Life in Writing
Once each week I browse through the R-writing prompts on Reddit and write a quick flash fiction based off of the most interesting one I see. Then each Friday I post them here for each of you to enjoy. This week's prompt:
[WP] You are on a team of astronauts who are the first human beings to ever set foot on Mars. You find an old love letter in the sand.
“Fasten your seat belts everybody, we’re going in for our landing,” James called out.
There was an air of tension overshadowed only by the excitement felt by the crew of the U.S.S. Perseverance as James pulled the steering column, angling the ship for its landing approach. He’d done this more than a thousand times in the simulator, but there’d been no pressure then. If he failed the simulator he’d just do it again, if he failed here there’d be no second try. But on the other hand, when he succeeded, then he’d go down in history as the pilot of the first ever manned mission to Mars.
James smiled to himself as he switched on the burner, slowing the lander’s descent. The hull shook, but that was to be expected as they passed through the Martian atmosphere.
The crew cheered as the lander touched down. Some of them cried. It made sense that they would, emotions were running high. After years of training followed by months of traveling through space, the six members of the Perseverance crew had finally arrived on the red planet.
After calming down, the crew suited up in their E.V.A. suits and readied themselves to take the first human steps on Mars.
Captain Victoria Jensen was allowed to take the first steps.
“That’s one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind,” Captain Jensen said as she stepped out, quoting Neil Armstrong’s famous first line as he walked on the moon. It was classic, historical, and totally boring. James would have gone with something more original like, “Suck it Neil Armstrong, Mars is cooler than the moon!” Of course, that was one of the many reasons that Captain Jensen, and not James had been chosen to go first.
The excitement stayed high as the rest of the crew took their first steps out into the rust red desert, and looked up at the light orange sky.
James was even still smiling as they did the work to set up their base camp, and even still his grin didn’t fade as he was assigned to head out with Captain Jensen the killjoy to gather the first dirt samples of the trip. But as he dug into the red earth to take the first sample, his grin changed to a look of utter confusion. Under the thin layer of dirt he’d removed was a thin white material. It couldn’t be, but the more James looked at it the more sure he was. It was paper.
James picked it up and unfolded it. James stared in wide eyed shock as he read the English letters printed on the paper. “I will always love you.”
James couldn’t begin to fathom what the writer of this letter had meant with that sentence, but the message was clear. They weren’t the first humans on Mars.
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Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
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