Mars is used to wandering wastelands. She has walked among ruins a many, passed over tumbled and shattered rock, spoiled metal, frozen water. It is all she has, truly, to do. She had very little to do; there are no creatures to see, to observe, to touch, not anymore, there is only ruins to reminisce among, or, in her case, to do her best not to think of.
She walks, barefoot and short of breath, among the red earth that constitutes her being, and when the planet turns round it’s axis to line her vision away from the sun, she will stare at the array of foreign stars that paint out over her vision like a long gone splattered black canvas.
It had been this way for a long time. She can still remember, if she tries, the time that simply occurs to her as before. Before the crashing red rocks and crumbling cities (or were those just another mirage?), before the endless, deafening, silence.
She can remember before that, but she doesn’t like to.
It all come crashing down to her when she first looks up, in a year she does not remember nor care for, because she had not been keeping track. Wind whips at the tattered remains of something she believed was once called a dress as she stares up, finding a star.
No. A moving star. A moving, flashing star.
Mars stares, blinking. And then it is gone.
From then on, they come with more and more frequency. She does not truly mind; it is a scarce amount of company, and looking to them brings her a way to pass the time.
Sometimes they draw rings around her, little metal machines cramming circuits in her outer atmosphere; she can feel it, but not closely enough to know anything about these little machines, or who they come form. Where life has brought its blessed curse to this time.
That all changes some years later, when a chunk of metal flies her by and lands among rocky crevices, stringing up satellites and wires.
She approaches it slowly, feet padding on well traced red sand. The wires do not appear to reach to her, so she reaches over, brushing aside dirt to inspect the odd little machine, that, for reasons she does not dwell on, remind her of something long gone.
It reads something, in a language she does not comprehend. (She does not comprehend many languages now. Once upon a time, she spoke all of them, she remembers).
But, for a compacted piece of metal, it is alright. It holds a little rectangle on its side, with little white and red bars, and blue with more white stars. The little ruins spell out Viking 1. She wonders if there is a Viking 2, or three, or four.
It turns out there is, when she finds another similar piece of metal, with similar ruins and the same flag, in a different part of her planet.
It goes on like this for a time period she does not measure, little beeping metal creatures landing upon her planet, flashing false lights to the sky and moving slowly, taking rocks. Sometimes they leave, or sometimes they break down or become buried under dust. Once, she had tried to reword the little wires on the one called Pathfinder, but the only thing it had done was light a small spark on her hand, before the wires whizzed and buzzed and finally stopped moving. She had not touched the machines since.
That all changes when a spacecraft crashes to the ground.
Mars sees it, dustily on the horizon, at first, clouds of dust kicking up behind it as she approaches tentatively. She assumes it is simply another probe, and steps forwards towards the lifting piece of heavy metal to observe what ruins it has upon it, perhaps see if the flag is red and yellow or white, blue and red this time.
Instead, she is hit in the face with the sound of a metal door swinging open.
“Alright!” A young, perhaps female, voice yells, through a suit of white metal. “Time to colonize Mars!”
Mars blinks, head still buzzing from the impact, scrambling up to her feet to stand and face the girl.
The girl is smiling, brown, short cut hair pushed away from her also brown eyes. She likely does not see Mars. Not many do.
When Mars had inhabitants, they did not see her either, but she loved them nonetheless.
The girl tilts her head, eyes closed. “yeah, yeah, I know. I’m just here to investigate, because the personification of the planet is invincible enough to go on her own, I understand now can I please- Holy shit!”
The girl’s eyes snap open. “John, I’ll call you back- sorry for swearing just- Holy shit be back and-“
The girl presses some sort of button, before taking the visor around her head off, so Mars can fully see her eyes, which the girl rolls.
“Humans, man. They don’t seem to understand I’m not actually human. I can survive just fine out here! John’s an idiot.” She says.
“Anyways, who are you? Are you Mars? Or does this place seriously have aliens?” She says, and Mars does not know the language she speaks but nonetheless she understands.
This girl is like her.
And Mari has not seen another one of their kind in so, so, very long.
“Who are you?” She whispers, throat aching from the words. She has not spoken in centuries.
The girl looks at her, all smiles. Her hair is not short; it is pulled behind her ears. “I’m Earth!” She says, tearing off a glove to offer her hand. Mars stares.
“Oh. Uh- yeah.” She shakes her head. “Just something humans do. Forgot that you guys generally don’t. Moon was really weirded out by how much I act like 'the apes', uh.” She says, face going all red.
“So, uh, yeah. I’m here to- stay at your place. For a while. And see how it is. If like, my people want to come over here and sort of, hang out. Like me. You cool with that?”
Mars regards her with a very long look.
Earth goes redder, scratching her neck. (Mars cannot remember doing anything alike to that herself, acting the way those species once did)
“Okay, so I’m just going to set up now. Want to come with me?”
Mars does, if solely out of curiosity.
Earth lays down in the bunker she had spent days preparing, cracking open a plastic package of frozen coloured objects.
“Want some-“ Earth pauses to read the label, which is in those same ruins as Viking and Pathfinder were. “-Frozen chili?”
Mars regards her, finally speaking again.
“What is that?”
“Bunch of vegetables stewed up with spices, and then freeze dried so it tastes like crap. You still get your vitamins, though, and that’s what really matters.” Earth winks at her, but her weigh leans over too far so she tumbles onto the ground, landing on pale white canvas. “Ow.” She says, and then brushes herself off, giving Mars an assured smile (was I like that, when I was her age?), flicking off imperceptible dirt as she looks at Mar’s concerned expression. She has never known planets to be clumsy, unless they had extremely non uniform orbits. And Earth was quite predictable with her orbits.
“Don’t worry. Nothing I can’t handle.” Earth says, and Mars notices the purple under her eyes.
It had been the same way when Mars had last looked in the mirror.
She almost steps forwards, but holds herself back. She knows how stubborn their kind are. She will not convince this girl of anything.
Days, or rather, Sols, pass. She becomes almost acquainted with Earth; for she has no other company, she has learned many things. She likes to list them, sometimes.
One: Earth does not like the food she eats. She always discusses the things she prefers to eat, back on her planet. She says many things of it, and will never stops talking about it, despite Mars knowing their kind does not need much, if anything, like that to subsist.
Two: Earth is constantly cleaning. Even when the room is spotless, she is always on her knees, fixing things that do not need to be fixed, wishing for more cleaning supplies, checking over Mars’ shoulder to make sure she did no grimy up the little space they now share.
Three: Earth does not act like their kind. Of them, she only discusses her moon, but says she has not seen her ‘since 1972’. She says to have seen glimpses of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and “One time I saw Pluto but he doesn’t really count anymore right?”. But, she does not act as if she is simply a mass of rock.
Earth, to put it simply, acts like a human. She discusses the ape species constantly, referencing their habits, entertainments, accomplishments, and especially foods to no end. She insists that Mars watch the array of shows the girl possesses; shows that show all different type of species, of plants, but always focus on the humans.
Once, Mars had asked her why, and Earth had simply sort of smile, in a way that made perhaps the whole of her planet light up.
“I don’t know. I’m just really proud of them.” She’d said, and then begun coughing.
Four: Mars knows the humans are killing her.
It is not obvious, at least not at first, but slowly it clicks together. Earth cleans up everything because that is what she is used to. She is clumsy because she has trouble seeing; sometime she will discuss ‘smog’ as if it is a curse to her very existence, although she refuses aid of any sort.
And she is constantly, constantly sick. She hides it well; laughs off her coughs, passes off the purple underneath her eyes as sleeplessness and the red in her eyes as a joke. (What is this ‘weed’ she talks of, Mars will never know)
Mars had seen it all before, in other planets she had set foot on, in tumultuous prophecies of untold times, in the mirror, when she had bothered to look in those last, painful years.
Do not be like me, she wants to tell this strange, strange girl, grasp her wrist and cradle the pulse, treat the very fact that this girl, so very alike to herself, is breathing, but only air, is thinking, is living, is alive, not a memory.
Mars would like to warn her.
But when she looks at Earth, bright and smiling and beautifully alive, she cannot bring herself too.
Mars looks at her when Earth discusses those humans, all sweet words and kind thoughts.
“They’ve done so much for me, you know. The helped me talk to Moon, see all the other planets- do you know they even have little states called countries, and that those have their own personifications? It’s really cool. I mean, it’s not like you or Moon, but still, the fact that they’ve done something so big is just, crazy. They’ve changed so much and they’re not even that old. Looking at them makes me feel like I could change something too, you know? Makes sense of this weird universe. Find planets I’d never even heard of before this. It’d be great, you know? Not be so lonely all the time.” Earth will say, and Mars will be painfully, painfully jealous.
She remembers days when she had been that hopeful, before it all had come crumbling to ash.
Do not trust them, she wants to tell Earth. Do not trust their beautiful lies, they will kill you before you can see any of them.
Or they will die, and everything in you will die with them. She thinks, staring up at man-made plastic canvas during the dead of night, thinking of the bright light in Earth’s eyes, the way she smiled as if she had so much life to live.
She tears the covers from her makeshift bed, slowly stepping over to Earth’s bed.
She looks so different like this than when awake; her eyes are not lit with that everlasting excitement, that innate personnability that Mars thinks is much more an adapted characteristic than a true one. Here, she does not have the slight, bitten back rage that seems to hide behind her eyes when things fall apart.
Here, she does not look human.
Limps splayed out delicately like this, hair a fragile halo around her. On this, bed, Earth looks like a planet.
(Like she should.)
(Like Mars did.)
Mars does not consciously register it happening until it has already occurred; she kneels down to meet Earth’s closed hollow eyes, dirtied fingers coming up to brush short brown hair.
“Don’t do it.” She whispers, voice cracked form disuse; she does not know which old, dead language she speaks in.
“Please, Earth.” She says, feeling living heat pulse under her fingers.
“For anything that matters, please do not let them destroy you.” Mars whispers, losing her voice.
She had been just a child when she had first met them- a species that drank water that was then not frozen, so, so, bleeding long ago.
They had been nothings at first- little specks that pressed on her side like thorns in a rose garden.
But then, they had changed. Evolved, adapted, made better, spread out over the then fertile land and came together, pushed up rock building and stone statures and carved up gods of the sun, or the other planets, of her, even.
And Mars had changed, too, become bolder, held a similar, living, breathing light in her eyes as Earth once had.
But they had fallen, those creatures, pushed too far. In the end, she had choked, suffocated on their greed and insanity, felt them dig into her skin, take everything there was to be had from her until she was nothing, nothing more than a hollow shell, wandering the dust.
And slowly, slowly, the conditions had changed, the earth had become red, the wind harsher, her skin harder. And they had all died out, even down to the last of them. In the end, Mars had wanted them to.
But in the very end, she had tried to help.
And once upon a time, she’d looked over the horizon, and saw a blue and green planet rising to the sun.
Earth would become just like her; perhaps worse. Mars, at least, had lived; those vicious, terrible, incredible creatures had not killed her, simply marred her, skin and soul and all.
But Earth? Earth is different, just a bit. Earth is not like her.
Mars was happy to simply be alive. Earth is never satisfied. Earth is- what word could possibly describe it- hungry.
Earth is going to change everything, with that bright light in her eyes and beautiful smile on her face.
Earth is going to mark the universe, even if she has to die to do so.
The hand carding through the other planet’s hair stills. Mars tries to keep her expression neutral, but she cannot help it. The corners of her lips turn down, and her eyes feel unnaturally wet.
Mars does not want Earth to die.
But that light in her eyes-
- If you killed the humans, did you kill that too?