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.