Eternity is Wasted on the Inanimate
My Dearest Zabexa,
Not a light cycle goes by without my thoughts turning to you.
For the majority of my life I was taught to associate red with warmth. With passion. With love.
Yet, it only took half a tour for the red surface of Mars to reprogram my color association to one of death and misery.
The days on the surface are cold. The nights worse. I remember a science teacher once claiming there was nothing colder than absolute zero. That man never spent a night on Mars.
Most days it feels the winds are the only thing alive here. They howl and shriek and whip the dust into roving cyclones across the barren landscape. They strip everything they come in contact with. Rock, bunkers, man, martian. The dust holds no allegiances.
I knew when I accepted the terms and conditions of this military contract what I was being asked to do. Yet, how could I possibly have known where? They only discovered the existence of the Martians when I was a boy. How exciting that moment was. I remember tugging at my momma’s neon blue dress, “Can we go visit them? Please, please, please, I want to be friends with a Martian boy. Please, we’ll best friends, I know it.”
How she laughed. “Why don’t we wait a little honey…”
So we waited, and, well, we both know the rest.
And now here I am on Mars. Here to kill a best friend I never knew. And his friend too, if I’m lucky.
I wonder often about my forefathers that laid down their lives in conflicts such as this. How little they traveled for a chance to die in a foreign land. Of how envious I am of them and how they were allowed the common courtesy to die on their own planet. A bunkmate made a quip that in days of old crossing the Atlantic ocean took 3 days longer than it took our spaceships to arrive on this hellrock. I laughed until the AI validated his remark.
Perhaps my forefathers were envious of their forefathers who could travel by horse to their wars. Of those that only had to go one tribe over to kill and die.
Why is it that we travel further and further to spill blood, but the time to arrive there grows shorter? Whenever a new mode of transport is invented, do politicians immediately cackle “Oh good, look at all the new places we can send soldiers to die now. Why Venus would just look celestial in the springtime with a nice splash of bloodshed, don’t you agree mister president?”
I’m sorry. I try not to be bitter. I try to spend all my energy hating the Martians. Like a good soldier should.
Most days its easy. Other days the energy just isn’t there. I’d rather just throw down my laser gun, pull out my spaceflask and sit down with one of the Martians. Swap sips and images of our sweethearts back home.
“Oh yes, she looks like a keeper Gorblax. You must have done something special to win her hearts.”
Then I hear the blast of a laser rifle. Or I see a hover plane crash like a meteor over the horizon. Or I walk the infirmary and see what remains of my brothers.
And the hate comes back. I become a good soldier again.
I keep your image stored on a secret drive on my suit. There are moments where the fear replaces the hate. In those moments I whisper your name. Then, your perfect emerald eyes flash onto the visor surrounded by a river of chestnut locks. Seeing your face allows me the serenity and the courage to continue on.
It took many hours, but I rigged the suit so that if my biometric readings drop into the red, that your image will appear without me having to prompt it. To remind me why I must stand again. To get back to you, to those eyes.
Or, if it comes to it, to fall into eternal sleep beside an angel.
Do you think the Martians believe in Martian angels?
I fear even if I survive, I won’t be the same man that you fell in love with. That the Martian dust may have stripped that man away forever. I will be some strange spaceman sent from the stars to your doorstep. I’ll understand if you don’t love that stranger Zabexa, but please know in the deepest recesses of your soul, that the man that stranger used to be loved you with every cell in his body. That his heart beat to your name. That thoughts of you was the only warmth he felt during freezing nights on a dead planet.
I must go now. It is time to go kill more Martians. Time to be a good soldier.
From across the stars,
Sgt. Xenith Moonhope