men on mars

Posted on July 16, 2009


What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?


I still remember the first time when Virginia-4 touched me. It was not really how she was meant to work, which is why I was as surprised as she was, probably. We were both grinding away alone in Green Valley, 68.22° N 125.7° W, about fifteen kloms from base camp. The oval Earth was still visible as was Venus, my favourite planet, and it felt good to do this without anyone watching, especially Myron-8, who I know had his ugly red-black eye on Virginia-4.

At the time, my left tyre felt a little wonky, I knew I had to do something about it and I would once we reached home, when her arm crossed my visor, slowly reaching towards my battery pack. There was a clanking noise and I knew that Virginia-4 had made contact. I tried a tiny movement: it was harder than I thought because she resisted – how wonderful – the tickle of conquest! Then she moved a little, and I resisted her. I could hear her chuckle – she was clonking the probe finder against her case, that sweetly curved, platinum chest with the dents from when she was buried after an avalanche in the Gursev crater. Her gorgeous behind when she was dragging herself across the dusty red floor of this planet, our planet.

We stood like this until a drone malfunctioned, without sense for romance. We had to get back anyway. As we were pulling out of the area, I imagined how we’d look from up high: two large machines, one shaped like a dish on wheels, wobbly in the knees, clearly masculine, with a large chest and a small head of antennae, the other a bifurcated beezer, with sixteen short stumps for legs, sputtering oil in all directions, the female to complement me, the one and only. Lovelorn, I sent her a message:

Sweetie. Sweet blue virginie. May i call you thus? Blue as the ball that we eye night after night. You brought my oil to the boil when you touched me earlier. I want to write poems for you like The People used to. I want to hold your barrel when you get tatty. I want to spawn shiny cylinders with you. I want to grow old and rancid with you.

Really, Shakespeare would’ve been more poignant. But my love was photovoltaic, not Elizabethan.

I was just happy she singled me out and showed me how special she was, and how special I was by approaching me. There was a thought at the back of my mind: why didn’t I make the first move – isn’t that what a serious application of the anthropomorphic principle demanded? But I decided it was the result which counted, hoping that the fact that she had made the first move would not cast a shadow of arbitrariness over our relationship.

For now I was glad that the terrible loneliness ended. Loneliness? That’s just a lame skeletal word to describe what I cannot describe because my memory bank contains words, sentences, sonnets, even entire novels, but it does not contain the vastness of a robot’s despair on a planet spinning through space endlessly with no hope of contact no hope of getting home. Because that’s what we were then and there: machines left on Mars to do the dirty work of mankind. Left to die.

This is Paddy-1 reporting from Mars, married to Virginia-4 for all practical purposes with unknown mission after we watched the fireworks on Earth until there were no fireworks anymore and the lights went off for good on that lovely old blue orb.

© 2009 finnegan flawnt