death on the red planet

R. H. MATTHEWS

I was born near Tacoma, Washington,

but I want to die when

the Colony Ship Tacoma careens into

the red dirt of Olympus Mons.

Lying in our quarters

 

as the claxon screams, I’ll pray

to the god that the Pale Blue Dot killed

that our crew can fix

the failing navigation systems.

 

As my husband pulls me

tighter to him,

I’ll come to understand,

 

but still resent,

the fact that the Tacoma has

no escape pods.

 

I’ll hope that somehow,

the terraforming equipment

will survive, and our mission

won’t be for naught,

but I know the ship is fragile, and

the equipment is delicate.

 

When they redirect power

from the artificial gravity

to the emergency thrusters,

and we float off of our bed,

 

I’ll wonder how the team sent to scout the wreckage will find our bodies.

 

The initial collision will

almost certainly kill us, but,

perhaps with the emergency bulkheads sealed

and the flame-retardant Martian atmosphere,

we’ll be spared a fireball.

 

If he holds me tight enough,

our bodies may end up together,

 

and when the cold of the

Martian nights kills the bacteria

eating us from the inside out,

and we begin to mummify,

we will be mummified curled into each other.

 

Radiation will pick away at us, but far too slow to beat humanity’s lust for space.

 

Historians will put our bodies,

together, on display

in the first Martian museum, and even

the heteronormative gaze of history

will be unable to separate us as our

untarnished titanium wedding rings glint

in the eyes of visitors to the exhibit

“Wreckage of the Colony Ship Tacoma.”

 

As they stare at our corpses,

visitors will hear

the black box audio of

our captain apologizing

over the intercom, all

pretense and formality dropped.

© 2015 peculiar