Author: Deborah Shrimplin

Ben and Evelyn watched as the rescue spaceship sent from Earth punched through Planet Exos’ orange atmosphere without them. The spaceship was scheduled to return in two weeks. In three weeks, the damaged life support systems in the experimental habitat would fail.

Evelyn and Ben had volunteered to be the last passengers to leave the habitat. After the launch, they huddled over the computers and recalculated the amount of food, oxygen and energy left in the habitat. Their initial calculations were accurate. There was enough for three weeks. Evelyn thought that was cutting it mighty close. Ben, being a stoic, wasn’t worried. He thought a week’s margin was plenty.

Two days before the spaceship was scheduled to arrive, the habitat’s ambient lighting shut down.

“Ben, the electrical is shutting down.”

“It’s the environmental lights, not the computer feed. We’ll be OK. We’ll have to work in the habitat by flashlight. It’s just for two days. We’ll make it as long as the electrical is working on the computer grids.”

During the cycle that imitated night, Evelyn tossed and turned in her hammock. She tried to control her anxious thoughts but her self-induced mind games were not working.

“Only two more of these imitation night cycles and I’ll be home. I might as well enjoy the night sky here. I’ll never see twin moons creating orange moonlight again.” she thought.

Evelyn grabbed her flashlight and turned it on. To find her way to the window overlooking the striated rock formations, she aimed the light beam at the floor and the beige wall.

Something was wrong. Her hands shook. She placed the flashlight on a ledge and stared at the circle of light the flashlight had created on the wall. Enclosed in the white circle was the silhouette of an elephant. There was no doubt. The black outline of a long trunk and tusks contrasted with the white light. It disappeared. The black silhouette of a rhinoceros appeared. Then, it moved out of the light circle. A sea turtle shape came next. A whale’s outline appeared. Then, a woolly mammoth’s shadow walked in and out of the bright circle.

“Ben, wake up! Come here.” she cried. She didn’t dare move the flashlight. The animal’s silhouette’s were moving in and out of the light circle.

Ben hurried to her side and stared in disbelief. “Those are the animals that are extinct on earth. It’s the shadow of their spirits. Oh, my God. Evelyn, don’t touch the flashlight. Leave it alone. This is unbelievable.”

Then, the last two passengers in the habitat on Planet Exos heard the electrical pulse for the computers sputter and click off. Evelyn grabbed Ben’s hand. The black silhouettes on the wall changed into that of a man and woman.