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17th February
posted by amber

Little Dead Town

He pulled into the little dead Martian town, stopped the engine, and let the silence come in around him. Inside the dome, nothing moved and light barely penetrated through the scratched plasteel.

Coral dust formed dunes in the narrow streets and drifted through the open doorways of the houses. Footprints from decades’ worth of visitors lay undisturbed by wind, ever since the breach in the dome had been repaired.

The house numbers were faded but he found his great-grandparents’ house easily, the first house on Walnut Street. The house was tiny, of course. Fitting 50 families and an air plant and heat exchangers and greenhouses beneath one small dome had put space at a premium.

The door opened directly onto the street, without an airlock. No one had anticipated that the plasteel dome could be pierced by anything short of a bomb or a meteorite. Chances of either had been astronomically small, but a meteorite had come.

On Walnut street, all the houses had only one room. They had been for families like his great-grandparents, with grown children no longer living with them or young couples who had no children yet. One room serving as bedroom, living room and kitchen, with a minuscule bathroom behind a curtain.

He needed to do no more than step through the door to see them, two wizened figures in the fold-down bed.

Everyone said it had been a mercy that the accident happened when most people were asleep, but he always wondered how many could have slept through the sudden lack of oxygen and bitter cold.

The meteorite storm had knocked out planetary communications and so it had been nearly four weeks before the ghost town had been discovered, bodies already transformed by cold and dryness into mummies.

No one had considered any grave in the sere Martian dust to be a better resting place than here, in the village of their plans and dreams among their fellow pioneers, the people of New Chengdu.

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.

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