I had been carrying the body of my friend for days. Her weight had become comforting, draped across my arms, head nodding slightly into my shoulder with each step. I tried to be as careful as I could, to stop from jostling her too much, but the red, rocky terrain made it difficult. More like shale, really. Every few steps the ground would shift and I would have to stop, to keep my footing and to keep from dropping her. I came to a hill, the last light of day burning my back, the cool lick of night raising steam from my sweating skin. Day and night on Mars, two wicked mistresses.
The shale betrayed my feet, plunging us headlong into darkness. But I had managed to twist, landing on my back and protecting her. Tiny slivers of rock shredded my clothes, slathered their shade of red against mine. I had been carrying the body of my friend for days. Wet. That was all I could feel. Wetness soaked through me, and I shivered as the sun dipped away, like it didn’t want to witness me dying. What did it matter? Our ship was destroyed, hit by a meteorite or something, sending us spiraling, burning off course. I don’t know how far off course, but I did know the direction to go to find the station.
That was our hope. The terraforming station. It had been working for decades, converting the atmosphere and environment into something we could live in, breathe in. Start over in. We were the first colony ship. And only by a miracle did we survive. The other ninety-eight hadn’t been so fortunate. A miracle. Her head dips against mine, cheek brushing mine, smearing dust into a muddy streak. I can’t stop the tears, now that they’ve started. She breathes hollow. A vessel, a bag of wind. Her lungs inhale and exhale, but there is no life. It’s automatic. Ejected early from cryostasis, her mind hasn’t awoken.
The station had a skeleton crew of scientists and researchers. And a med bay. I just needed to get here there. I had to get her there. Straining, I could feel the wetness increase as my muscles tried to work. Tried to move. I had to get up, but I refused to put her down. Rock grinded against rock and skin as I kicked to turn myself. I was lying, head down the hill. I had to turn around, so I could sit up, holding her, so I could stand up, holding her, so I could walk, holding her.
I had been carrying the body of my friend for days. My back burned, but I was shivering, the sun passing over and over. I forgot how many times. But it watched my labored walking and dried my bleeding back. And there it was. I could see the glimmering dome. My lips cracked, I smiled, falling to my knees. As I sank lower to the ground, my eyes closing, I saw hers flutter.