Outside the window of her unit, the crumbling karst of a creek sprang forth with life into a green ravine. The overrunning runoff spout that created it either terribly planned, or perfectly plotted for the experimentalist type who may want to see water erosion on Martian soil. The sound of spring bird chirps on the wind floated across the accidental/incidental artificial gully and drifted through the open screen. The ambiance, along with the smell of some of Jove’s most precious fire that it kicked up, was reminiscent of the very second time I’d ever visited Mars.
The view outside hadn’t really changed much over the three or four months the weather’s been like this. Maybe the tall grass had tanned and browned to a more golden shade, but other than that the sights and sounds of the natural feature outside Shayne’s living room window had been the same since the beginning of March. Well, spare one other thing; there aren’t any students or graduate students flowing to and from campus from the housing complexes on the hill.
There weren’t any students around anywhere. The lively Ivy League university had become a swampy, tropical ghosttown in a matter of days. Random wayward collegians wandered bereft of anything important or anyone interesting to talk to here and there, but mostly they remained scattered in the peripheries of their homes or around the shops of the university shopping center. I can’t see them, but I know there are grad students about; they do good to keep hidden. The summer just means more time to work for them, so anyone still on campus is stowing away in the hills surrounding it and probably wondering why they got themselves into a year-round 5 year grad program.
Yesterday I roamed the University Town Center shopping district on the north end of campus and saw how dead it’s really gotten here. Shops had new, slimmer hours and some eateries weren’t open for the lunch rush, signs that business had declined drastically. All of a sudden, it was like the plug had been pulled and drained all the customers away. Or so it seemed to someone who had been stopping by there at least once a day, most days for the past 2 months he worked for the Census. It looks like even that too is closing up shop, though, and I am once again unemployed.
I still take care of that guy’s house, and I still deliver packages and make a few calls for the photography company once in a while, but I couldn’t really consider either of those gigs real, dependable, or gainful employment. There’s really no way I could advance in either field without a lot of time into the crafts of cleaning house and picture snapping, and I’m not truly certain if I want to pursue a career in either right now. It’s also not likely at all that I’ll be able to find myself any other jobs that would pay even half as well anywhere on Mars within the next two months, especially seeing how under-qualified I really am.
It seems like a good enough a time as any to go home, now. My father’s company seems to be picking up even more work, though I still believe he needs the help of my brother and me to help bring it into the digital world and appeal to a wider market, possibly even film teli and net spots. My mom finally seems like she’s had it with the unit we’ve been living in since I was born, and it could probably use a good fixing up before she can put it on the market. I know something I’ve learned taking care of my friend’s yard will allow me to lend a hand with its repairs, and if not I want to help my family move out of and into whatever housing unit we can get. I also want to be there for my little brother, and make sure that he’s doing the right things like getting a steady job and being diligent in school by doing it myself to set a better example for him than the people I’m afraid are influencing him back home. And anyone else there that I love and care about that I’m sure miss me, I’m going back for them to help make their lives easier somehow, too; instead being the burden I’ve always been.
It’s for all of them I leave Mars, but it breaks my heart to think about it, and I feel I’m constantly reminded of what I’m going to miss when I blast off this world. The red planet has been a good host to me, hostile and uncomforting at certain times, but even accounting for all the misfortune it’s been a worthwhile experience. My days left here are numbered so I really have to appreciate what remains in store for me, without overdoing anything, though.
I’ve become so accustomed to the lifestyle here; waking up late enough to see the working day has passed in the rest of the solar system because the conveniences of so many late-night eateries and bars kept me awake long into the morning. I’ve gotten used to being able to taste anything or feel an experience I could possibly desire, often with a choice between many different flavors and varieties of each, available at any time with little to reasonable effort. I’m a bit addicted to be riding the crest of the biggest, new wave and being ahead of technology and fashion compared to my friends on other planets, and that I don’t even have to be at the pinnacle to feel decades ahead of some places. I’m afraid I’m going to feel withdrawals from any of these things that I’m not able to find a viable substitute, now that I realize they’re things I really do think I need.
There’s a handful I can think of right off the top of my head that I know I’ll never be able to replace. Things like infrastructure and transportation that were laid out efficiently before development of the world, since it came so late in the game compared to all the others. The engineering marvels that allowed the red, desert world to bloom so quickly are really something to behold: the electricity and utility grids, mail delivery and shipping lines, and sure, the transportation system too. Even if it’s terribly congested most of the time, I digg the freeway system and find it easy it is to use, in theory; or how every location in the area is easily accessible with the right combination of routes and enough time donated to traffic.
I’d never feel the overwhelming sense of optimism and hope for life and creation with as few wild animals are around here, but I respect the flora and fauna of Mars, and regard them certain esteem for being able to withstand this wasteland. I may miss the plantlife the most out of those two though, its oh so unique to the landscape, and seeing the palms and succulents bursting from between the cracks of even the most paved and urbanized areas reminds me instantly I’m standing on a world where the stakes are much higher than my own. Of course, when the only thing you want on a blisteringly sunny day is shelter or respite from intense UV rays, the indigenous trees—if you could even call them that—offer very little in the way of protection and shade.
Although beauty is only skin deep, and looks aren’t everything, and any other trope about the exterior of something not being nearly as important as what’s within, we can put all of that aside to agree that there’s few places in the world that can claim to have as high a concentration of physically attractive women as Mars. Whether it’s because the entire planet pioneers the trends of fashion and style, because we have highly advanced technology available more widely and consistently than most other worlds, because people who can truly afford it here can also spring for cosmetic mods, or because people with great genes have populated this dusty place, Martian girls appear to come out a few standards higher when they’re rolled off the assembly line. And even if I know better by now than to trust something raised and molded so artificially, or to make broad statements about a group of people I’ve only become partially acquainted with, that doesn’t mean I’m going pass up an opportunity to stare as they pass by, or that I’m not going to miss being able to casually glance in any direction and get a piece of eye candy.
What I expect I’ll miss most—especially because they’re the things I think I take mostly for granted—are any of the bits of virgin terrain that have yet to be crushed under the ever-sprawling, mechanized foot of industrial and residential development, and the weather. Unsettled, untouched, pure as it were, the landscape of Mars that’s never been under the hand of man is some of the most appealing in the solar system. And the weather is to die for, and anyone who’s been here longer than a day will tell you that. Nowhere else that I know of in the solar system has as many consecutive months of perfectly hospitable temperatures as Mars does, and no other place has as many breathtaking sunsets as the almost entirely west-facing coast of the Martian territory of Amazonia.
They’re things of aesthetic, but often powerful enough to overcome the low moisture and poor air quality, and fear of falling sky or breaking ground, to make this place appear nice enough to raise your family.
I’d say I’m going to miss my friends, and the family that I’ve found here in this desolate place, but how can you miss someone you’ll be bringing around with you in your pocket everywhere you go? I guess I’ll miss hanging out with Allan, Nymh, Shayne, and all of their friends that have made my life so enjoyable over the past few years, but I’m going to be doing my best to keep in constant contact with them, to help make it feel like I’m not really gone. The social interactions I can say I’ll definitely find it hard to replicate are the weekly jam sessions I have with the Magnate family as their loyal band mate, roadie, and apprentice. It’s going to be near impossible to find something as great as playing music with the guys, and know I’ll be tempted to catch a rocket back sometime just to rock out again for an evening.
But until I can afford that, or just entertain the idea of giving myself another vacation when there’s so much work to be taken care of on Earth, I have leave everything I’ve come to love about my life on Mars behind.
I’m really going to miss this place, though.