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16th February
posted by amber

A Visit to Mars

I’ve been here three weeks, I’m due to go home in four days and nothing much has rung false during my visit until the last few days. I mean, two people up in their 50’s decide to move to Mars and start an air farm – that’s a life-changing experience. So if they seem more energized, more enthusiastic, younger, why should that surprise me?

But it’s more subtle than that. They are fearless in a way that alarms me. They’ve always been bold. The businesses they had on Earth all were gambles and they saw them through, made them work. Retiring to Mars in yet another risky venture is characteristic. But more than once during my visit, I’ve seen them nearly walk out the door without their breathers. I swear, the other day when my mother did this, she snuck a glance my way to see if I’d noticed. She looked guilty.

They’ve brought the local oxygen level up to 5% but that’s not nearly high enough for going out without a breather.

And they go out all the time without warm suits. Yesterday, it was a record 98 below and Dad came into the kitchen from the porch, slapping his hands together. I swear, his fingers were so white I thought they’d break off if he slapped them any harder.

“Dad! Did you go out without your suit?” I knew he had – it was still hanging on a peg beside the door.

“Oh, I just dashed over to the greenhouse. It’s not very far.”

“But Dad – it’s 98 below!”

“Well, I guess we’re just used to it. Putting the suit on is such a hassle. But don’t you try it. You’re not acclimatized like we are.”

I thought to myself that maybe they’re getting too old to be doing something like this, a little senile, forgetting they’re on Mars, not Earth and that extreme cold and airlessness are not things you just get used to. That they can kill you.

Or, I ask myself in the middle of the night, based on very little evidence, suppose those two people in the next room, asleep, are not my mother and father at all?

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

In this Ray Bradbury-inspired story, the borrowed line is the last line of the story.

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