Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Featured Writer

When the last Earthmen landed on the Martian surface, they would have sworn they were suffering from some form of mass hallucination or hysteria. Perhaps the ship had taken a hit from a micro meteor and the crew was succumbing to asphyxiation induced delusions, but all appeared to be having the same dream. It was as if they had walked into a Ray Bradbury story. Wherever they looked they saw lush verdant hills and valleys forested with exceedingly tall, thin trees of deep blue and green.

Joe Webster, the team’s medical specialist, cracked his helmet and drew a deep breath. “Well, the air is thin but okay. It’s kind of like being in the Rockies .” His voice was weak in the lean atmosphere. The rest removed their helmets.

“Hey, uh…Captain? This looks more like Iowa than Mars,” systems analyst Ray Rowe remarked. The four men looked around in wonder and awe rather than shock or surprise. “Did we somehow make a mistake?”

“No mistake. That’s Earth there,” Lt. Metz replied pointing upward to the twilight sky. “Captain. What do you think?”

“Well, whatever is going on here, I think we are about to get some answers,” Captain Drexler remarked, looking off into the distance.

The other three followed his gaze as a procession of brilliantly robed figures approached them. The people, creatures, Martians, whatever the hell, drew to a halt before the delegation from Earth. They were tall, something over two meters, with large ears, and nostrils much like a seals that opened and shut with each breath. They had blond hair with gleaming violet streaks. Apart from these differences, they looked remarkably human.

The two groups regarded one another for a few moments. The humans with confusion, the Martians with quiet contemplation. Finally one Martian, resplendent in flowing blue and red robes of a shimmering material spoke up.

“Welcome men of Earth. Long have we awaited this day. You come on a very auspicious occasion. And, I might add, a very lucky time for you.. Come, the feast awaits.” The voice boomed even in the rareified air.

Without another word the “Welcoming Committee” turned and left. In shocked silence the men followed.

The mixed group entered a crowded hall constructed of iridescent stone and were seated around a grand banquet table of the same material. The table itself was laden with deliciously tempting dishes.

Captain Drexler turned to his host at his left. “Excuse me…er…”

“Call me Bob.”

“Okay, um…Bob. From Earth observations and the photographs from our probes we assumed Mars to be…,”

“A lifeless, desolate, desert planet,” the Martian asked.

“Well, yes.”

“We can deceive your instruments, but not your natural senses. Mars is as you see it. Now please, eat. I am sure that will you find the food is not only edible, but quite palatable as well.”

The men followed the example of their gracious host and dove into the feast sans utensils. To their delight they found the food to be beyond anything they had ever tasted before, as if all their lives they had had only water and were given a vintage wine for the first time.

As they ate, their host stood and raised his hand to silence the assembled crowd. “Fellow astronomers, cosmologists, and our special guests. Tonight is an historic occasion in our field, for tonight marks the destruction of Earth.”

The four Earthmen choked on their meals. “WHAT,” they exclaimed as one, showering the table with partially chewed food.

“Oh yes,” their host said, turning to his guests, “Earth must be destroyed. It’s obstructing our view of Venus.”

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