The eighth story in the Winter Prose Competition 2011 series.
10 years ago, a small space rover was launched off Cape Canaveral with
two passengers. One played video games and ate, and the other read,
manned all the equipment, and did yoga. This went on for just over
four years until the expedition touched down on Mars, the red planet.
An automatic change in the space rover ensued, and in the second month
of their fifth year away from earth, the expedition’s members began
establishing a human foothold on the fourth satellite from the sun.
Now, all their work has come to nothing.
Enter the two expedition members: Deloris, and William. Deloris was a
stunning specimen of the female gender before beginning her work on
Mars. Born of Greek parents, her hair once fell in long black curls,
like wisps of smoke in the shade, on a night without a moon. Ever-
arched eyebrows, piercing green eyes, and a slightly bulbous nose
distinguished her as well, but carrying all of William’s jobs besides
her own soon took its toll. In this tenth year, her skin is no more a
brownish color- rather, it is a painful red. One strand of sickly hair
remains on her balding head. Once slender digits are puffed up to
twice their size and heavily calloused, and a normally serene
disposition has been twisted so that angry outbursts are common.
William hasn’t changed a bit since the rover was launched. He is still
a bit “slow”, chubby, and scared of work. In fact, the only reason he
got the expedition position like he did was that his uncle, a senior
director for NASA, couldn’t stand the kid anymore and pulled quite a
lot of strings.
So, how could even such a mismatched pair of people destroy almost six
years of work? They didn’t- William smuggled a cat aboard, a certain
vicious Siamese he named Fluffles the Cute. Until today, William had
kept it locked up in his quarters for fear of Deloris’s wrath- but a
rush to finally beat Mario Brothers on his antiquated GameBoy made him
careless when he shut his room’s door. The cat, which was actually
quite intelligent, escaped it’s prison and got acquainted with the
entirety of the base. It threw up a hairball on the mess room table,
shed in Deloris’s bed, and used the climate control panel as a litter
box. The whole base was up in flames five minutes later, if that.
Now outside their habitat, Deloris, William, and Fluffles the Cute
(who had stowed away once more in William’s exploration suit), watch
the jumping flames as Deloris, who can’t bear even to look at her
partner for anger, rants at him about common sense and instructions by
Houston and work and imminent death.
Neither person has the sense to look behind them, where several
creatures as yet small in the distance advance towards new prey.