“Last Words” prompt
Testament of a People
Day 1 – We are first! We are here! The red planet! With our whole world watching, we landed; laying our first steps into the rust colored dust. I almost wish I was home for the parties, the celebrations; people all over our world clapping each other on the back for a job so well done. Ah, the champagne!
It was evening, our time, when we landed. We had of course rehearsed it, again and again, at home, in space, until we could do it in our sleep. There could be, would be, no slip ups. And when the time came, we nailed it. I would almost say it was routine, as if we had already carried it out and we’re merely watching ourselves perform, like actors on a stage.
And now we begin our work. Here!
Day 15 – All goes according to plan. We carry out each day’s tests, collect each day’s samples. There’s an interesting rock! Bag it! There’s some unusually colored strata! Pour some chemicals on it, see what comes up! Hungry? Eat. Tired? Sleep. Otherwise? Work!
Day 23 – It goes on.
I’m sad to say there’s not much to recommend this place on it’s own. Once the wonder of being on a new world wears off, so does it’s beauty. It’s cold, dark. Even with the sun at apogee, it’s no brighter than twilight in comparison to home. All our tests for life come back negative. There are no plants, no animals, not even the simplest insect; just wind and dust for a whole world. At the far off distant poles, great sheets of ice cap the surface, frozen countless millennia ago. But our examinations showed those to be no more verdant than this place.
Back to work.
Day 45 – This world is changing us. Its time becomes our time. Its sky becomes our sky. This world slowly becomes our world.
There is a loneliness that comes with the distance between planets; a loneliness so much worse than simple isolation. Home, no matter how alone you are, you breathe the same air, feel the same sun, see the same sky, as a billion others just like you. Here, there is only us. We could walk this world forever and find not one other that looks up at its sky, not one that feels its dust under their feet.
I miss home.
Day 52 – Discovery! I couldn’t believe it until I saw it myself. At first, it was just an oddly shaped rock in the sand. And then corners, sharp straight edges! Nature does not work in straight lines! Soon we had uncovered a doorway. A door! Aliens!
Someone, not us, built this. Who were they? Where did they go? We all have a million questions. And all the answers are waiting for us on the other side of that door!
Day-54 – We opened The Door yesterday. It took some doing. We had to improvise a battering ram. Spare parts, the axle of our rover, some old fashioned muscle power and we were through. The dust had sealed it closed, airtight. The gases that came out when we broke that seal where so toxic, even the most excited among us knew we would have to wait.
You will never understand the agony of those hours. Knowing every dream, every nightmare of what might be was just fifty feet away and not being able to enter. The anticipation was almost fatal.
And then, this morning, we entered.
It was ancient. A million years? We have no way of knowing. How long did it sit there underneath that sand? Waiting for us?
It appears to have been some sort of bunker. Rock walls, iron fixtures. There are a half dozen rooms. In a few, we saw remains. They must have looked like us, these ancient aliens. They had our height, our build. Some still had desiccated flesh holding onto the bones.
Who were they? They left behind pictures: smiling faces; a green garden world; buildings of glass that stretched into the sky; wondrous machines. At first, we questioned what planet they could have come from. Then we saw a picture of their world and knew. The mountains were worn down, the oceans were long gone, a few features had changed, but there could be no mistake, it was this world.
What happened here? What could have changed that paradise into this barren hell? There were some writings, a few of what we believe were recording devices. None of those were functional. After some discussion over preservation, we decided to record as much as we could and then bag the rest.
Day 70 – We go home today.
We did a search but found no other structures of this world’s inhabitants. Perhaps the mountains hide great spires, the canyons ancient canals. Or perhaps this was it; perhaps all else that these ancient people constructed has been consumed by the sand and dust.
A million years gone, they rose out of this soil and were its people. They breathed its air, they were warmed by its sun, they had families and children to carry their future on. They had their name for this place. We found it on their map. And then they were gone, leaving only the wind behind.
Stay here long enough and we will be this world’s people too. We already live by their time. Breath their air. Feel their sun. Stay here long enough and would we become them?
This is a dead world. There is no life here. No future. A tomb for an ancient civilization, long lost. We would do best to leave and never return. We may never know what befell these people, we may never know their secrets; the secrets of this world they called Earth.
Written by Alexander E Mickiewicz