Author: Kye Shamblin

The first human being to set foot on Mars. That was all I’d ever wanted to be. Even at a young age, when the other children shared equally impossible dreams, this was mine. Other children eventually were sobered by reality and would settle for far more realistic opportunities. I never gave in. I wasn’t like other children.

Not that any of that mattered now, with my landing craft in a flat spin and plummeting toward the surface of the Red Planet. I had always wanted to be the first human on Mars. I’d just wanted to be alive for it. Minor detail.

With great effort, I managed to grasp my hands around the flight stick once again. Counteracting the flat spin would require some skill, all while fighting against the G-force of our spin. I tugged on the yoke with all my strength, thinking I might rip it off the floor.

Still spinning. The dusty surface of the planet spun past my viewport a few times as I continued to try to fight against the spin. I could tell by the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was succeeding, at least to some extent. I reached deep within myself and tried to assess our spin as best I could, managing to straighten us out. Altitude was going to be an issue now; I would need to get the craft into a glide as it descended toward the surface.

The alarms ringing from nearly every single guidance system weren’t making me feel like that task was going to get easier. I reluctantly looked back up at the viewport, expecting the surface to be devastatingly close. To my surprise, I had obtained level flight long before it was too late and had a rather peaceful view spread out in front of me.

“Nine thousand hours. Flew nine thousand hours in a simulator, never saw this view once.” I chuckled, speaking to no one other than myself. It was true. I had experienced almost every conceivable outcome on this flight, even this one. Never had the simulator been able to show me how beautiful this planet really was.

My wonderful view was interrupted by the loud crashing of my left wing ripping itself off. I could tell it was the entire wing by the sudden loss of flight control. So much for level flight and a nice glide to the surface.

The feeling in my stomach returned as the craft began to fall from the sky, the surface of the planet now rapidly approaching once more. No amount of tugging on the yoke would save me this time. I had to brace for impact and hope for the best.

In the simulator, this had ended in a fatality every time. This wasn’t the simulator. I was going to survive, all I had to do was be prepared for the hit. The surface came quicker than I’d calculated.

I’m not sure what awakened me. It could have been the intense pain in my legs, or the sparks showering on top of me. What I was sure of, was that I was alive. I coughed a bit, unhappy about the blood that had spattered onto my visor from it. The craft groaned, making me sure that I needed to exit it soon.

I’d survived the crash. All I had to do now is survive the planet.