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Gravity Is A Harsh Mistress.

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Earth Date 1

WE'RE HERE, WE'RE ACTUALLY HERE, WE'RE HERE BECAUSE WE'RE HERE BECAUSE WE'RE HERE BECAUSE WE'RE HERE! (Also because we dramatically fell from the sky in a very controlled descent. That is how we are here.) Earth, you are beautiful, I am never leaving you again.

So we landed and we made it out okay. Commemorative pieces of the parachute are going to be split between us and the Smithsonian. The President made a speech. Lewis made a speech. Meanwhile, the docs wanted to get us all checked over, and wanted to start giving me fluids. I'm okay, I promise, but they don't believe me. They are muttering about what have I done to myself and have already started poking me with needles.

The speeches were nice and I'm not going to see the outside of a hospital for a while. I'm fucked.

But, hey, it's the Winter Solstice. The days are only going to get longer from here. So there's that!

 

Earth Date 3

I worry about my potatoes. Do they miss me? Do they understand that I only left them there because I had to? I cared for them no less than the other potatoes. I cooked them all in the microwave as equals. But they were left on Mars, abandoned cruelly by the only life form around.

I wonder if future astronauts will be kind to my potatoes. Will they understand that they did their best? Will they put them under a microscope to analyze what happens to food left in the Martian environment for long periods of time? Will anyone ever eat them?

Oh, potatoes. I hope you understand that you were not abandoned. You were merely left behind.

Along with a shitton of electronics, actually, so the potatoes should be having a great time hanging out and chillin'.

I hope they are making friends. I hope they are being kind. I hope they are showing the spirit of true heroism and the fraternity of nations and giving each other earworms, in the name of intergalactic peace.

Oh, Ares 4, be kind to my potatoes. They have done the best they could. They could do no more. Their bravery, sacrifice, and soul-destroying taste shall go down in history. Brave potatoes, kind potatoes, I salute you. May I one day be worthy of the greatness you have shown. Oh, brave potatoes, I shed a tear for you.

 

Earth Date 6

I am out of my drug-induced stupor and I can't believe I was worried about my potatoes's feelings. I should have been much more worried about mine! Goddamn, full gravity is the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life, and I'm including Mars in that. Even I'm tired of my whining by this point, but Earthlings, you live under the worst gravity oppression describable.

Beck was right. The Concerned Medical Professionals on Earth are right. Gravity is not my friend. I have only fallen once so far, and that's just because they aren't letting me stand up very much. I am being supervised very carefully and my daily physical therapy reports are so very depressing, and also being sanitized and released to the public as part of NASA's daily press briefings.

The good part is that we have a ton of baseline data for me and everyone is confident I'll get back up there, but it's a much slower slog than I'd've anticipated.

Other than that, though, things are going pretty well! We all insisted that they prioritize Martinez's medical clearance, because he's going to be around a baby soon enough, and he's going to be out of here in a few days. The other ones should be out soon-ish as well. We've had two successful Ares missions to date, so the docs know how to treat returning Martian astronauts, and so the rest of the crew is getting that gamut, along with some extra worrying about all that time in space. They've got some PT, some outpatient testing, some follow-ups, a lot of psych appointments, but they can mostly go back to their lives, albeit where "their lives" means "a lot of PR and possibly a congressional hearing".

But me? I'm special. I'm so very, very special. Super duper special. If I'm out of here before I turn a hundred, I'll be shocked.

 

Earth Date 13

My main nurse left today. The other ones said it was because they found out she'd been part of #lethimdie.

I'm honestly impressed they managed not to tell me about the opposition to rescuing me until now. Beck owes me so much money. He figured they'd try to keep it a secret until they let me see the light of day. Censorship is a beautiful thing. Morale, you know. Can't have Mark thinking that everyone on the planet wasn't racing to try to rescue him. He might get glum.

I wonder how much medical research had to stop so they could afford to get me. I wonder how many people are going to die so I could live. So, yeah, I mean, I understand their point. Science is bigger than one man. Humanity is bigger than one man.

But that's capitalism for you. Putting a price on a life. It just turns out that the price on mine is pretty damn high.

I wish they'd bring Kathy back. I'm a big boy. I can understand that someone might have let me die, but will still go above and beyond to help me survive.

And, hey, what's a few billion dollars between friends?

 

Earth Date 24

I am a skeleton. This is an objective truth and is also all over the walls. They've pinned up my baseline scans and then the more recent ones.

"And here, Mr. Watney," I imagine the doctors saying, "is where homo sapiens evolved into homo ridiculous."

There are stickers on all of my boo-boos. My ribs are covered in black-and-blue marks in real life and on my wall. There's the fibula fracture that I'd thought was a pulled calf muscle (Beck read me the riot act). There's my broken nose.

I forgot to put it away before Martinez and Vogel's kids came to visit, so that was a great conversation. The parents had prepared them for Astronaut Mark looking like an invalid instead of a hero in a spacesuit, staring dramatically off into a solar flare, but, you know, it's kids. The older ones had awkward questions. Little David didn't understand why the nurses wouldn't let him hug me and why everyone had to wear a mask.

"Mark's immune system is a mess," Martinez says, but, hey, they let me in the same room as the kids, that's progress. Those four days I was in isolation really, really sucked. You'd think it wouldn't have been, after being alone on Mars for so long. Turns out there's a big difference between being alone on Mars and being alone in a hospital. Hospitals are terrifying; Mars merely murderous.

(Martinez's baby stayed on the other side of the glass while I waved at her, because absolutely no one was willing to risk that.)

 

Earth Date 38

Progress! I am being moved next door to the rehab center, so I am no longer going to be staring a hospital walls all day. I get to stare at rehab center walls all day instead! The docs have been very stern with me: if I backslide, I'm getting sent back to the principal's office, erm, I mean, the hospital.

So while I'm not out of the medical establishment's evil clutches yet, I am closer than I was yesterday. Success!

My parents were here for the transfer. I think they cried a little. I did not cry, I was too busy dancing in my wheelchair.

 

Earth Date 40

Operation Muscle Mass has commenced and dear god are my arms tired. That is not a joke, that's just a statement of fact. My bone density is a joke, and while I have a bit of an iron stomach, even I was feeling a bit queasy as the therapists described what my muscles had been doing.

Don't do space, kids. It'll only destroy you.

Still worth it, though.

I just have to keep reminding myself about how much this was worth it as the physical therapists do their best drill sergeant impressions. I love space! I acknowledge what space has done to me! I give myself over to a higher power! NOW FIVE MORE REPS, WATNEY, GIVE IT YOUR ALL. DO IT FOR NASA. DO IT FOR EARTH.

DO IT TO NEVER GO BACK TO MARS.

 

Earth Date 57

I've been having trouble sleeping. Ares 4 came to visit yesterday. Their mission is indefinitely delayed. Well, I destroyed their MAV. These things happen. But they're so excited, they're training and preparing, they're so ready to get to Mars and leave their mark. But not leave a Mark, only Ares 3 got to do that.

I should feel something towards them, and I did congratulate them and told them to keep morale up, but all I can think of is: dear lord, I pity you poor young bastards.

Oh, this has nothing to do with the sleep problems. I've been having on and off problems since Mission Date 4, everyone does; it comes from knowing that there's only a little bit of metal separating you from the endless vacuum of space. But it's sticking around even on Earth, and I look in the mirror and don't recognize myself. I look aged -- not really old, just aged. I look tired. I look like hell. I do not look like Mark Watney, Adventurous Astronaut And Famous Botanist.

The man in the mirror has been through Mars. You'd think, after two months home, that I'd be used to that. But I'm not.

On the plus side: I can walk carrying weights, even under this cruel full gravity. The nutritionists relented and let me have some empty calories to celebrate. Positive reinforcement!

 

Earth Date 63

There's a delusion that astronauts get sometimes. We think we can just... go outside. And sometimes we try. On Ares 1, they tackled Dr. Lee right outside the airlock.

So they'd prepared us pretty well before letting up go up, and even still on Mars, I'd have this recurring nightmare that I'd just get up one day, have some coffee, and decide to go for a walk. I'd have this nightmare that I'd assume I could breathe on Mars.

My second week on Earth, they'd wheeled me out to a small therapy garden and I'd chatted happily to the shrink about pollinators for thirty minutes before I'd realized I was outside and I started choking. Since then, they've been working on it, but I haven't been outside for more than 14 minutes in a row since then.

But I'm a motherfucking astronaut, I have sailed through the skies and across the stars, I have survived motherfucking Mars. I can manage the outdoors. I am going outside and I'm going to motherfucking conquer it. I shall plant my potatoes in the soil and laugh maniacally, for I shall be victorious.

(Oh, and Johanssen is visiting. She says hi.)

 

Earth Date 70

The thing about being a famous astronaut in recovery from the rigors and trials of space, is that I'm a famous astronaut. It's not like I'm locked up in some prison of a rehab center, cut off from the outside world (I am totally locked up in some prison of a rehab center, send help, seriously guys, take my e-mails seriously). There's a giant conference room with teleconferencing equipment and couches and tables and backdrops-suitable-for-television-interviews. I have talked to just about every news anchor on the planet. I have gotten up close and personal with The Today Show. Thankfully my parents may be totally punishing me for letting them think I was dead, but they're not punishing me that much, so they've been refusing offers to let interviewers surprise me by bringing them out so I can be prodded into having an emotional breakdown on camera in front of the entire country. There have been a surprising number of those offers; humans love their emotional pornography.

But I'm doing okay, is the thing. I've gone outside a bit. I can walk around. Just about every relative I have has come to visit, and everyone I've ever met in my life has sent a card.

So you'll have to excuse the whiny five year old inside of me shouting I WANT TO GO HOME.

It's official. I have cabin fever. Someone give me some electronics. I'm going to build a helicopter and get myself out of here.

But goddammit, I survived Mars. I can damn well survive surviving Mars.

...But I still want to go home.