybe that’s what a twist is and I’m just slow!

      I have dropped many puns on this blog that not one person laughed at… for example when I did intentionally put a twist in the mirror story… no one laughed that I “put my knife in and twisted it.” Pretty good pun, I thought. 😦

      My greatest hope is always that I’m not wasting your/our time, and surprise is never a waste of time! Thanks for reading! ♥

      • I guess you’re just a natural, Anne…!
        Your reference to what we see as a twist, is for you an ambiguity/uncertainty. Absolutely agree with this. Your work suggests a solidity that turns to great uncertainty, ending (usually) once again with a solidity. Your characters have a fullness that capture the imagination; make us expand…
        Whatever you call it; twist/ambiguity, it works well…
        Here’s to characters that challenge us, Anne… 😉

      • Anne Schilde says:

        Haha, and comment boxes that challenge us! I tried three times… ♥

  7. Sunita Menon says:

    Good ending for the story. I liked the way you portrayed the child’s imagination. Nice story.

    • Anne Schilde says:

      Oh, awesome! I’ve seen your butterfly, and now I see it’s attached to one of these prompts! It’s bedtime after a long day, but I’ll go read yours first, and thanks for reading mine! ♥

      …my “Flower Anne” tag has my best imagination of children stories.

  8. Green Speck says:

    I loved this … this seemed straight out of the pages of a sci fi novel 🙂

  9. Thu says:

    Ooh. At first I was kind of confused, but after rereading, this sounds like something my mom would love. She’s a big fantasy/sci-fi/thriller fan.

    • Anne Schilde says:

      You should share it with her! I’m really excited about the Curiosity. It’s worth reading the non-fiction available from NASA so far. They believe Gale Crater was once under water!

  10. Nanda says:

    ooooh, this is such a good read!
    sometimes i feel like in mars and no one notices it…
    xox

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