Mount Sharp’s Human

ENTRY 7:

The psychological analysis reports I have read all claim that astronauts, at this stage, are full of emotions like nervousness, anxiety, apprehension, disquiet and above all, fear. In science, all exceptions are given particular attention. And with my measured calmness I am nothing if not an exception. It is expected that I should be a maelstrom, but instead, all I am is a clear blue sky. I wonder if I should request another psych eval. Perhaps I’m not fit for this mission after all. But it’s also likely that this is just an astute attempt by my subconscious to get myself out of the mission. Am I really calm, or am I subliminally terrified?

A light beam slips through my window and bathes a portion of the chrome wall of my room in golden light. It’s dusk. Sunset. The final light before the long darkness, before the dawn, before newness and opportunity. Is there really an analogy in there? Or again, do I subconsciously have an ulterior motive? Are the parallels between the trajectory of photons and my mission unnecessary?

I miss my mother. I miss the scent of her shampoo. I miss Sunday afternoon pancakes. I miss Friday nights, bus rides to school, the boys, and the frustration.

 

ENTRY 9:

Sato wanted us to bury him on the planet. This would have been a very stupid decision, respect, tradition and custom be damned. You don’t get to introduce a foreign specimen into a controlled environment for sentimental reasons. Unless I can’t help it, all experimental protocol will be observed on this mission.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

A malfunction in the ventilation system brought to us a very stale smell. Along with the smell came the first sliver of a doubt as to if the incinerator would have been a good idea. We both felt nauseous but only Sato began to vomit. After the first round, he told me, “We should have buried him!”

I said, “Agreed. Waste of oxygen.” He gave me a look and then proceeded to vomit some more. Maybe burying him on the planet would have been a breach of protocol, but the asteroids in orbit would have been viable options. Too much of a hustle, I thought. I did not dwell on the burning remains. That leak in the ventilation system suggested to me that the condition of the ship was deteriorating further. The sooner we landed on the planet, the better. I left to check if the code for the landing sequence was still bug fee, leaving behind the smell of rotten flesh and the gagging sounds.

 

ENTRY 10:

The integrity checks I performed after coming out of cryosleep say various things. Things which can be summed up in flashing red lights. The ship is falling apart in every way possible. There are various reasons for this. For one, the urgent nature of the mission led to the hasty construction of Seven Sacred Streams. The safety checks were not as thorough as they should have been. Secondly, being in crystosasis for the duration of the mission made it impossible for us to conduct any maintenance. Due to power concerns, no robots were brought aboard the mission. Also, the large bouts of radiation the ship has been exposed to have catalyzed the decline of the ship.

Another disturbing issue, even with one crew member deceased…it doesn’t look like there’ll be enough resources to sustain the remaining two individuals for the planned duration of the mission…….

 

ENTRY 15

Before, we never really had any time to socialize, but being the only two humans for millions of miles forced us into interaction. Sato was a very nice human being. Back home, we would never have been friends, true, but talking to him is…refreshing. He has such a pure heart…that kind of unapologetic genuineness which is rare amongst human beings. He has a background in botany and geology. A third generation botanist actually. I have no one waiting for me back home, but he has a family. A wife, 3 kids and a cat.

Opening up to me won’t make me any less strict when it comes to standard operating procedure, but, nonetheless, I’m glad I got to know him this way.

 

ENTRY 21:

I had expected the constellations to be different on Mars, but they were precisely the same. Because of its ties to astrology, I had veered away from astronomy as a student, however, from the iota of knowledge I retained, I could tell that the constellations, though composed of the same stars, are taking slightly different trajectories across the canvas of the sky.

After rationing my meals, vitamins, oxygen and other miscellaneous resources, I have just 24 earth days to complete my mission. 23.36 Martian sols. I didn’t factor in resources needed for a return trip. After what happened, why should I survive? All I can do now is commit to finishing the mission. To make sure all required fields of information are transmitted back to earth.

The night deepens and I face the risk of thinking myself to sleep on the rusty Martian surface. As enticing as that seems, as aesthetic as the scene would be, it would still be very foolish. Despite the weaker gravitational pull of Mars, it’s still a challenge to rise to my feet in my space suit. I walk groggily back to Seven Sacred Streams, leaving behind Deimos as he tears through the night sky, and the constellations, as they watch.

 

ENTRY 1

This isn’t the world we deserve but it’s the one we made. I’m quite honored to have been selected for this mission. Part of me feels that the human race does not deserve another chance. But part of me also feels that we can do this. Maybe its compassion versus masochism again. I went to the space center today where I met the other two crew members. Sosuke Sato and Michael Lee Caddleworth. I’ve decided not to base any judgments on first impressions. On paper, they look good.

The final parts of the ship are being fired off into space for assembly. From the little that I saw, everything about it is geared towards ruthless efficiency. No space for aesthetics. Even an aerodynamic shape was too much of a luxury and had to be sacrificed. Which is why the ship is to be assembled in space. Hopefully, entry into the martian atmosphere won’t be too rough.

I saw Marley at the funeral today. She looked pale, pretty and pathetic. Life in the middle class does not seem to be treating her well. Maybe I should have spoken to her. Maybe I should have tried harder.

 

ENTRY 23:

I keep wondering how all gods are born. Of what I read from theology, gods were born to sustain the minds of primordial man and help their understanding of the universe. But that can’t be the only way. Of late, I’ve taken up the notion that gods are born of obsession.

What is a god after all? Is it not nothing but the object of our worship? And what is worship if not an obsession? I keep thinking about the mission. The mission, the mission, the mission. Seven Sacred Streams ran out of fuel 2 days ago. I can no longer rely on the mobile space ship as a refuge from the unforgiving Martian sand storms. I now have to depend on the surface rover for transportation. Rides on the rover are fun. It’s interesting how I keep coming up with new ways to keep myself distracted from the large doses of radiation I am exposed to due to the shattered lead shield of the rover’s engine.

What is god? The mission is god. Maybe I have a messiah complex. Maybe not. But the fact remains that the hopes of everyone back on earth lies on my shoulders. The hope of the entire human race lies on my shoulders.

Its now a race against time, and the deadline presents itself in various permutations. Will I complete the mission before I run out of resources? Will I die of radiation poisoning before I complete the mission? Will I run out of resources before I die of radiation poisoning?

6 sols more. I have already transmitted all the results of the research I have conducted back to earth. The findings are already painting a very interesting picture. Disturbing to the human in me, but interesting to the scientist in me. Now I race towards Mt.Sharp for a final confirmation of my findings. Maybe I’m being paranoid. I pray I’m being paranoid. Only time can tell.

Resources are dwindling, and with all the weight I’ve lost, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth the ATP to keep writing these entries.

 

ENTRY 17:

My hands are still shaking. Its very hard to write. I don’t want to justify what I’ve just done. It’s easy to fall back on it, but I don’t want to use the age old cliché of “for the greater good.” It was an idea I had tossed around in my mind….almost jokingly at first. But I surprise myself with how quickly I acted when the opportunity rose.

Maybe they’ll hate for it. Maybe I should be hated. But I acted for the right reasons.

Did I act for the right reasons though? Maybe I’m a terrible human being, maybe I’m criminally insane.

I don’t want to write about this anymore. I want to be alone. My hands are shaking.

 

ENTRY 27

Radiation poisoning does not treat the body kindly. Its been a day since my last meal and I know I wont be alive for much longer. I’m so weak, I feel it will soon be impossible to vomit properly. When that happens, I’ll just become another corpse on mars. A corpse that died by choking on its own bile.

I willed myself to be wrong, but even before I had descended into that wretched hell at the base of Mt.Sharp, I knew, with every fibre of my being, that I was right.

I have not the energy nor the time to repeat my exact finding in this entry. The detailed report is already en route to earth. After I clicked the transmit button, I found it fascinating, that an electric and magnetic field, vibrating at right angles to each other, could contain such…….such doom. For a moment, I considered not sending the report. The despair that the mission had failed would have been infinitely better than the despair that all hope is lost. I sent the transmission anyway because I knew better. Better to pass on the burden of releasing or withholding information to someone else.

I lie down now on the surface of mars. A scene not so different from that a few days ago. Days when hope was still our drug. Lone astronaut in the freezing desert.

I sense the shadow of death hovering over me, and at once, I begin to feel, with a deep regret, that I lived an empty life. I begin to feel sorry. Very sorry.

I’m sorry about my dad. I should have been there with him in his final days. How was I supposed to know how lonely it would be to die…with no one by your side. I feel sorry about my high school boyfriend. I shouldn’t have cheated on him the way I did. It’s silly to feel sorry about such a thing now, I know, but I can’t help my feelings. I feel sorry about Marley. Maybe my life would have been better if I had stayed at home with her. If I hadn’t left the town on a quest for education, money, power and glory. I feel sorry about Marley’s daughter…who’s going to die. A daughter who could have been mine. I start to cry.

I feel sorry about the earth. About every single living thing on that planet. About how everything is doomed for destruction due to chemical reactions, psychology, evolution, and the destructive march of time.

I feel sorry about the ship. It was a good ship. Seven Sacred Streams kept me warm and safe.

I feel sorry about Sato…whose body I left rotting somewhere beneath a Martian dune. He did not deserve to die that way. I had no right to be judge, jury and executioner.

I feel sorry about my cells. The multitude of cells which worked tirelessly to keep me alive. In spite of myself, I can’t help but feel I failed them too. This isn’t the world we made, but it’s the one we deserve.

We are all going to die, but I would have preferred not to die alone.

I’m sorry.

 

 

 

MISSION REPORT

FINAL TRANSMISSION

By Dr.Katherine Strange

ABSTRACT:

When I first signed up for this mission, I had no delusions about what was ahead of me. I knew the task ahead would be difficult, and I tried to the best of my ability, to prepare myself. In the psychological evaluation tests, we were asked what motivated us to accept this mission. For my crew members, it was simple: Duty. But for me, it was much more complicated.

I thought at the time that perhaps I was motivated by greatness, that I was the heroine who would forever be immortalized by her deeds, that I was a 22nd century Achilles. But now, I’ve had quite a lot of time to contemplate that answer, and I know it’s false. I was, in fact, motivated by compassion.

It may sound like a lie, for someone who’s spent a lot of time screwing people over in order to climb to the top. But when you’re stripped of a lot of things you thought were important, when you’re stripped down to your bare self, you have a lot of room to think clearly.

Perhaps, being in cryosleep has altered my brain chemistry in some way, and I may have retroactively altered my motivations. Nonetheless, I feel compassionate about all of mankind. And I have a burning desire to save us.

The caveat to having a burning desire though, disappointment cuts through to your very soul. I had invested so much of my emotional energy into the success of this mission. Every night, before going to bed, I imagined the tears of joy on the faces of my superiors when I send in the good news, all but touching their warm faces, all but feeling their relief.

Humans have always been ruined by their own expectations.

There must be some kind of philosophical term for this phenomenon though. It is a twist of such literary proportions that I am almost certain that it has been explored by some creative genius in his thousand page novel and discussed with passionate curiosity in many college classes years later.

To whoever receives this message, if you read it alone, I shed a tear for you, for the burden of this knowledge is not easy on the soul. You can read ahead, navigate through the scientific semantic and statistical reports, cut through the raw data and draw an inevitable conclusion.

Being human, you are going to be frightened by what you see. So frightened that you triple check the data. Your fear will not be made baseless however. You will become even more frightened then, and try to consider the possibility of forgery. Of Insanity. Heck, you’ll be so desperate that a genetic lack of creativity will not stop you from visualizing all possible ways this data could be false.

You can go ahead and read the reports. But that will be a waste of time. I’ll just tell you now what I found, in as few sentences as possible. I’ll be brief…a shadow hovers over me.

Millions of years ago, the first humans evolved on mars. Back then, the planet was verdant and beautiful, with lots of water and so much oxygen. Then, as the eons passed, the state of the planet began to deteriorate. The flora and fauna began to die off. Living conditions were growing increasingly unfavorable. The planet was heading toward a mass extinction level event. An event catalyzed by conflict, decadence and pollution.

Finally, the event happened, and in the span of a million years, the most complex of organisms disappeared from the surface of mars while the most simple of organic molecules spawned on a planet close by. A planet we call Earth, our home.

The origin of life has always been a mystery. One of the great questions whose answer was unknowable. Unknowable, up until now that is.

When the state of the Earth began to deteriorate, the country’s strongest nations came together to organize this mission. A mission to gather data on the planet mars and find out how quickly it could be terraformed into a new Earth. Well, the joke is on us. One big fat cosmic joke. And with the vast emptiness of space, no one will be left to laugh.

Of what I found on Mars, of the data I gathered, Mars will never ever support life. Not again. Eons ago, before the last humans died on mars, before it become this rusted wasteland, a project was commissioned in which an evolutionary engineering process was started on a nearby planet. When they realized they could not save their home, they at least tried to save their species.

Are you laughing yet? Are you bellowing in hysterical laughter? Imagine how foolish we seem now. Having destroyed our planet to the point where we have to buy bottled oxygen from stores, we seek a new home, only to realize that a previous version of our species destroyed that place a long time ago.

Despite the cruel irony, I think this proves conclusively that the fate of humanity is one of self-destruction. Maybe we should give up. After all, natural selection is a flawless mechanism. Human beings may be destined to burn bright and fade fast.

For all my opinion is worth, I do not think we should despair too much at this realization. The fact that we ended up this way after a second try only conclusively proves that there was literally nothing we could do to change our fate. This should take a lot of guilt off our chests.

If my mission achieved something at all, it has brought to light the knowledge that we are quite close to the end point of human civilization. In spite of this, we should love, and create and be. So that we can claim to have lived.

 

 

THE END

 

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