Author : Tyler Hawkins

As the first warm, reassuring rays of the sun peek into the habitat, they begin to creep across a blinking computer terminal, as they’ve done countless times before. There’s a soft thump from far away, and the still air is coaxed into a whisper of a breeze by the vents above. Displays scattered throughout the empty room blink on in a staggered sequence, and begin to slowly scroll through data carefully prepared overnight for no one in particular.

Outside, a gentle wind becomes more bold and begins to kick up playful splashes of rust-colored sand against the exterior. Long, bristled arms of metal raise themselves from shallow, dusty graves and sweep off rows of solar panels lined up in neat rows. A door telescopes open, and small wheeled rovers exit the habitat and explore the collection of stout buildings and equipment scattered around the habitat, each examining various spots on the ground and surfaces, making minor repairs to the deserted compound. As the sun reaches its peak, their job seemingly complete for today, they retreat back inside. A small hole opens in the top of the habitat and a dish is raised into the air. It moves to point directly at a blue-green dot in the sky and then freezes, as if in excited anticipation. After a minute, it begins to gradually move again, this time aiming itself in tiny concentric circles around the blue dot hanging in the sky as if it were blind to its existence. Some time later after repeating the process in futile succession it lowers, defeated, back into its cradle.

As the sun sinks below the horizon, soft white lights on the edges of the structures blink on, determined to allow a few more hours of useful light. Far off in the distance, a dust devil goes on a warpath on a line of sand dunes, hellbent on scattering the mounds to the wind. From speakers positioned on wire-frame towers, a soft tune is played for no one in particular and as the final notes fade, the artificial lights slowly blink off in sequence, as if to pull the light inside the habitat. From inside a geodesic dome near one end of the compound, small automatons gently pluck cherry tomatoes from vines and carefully wash them before delivering them to overflowing containers of vegetables in various states of decay. Satisfied, they retreat into the walls and begin to recharge.

As various sounds and lights in the compound blink out and cease and the displays around the computer terminal fade off, the terminal continues to blink steadily into the night, awaiting a user which will never come.