Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

He walked and he calculated. The intense red sun beat down yet, as always, the suit kept things temperate. He urinated without thinking, and on he walked. He glanced at his wrist and saw that it was nearly rest time.

The dry little planet was about 28,000 kilometers in circumference and by figuring his average walking speed he knew he might encounter his own footprints soon enough.

His chronometer beeped at him just as he spied a nice sand pile to lie back against. There weren’t many options. There was sand, rocks, and more sand. He lay back against his uncomfortable bed and closed his eyes, trying to imagine what he might do next after circumnavigating his dusty prison. The problem was the suit worked too damn well. And while his will to survive trundled along stubbornly within him, the tired part of his mind wished that some misfortune would befall him so he could just die quickly. He had been in the wretched thing for months now and could not take it off, could never take it off unless rescued. The air out there was poisonous and thin, the pressure drastically low. Every day he considered picking up a rock and smashing his face shield. But what if he only managed to crack it? A slow death was not on his agenda.

He slept furtively, dreaming of the accident and his so-called escape to this place. The screeching of metal as the hull tore apart, the explosions, finding the stray survival suit floating in the weightlessness.

They had already fallen into close orbit around the nearest planet as per emergency procedures, and just in time for his sake. As he had jettisoned into the stratosphere, feeling the crushing g-forces from the suit’s rockets slowing his orbital speed, he had watched Surveyor III disintegrate. He was the only one to make it out. No other white suits had followed. Then he had waited patiently for the chute to open. Had it sprung from his back too soon it would have been ripped uselessly away and he would have taken many long minutes to fall to his death.

He awoke and saw that the sun was nearly down. No matter, his helmet lights would show him the way as they did every night. He got up and trudged on westward, his back to the setting red dwarf.

There was microscopic biological material here, nothing registered as life but just the same there was ample matter along with moisture blowing around in the dusty atmosphere for the suit to continuously make food for his intravenous inputs. When he had first arrived it had been a worry. Despite all the suit’s capabilities he would surely starve or die of thirst on this rock, but surprisingly both the suit and the planet were still keeping him alive after all this time.

But what was the use? He could not be sure if their distress signal had ever been received. For all he knew no one in the universe knew he was here.

Suddenly he stopped in his tracks. On this journey he had previously had to skirt around canyons, mountains and other obstacles to maintain his linear course but this was a big crevasse, and with the sun down behind him now all was black before him. He took several small steps and then cautiously leaned forward to allow the helmet’s bright floodlights to shine down a nearly vertical wall with no bottom in sight.

He wondered how deep it was. Surely deep enough to smash a face shield he thought.


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