Written from the prompt: The year is 2020, the first astronauts have landed on Mars. They find a cave with a human skeleton and 4 words written on the wall. What are the 4 words? Here's what I think!
"Please turn back…. Go!”
The whoosh of my air tank is suddenly deafening, and my blood runs cold. I’ve seen skeletons before. Many. In fact, I’ve lost count. I’ve assisted in the autopsy of more than one corpse. But there were never words like this accompanying them.
“What’s it mean?” Kiran asks. “Or is someone pulling a prank?”
I shrug, and trying to keep my voice even say, “I don’t know.”
The captain comes up and joins us. “Let’s take it into the ship. Run some tests. See what we come up with.”
So that’s what we do. No one says anything about the words.
Later on, while the rest of the team is running tests on the skeleton, I steal back out. I have to see the words again. They’re still there. Still confusing. I run a gloved finger across the writing, but it doesn’t come up. Squinting, I see that it’s a rusty color. The color of dried blood.
“Who were you warning?” I whisper to the cave wall. “And why?”
But the only answer is an eerie silence.
I stare for a long time, before Kiran comes out after me. “Hey, you shouldn’t be out on your own,” he chides.
“Sorry. I’m just...trying to figure this out.” I don’t need babied, and he thinks I’m weak. Always has.
“The skeleton is definitely human.”
I nod thoughtfully, though I have no idea what bearing that has on anything. “Definitely?”
“How did they get here?”
He shrugged. “Haven’t figured that out. We’ve radioed back to earth, but no one there knows either.”
I press forward into the cave, and he grabs my arm. “What are you doing?”
“They left a message written in blood. I have to find out what it means.”
He shuddered. “Right. Of course. Instead of doing as it says, you have to do the opposite.” He sounded bitter, or annoyed.
“Yes, I do.”
He shook his head, and let go of me. “Fine. Die, see if I care.”
I glared at him, and went forward into the dark cave...alone.
After a few moments, I found myself in what seemed to be a round room. There was a pit dug, as if for fire, and small, non-human, skeletons were scattered around the edges of the room. There was even what looked to be a pile of fur, or hair, that must have served as a bed or nest. But the oddest thing of all was the journal nestled into a crevice of the cave wall.
Whoever wrote it was long dead, so I had no qualms about pulling it from its “shelf” and flipping through.
“July 13, 2015
“No one knows I’m here except for my husband and the small group that authorized him sending me up. He painted it that I wanted to go. And I was too afraid to argue. It’s better, here on Mars, than it is there. Here, he can’t touch me. And I’m fine with that.”
No wonder nobody knew about her. She wasn’t supposed to be here.
“They sure didn’t train me for this. And I’m not getting paid. He wanted me to die. But I won’t.”
Then I flipped to the very end.
“January 5, 2020...I think….
“I’m a bit fuzzy on my years, and starting to run out of paper. Imagine if I wrote every day, instead of maybe twice a month! I’m starting to figure out how to grow things here. And I don’t eat anything I’ve not already seen an animal eat. I’m glad to eat plants again, instead of just animals. Some of them are so adorable, I hate to kill them.”
Then a sound startled me from my reading, and I looked up.
A woman, maybe in her thirties walked in from a different part of the cave. She stared at me as I stared at her. Then, I looked down at the journal I held in my hand.
“I’m sorry!” I cried, pushing the journal away from myself.
She smiled. “Don’t be.” Then, she rushed at me, I felt her hands wrap themselves around my throat, there was a pressure, then there was nothing.
I awoke back on earth, my parents and husband sitting in armchairs, talking quietly with each other. When they realized I was awake, they began crying, but I think it was from joy.
When I’m finally released from the hospital, they tell me everything. The woman (whom they brought back against her will), was the wife of an influential scientist in our branch. He had been abusive, so sent her to Mars and told everyone she was dead.
The skeleton we had found was still unexplained, as the woman refused to say anything, but I remembered once when the scientist had announced that his son had run away and was now missing. I can’t help but wonder now, if that was his son.
As for the scientist, he is now locked up. Abuse of power and all that. And his wife, well ex-wife, is now in therapy to deal with her PTSD, and whatever else that sick monster put her through.
In a way, I feel bad for ignoring her warning. The poor woman just wanted to be left alone. She had finally found a normal, finally found a safety of her own...and I ruined that for her.
©2019 Katie Holm