Author : Bryan Pastor
It had been there longer than Keen realized, but once it caught his ear, the sound drove him insane. The incessant tapping was foreign, yet familiar. He had heard it before, maybe back in his years on Earth, but in relation to the last ten years, this noise was as alien as the soil they walked on.
Keen first checked his lab, fearing that one of his experiments might have gone haywire. His nursery full of seedlings, thriving in their grow rooms, sat happy and content. The other tests, the unsanctioned ones, those too showed no sign of disturbance.
Bolting into the hall, he closed his eyes and allowed the sound to guide him. Keen moved by feel alone, the tips of his fingers brushing the icy sides of the narrow metal corridor. The noise came from everywhere, making it hard to follow to its source.
Keen stopped, his fingertips no longer felt the wall. He knew where he was before he opened his eyes. The masks of his eye lids let through a comforting glow of natural light. He was in the crew’s mess. There he found them, all of them, marveling as rain streaked down the tall glass walls that separated them from the outside.
“I guess this means we need a weather station.” Keen heard one of the engineer’s joke. Someone laughed half-heartedly.
Beyond the streaks of precipitation was a vast expanse of green, a decades’ worth of effort.
“I’m going out,” Keen announced, “I want to feel the rain on my face.”
The group collectively turned and stared.
“You want to go out without your gear?” A woman asked. Nedra, he though her name was.
“Yes,” Keen replied, “If the plants have put enough evaporate into the air to create clouds, then they must have created plenty of oxygen for us to breath.”
“No.” A tall, thin man with grey hair simply stated.
“I am going out and you can’t stop me.”
Keen ran from the room toward the airlock.
There was a moment of hesitation in the room. Then Nedra shrugged her shoulders as if saying, “I guess I will be the one to stop him.”
By the time she had made it to the prep room, Keen had already managed to seal the inner door and begin the process to exit the airlock. Nedra hurriedly donned her suit. As she fastened the last strap, a claxon blared, the airlock was open. Rushing to the door, she watched Keen step through the opening, he turned and faced her, water already matting his hair. He had a look of triumph upon his face, then it began turning red toward purple and the outer door slid closed.
It took several moments for Nedra and the others to override the system and pull Keen back inside.
A group stood over him, sure he was dead.
“Do you want to pronounce doctor?” Asked the engineer who had joked about the weather station.
Keen gasped back to life. Coughing, he found it hard to suck enough oxygen into his system to make his lungs stop aching.
“Was it worth it?” Someone asked.
“Yes.” Keen replied hoarsely.
“What was it like?” Another asked curiously.
“Like being home.”