The brush was dense, and it was hard work pushing through it in my exosuit. Each step was an effort under Trappys oppressive gravity and by the time an hour had passed I was drenched in sweat.
I lost sight of Mother early in our exploration. The thick canopy above me effectively made it night within the forest and I carried on with the limiting help of the torches on the sides and top of my helmet.
‘You’re forty metres from hit the edge of the anomaly.’ Mother said in my ear, her voice crackling with static. The closer we got to the magnetic charge the worse our radios became.
‘Okay. Where are you?’ I asked.
‘Further back. fifty out and forty up. The charge is increasing at an incredible rate and If I get any closer it will fry the drone.’
‘You’re not in danger are you?’
‘No, I’m monitoring it closely. I’m at a safe distance.’
I nodded even though she couldn’t see me.
‘Any idea what it’s coming from?’
‘Not yet but the charge is increasing exponentially. If it continues at this rate it will encompass the lander and within a few day it will cover almost one sixth of the planets surface.’ Mother informed me, her voice still lacked that ineffable quality of humanity and it was something I could have used with her delivering bad news.
‘Well fuck.’ I said.
As you can see, I have always been eloquent.
‘The lander is shielded from electromagnetic storms. It will hopefully be fine to deal with this. I have radioed Ellesk and they are collecting the sensors we have place already otherwise they will be fried.’
I had already stopped walking.
‘Should I be getting any closer to this thing, Mother?’
There was a concerning pause before she answered.
‘You should be fine. If you become enveloped by the magnetic field your suit will malfunction but your failsafe air reserve, that is shielded, will provide you with twelve hours of air.’
‘And you call that fine?’
‘Yes. You would fair far better than me. If I got too close, even with the drone shielding, the magnetic field could cause a cascade of failures that may—’
A burst of static filled my earpiece the same instant that light exploded in front of my eyes.
Pained seared my retinas and I screamed.
The after image of a calm forest lit up with my heartbeat against the dark backdrop of my eyelids, each flash was like a hammer blow to the inside of my skull.
Minutes passed, I think. In the moment I couldn’t tell you how long it had been, but the pain gradually faded, and I was able to open my eyes.
The blue hue of the sight Mother had bestowed upon me was still there, but there was less background haze. Everything was sharper, the contrast was better. I could see…I leant forward and examined the plant closest to me. It was a broad flat leaf, about the size of two hands together with their fingers splayed. There was something different about it. Something I didn’t notice before.
It was black but it wasn’t perfectly black. Not exactly.
With what I worked out to be the background magnetic radiation from the charge now dissipated I could see the plants clearer.
And I could see the swirling lines of magnetic force running through the leaves like blood through veins.
‘Mother, you’re not going to believe this.’ I said and when she didn’t respond immediately, it clicked.
It took me longer than it should have to think about Mother and ask if she was okay. I would like to think it would have taken me as long if it were Ellesk, Gozi, or Paran. Any human, really.
But when I realised—fuck that was about to sound so defensive.
I can’t think of a better way to say it. Screw it.
When I realised, I responded in the same way I would have with anyone. I tried to call her in every way I knew how but the radio was dead.
Everything was dead.
All the electronics on my suit, bar my back up air supply, were dead.
It dawned on me in that moment that I was alone.
In a pitch-black forest on an alien planet. Surrounded by life I didn’t understand.
I was terrified.
And I can’t say my circumstances have improved all that much. I’m drifting in space, alone, surrounded by everything and nothing.
I miss my wife.
I miss my kids.
Hell, I miss cataloguing discoveries by explorers that didn’t fucking die, all alone in the middle of the goddam galaxy!
Sorry. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t let it get the better of me but sometimes I can’t help and feel like it’s not fair.
After all of this, after living for so many years. After everything I’ve been through this is how it ends?
A three-hour monologue of my devolving sanity and a story shot through with enough tangents that even I’m confused.
What a pitiful whimper to end my life.
I promise I won’t sit here quiet for too long.
I just need a moment.