Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

I wander the jungle alone as always. Ducking beneath thick vines and scrambling over massive fallen logs, some stories high. I do as always. I explore and I record.
Earlier today a beast of which I have no file approached me. It was tiger-sized and with three mouths full of multi-barbed fangs. It came right up and seemed to sniff me, and then it moved on.
Now as I descend into a valley, of which I am quite familiar, one of the huge three-headed snakelike beings springs up and turns its tail to me. I can see by its markings that this is an individual whose path I have not yet crossed. Some of its brethren have become used to me in this area, but this creature wastes no time. It is aggressive.
I am already at a full sprint, my legs a blur as I quickly cross the swampy ground. But alas I have not been fast enough. As the tip of its whip-like tail connects with my lower back I hear the thunder-crack noise roll off through the jungle. It is a common sound in this region where the snake beasts hunt.
I provide it no threat, and my body certainly does not offer any sort of meal, yet still I course through the air, a hundred-kilo missile toppling through the tree branches. I finally land in a heap with a plume of dust. I know the snake beast will not follow. They don’t venture here into the dry thicket.
Sitting up I am in familiar surroundings. This is the place we landed all those years ago. This is where we set up our outpost. This is where the alien virus attacked and killed the crew. I make my way into camp. The six suits are still lined up in their sitting positions against the bulkhead of the lander. There had been nothing I could do. One by one they slipped away, and one by one I lined them up in their final resting places.
Unbelievably the emergency beacon still pulses. It has been five centuries. We were too small of an asset, carrying a payload of far too little value. Our power leak and eventual crash here were of no concern to those who gambled trillions. No rescue ship will ever come.
I walk over to the row of suits, and crouch down in front of the one furthest aft. Commander Gardner, she had been the last to die. She had once had rosy cheeks. Now I stare in at her skeleton, and at my own reflection in her helmet’s visor.
Suddenly I stop, reaching up to touch my cheek. There is a glint of silver there. I focus closer on my reflection, my eye lenses zooming in, and for the first time ever I see a piece of my alloy skull. The durable faux-skin has finally given way, torn by a sharp branch in my headlong flight.
I turn and thump down onto the dirt beside Commander Gardner. I am the last in the line of figures propped up there against the hull of the long-dead lander. What is the point of exploring anymore? These creatures only live to hunt and eat one another. There is no intelligence here, no one with which to share ideas or converse. I wonder how many thousands of years it will take for my faux-skin to eventually deteriorate so that I may one day resemble the six skeletons beside me. I lower my head onto my knees, close my eyes, and give my batteries a long needed rest.


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