"Jigsaw"

 

Author's Note: Years ago, before e-media had really taken off, Time Warner/AOL launched a program called I-Publish. It was really ahead of its time and marked the start of the changing writer's market. The concept was simple. I-Publish posted a series of assignments. You picked which assignments you wanted to complete and you wrote your story according to their guidelines. Stories were then listed for anyone else subscribed to that assignment, to be read and critiqued. The critiques really meant nothing beyond your fellow I-Publish writers doing everything they could to berate you and hammer you into submission. Ultimately, despite the negativity of so many, I-Publish would choose a few of the assignment stories and put them in an e-anthology.

 

'Point of View' was born from one such assignment. I don't remember the specific parameters beyond that you had to write a quirky sci-fi story. I did and happily, it was chosen by I-Publish to be in one of their anthologies. It would have marked the first time I had actually sold a story, but alas, before the anthology was put into print, I-Publish closed up shop...too far ahead of their time.

 

Today, 'Point of View' has an important place in my history as a writer. It's been re-written and fine-tuned several times for potential submission to other anthologies. To date, I haven't published it, but the concept has spawned the entire idea behind the 'Souls of Mars' novel I am working on. While you wait, you can enjoy the story that started it.

 

 

It’s Friday, I think. Is it Friday? Can’t be sure anymore. I’ve been here for what seems like decades. When’s the bloody transport going to arrive so I can get off of this God-forsaken rock? I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. I’ve completed my mission…I think. Oh screw it! It’s time to go home! Send in the cavalry and get me out of here!

 

What time is it, anyway? Chronometer says… wait a second! Time out here! It’s not a chronometer, okay? It’s a bloody watch. Why do these stupid scientists always have to come up with some stupid techno-babble to describe something as simple as a watch? It’s a watch, for cryin’ out loud! It tells me the time! My watch says it’s 5:39. Stupid geeks, anyway. They can take their chronometers and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Give me a Timex, any day!

 

5:40 - Oh joy! One whole minute has gone by. Where the hell is the transport, anyway? And while I’m at it, where the hell is hell? Man, those God-fearing church drones back on earth don’t know what hell is. Let them sit on their butts out here in a sea of freakin’ red for forever and a day and they’ll get a whole new definition of what hell is.

 

5:41 - Man, I’m tired of this scenery. Everywhere I look, it’s the same thing. Nothing ever changes here…like that’s a big surprise. It’s always red. The sand is red, the sky is red, the cliffs are red. Shoot daddy, even I’m red, thanks to sitting on my butt in the dirt for so long. Why can’t something be blue for once? Red just sucks. Mars sucks. My kingdom for a palette change!

 

5:42 - My leg hurts. It always hurts. Can’t do a bleepin’ thing about it out here, though. And I still can’t believe I broke it like I did. Insertion Team sure could have planned a lot better. Eggheads back at NASA couldn’t plot a reliable insertion trajectory if their lives depended on it. My luck sucks. I swear, if I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all. Well, when they Medivac me out, I’ll make sure they give me something for the pain. I’ll be buggered if I’m going back to earth in agony.

 

5:43 - When did they say they were going to send the transport again? Still can’t remember. Blasted memory. You know, things are never so bad that they can’t get worse. Wish this amnesia would pass so I could remember life before Mars. At least it would give me something to think about. But no, not with my luck. It figures that I’d smack my head and break my leg at the same time and then forget everything that ever happened to me prior to getting my tin-can butt stuck out here. Now all I can do is sit here on my butt in the dirt; I can’t move to save my life and I can’t remember a bloody thing. I can’t even do any exploring! All I get to do is sit in the same pile of red dirt and stare at the same stupid red horizon every blasted day. This sucks. Red sucks. I really hate that color.

 

5:44 - I suppose I could try contacting someone again…like it would do any good. I’ve been on this stupid radio for ages and all I get back is this bloody static. I still wonder if some component got damaged. That wouldn’t surprise me. I guess when you’ve got the lowest bidder building these toys, something’s bound to get broken at the most inopportune time. Lord knows, I’m afraid to even sneeze. Probably blow my head off.

 

5:45 - Hmmm…is that what I think it is? Yes, I can feel it coming. It’s about time, too. Ah yes, the ‘ripple’. That’s what I’m going to call this thing when I get back home. It’s about the only thing I have to look forward to, but at least it’s something. When was the last time I felt the ‘ripple’? Man, it had to have been at least two weeks ago. And before that, how long? Five weeks? No consistency. Still, it’s got to be a natural phenomenon. Electrical field maybe? No idea, really. My instruments can’t make heads or tails of it but at least I’ve got everything recorded. Should make those NASA spazoids happy.

 

5:46 - Oh yes. Here it comes. Give it to me, baby. Oh what a rush…

 

5:48 - Sweet. Nirvana. Got a nice ride and killed a couple of minutes, to boot. Man, I tell you. This ‘ripple’ is something strange. Wish I knew what it was. At least it’s not dangerous or I suppose I’d already be dead. On the contrary, it makes me feel so alive when it washes over me. I think I actually regained consciousness right when it came through for the first time. I hope its effects are benign, but that’s something for the geeks back home to figure out. I’ve got all the information I can get from it, anyway. Let someone else analyze it.

 

5:49 - Back to waiting. When’s the transport going to get here? I swear, if I have to wait another day, I’m going to go insane. Wonder what they’ll send, anyway? Sandstorms are getting pretty bad these days, so they had better send something that won’t crash and can at least take off again. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants? They’d come here to rescue me and then in a fit of incompetence or mechanical failure, they’d crash. Then I’d have to wait for who knows how much longer for them to send someone else. Oh, well. A transport is a transport is a transport. As long as it gets here and gets me off this rock and back home, I don’t care if it’s a little red wagon. Red. There’s that color again. Red sucks. Paint it blue instead.

 

5:50 - Life sucks. When all you have to look forward to is a weird energy surge, you know you’re stuck in a rut. And this rut is painted red. I hate red. When I get home, I’m going to buy a house and paint it every other color but red. Maybe I can get congress to pass a law, banning the color. I think whoever invented the color red should be drawn and quartered. But hey, that’s just me.

 

5:51 - Boredom sucks. Seems like I end up counting down every stupid minute of every stupid day, wondering when someone is going to show up to haul my butt out of here. And it’s never ending. I swear, I’d count grains of sand to pass the time, but the sand is red. I’d get to ten and probably puke. Of course on the bright side, it’d be a different color.

 

5:52 - Man, my leg hurts. I think I’ve only said that about nine trillion times. Of course, if there was somebody here to hear me then maybe I wouldn’t have to say it so much! I want to go home! Is that too much to ask? It’s the bureaucrats, that’s what it is. There’s probably some schmuck in congress sitting in his cushy leather government chair, whining that it’ll cost too much money to send an extraction team all the way to Mars for one man. Then on the very next day, that same schmuck will pay ten thousand dollars to install a gold-plated toilet seat in his yacht. I hate politicians. They’re all going to hell. Better yet, they’re all going to Mars.

 

5:53 - I’m tired. Wish I could sleep, but that’s not an easy thing to do on this ball of dirt. I don’t think I’ve slept a wink since I woke up. Can’t get my lens shield down because I’ve got sand in the stupid mechanism. How great would that be if I could get it down? Just drop my lens shield and I wouldn’t have to look at any more stupid red until they came and picked me up. Of course, those NASA geeks couldn’t think far enough ahead to design some sort of contraption to keep sand out of the lens hinge, so I’m stuck with my eyes open, twenty-four seven, staring at a sea of red! Idiots. I hate red.

 

5:54 - Sigh.

 

5:55 - Someday, I’ll get out of here. Someday in the next billion years, anyway. I wonder who they’re going to send to get me, if they send anyone at all? Not that it matters. I just want out of here. They could send Mickey Mouse and Pluto the Dog for all I care, just as long as they get me home.

 

5:56 - Pluto. Maybe that’s where they’ll send me after this. Been to Mars. Hated it. Send me to Pluto. I might freeze my tail off, but at least there’d be a change of scenery. At least I wouldn’t have to see any more red! Yep, nice pretty shades of blue. I think I could handle that; as long as I didn’t break my leg again when I landed.

 

5:57 - Now here’s a thought. Maybe I’m just dreaming. Maybe all of this is just one big pain-in-the-butt dream and I’ll eventually wake up safe and sound at home, wherever that is. I’d pinch myself if I could feel my hands. Oh, who am I kidding, anyway. I couldn’t get that lucky. This is about as real as it’s going to get. Real sucks.

 

5:58 - Hmmm…am I actually hearing something new? All I’ve ever heard around here is the sound of radio static and wind-driven sand. I’m surprised I haven’t been sandblasted into oblivion yet. I’m sure it’ll happen sometime but right now, I’m definitely hearing something new. What is that? Could it be?

 

5:58 - Well now, what do we have here? What the blazes is that? Looks like a fire… in the sky. Let’s see if I can get focused in a bit better. Yep, there it is. Oh Joy! They’re here! They’re finally here! Those are retro-rockets or my name is Sputnik. Finally! Oh joy of joys, it’s finally happened! Company has arrived! They finally sent the transport and it ain’t no little red wagon! Break out the bubbly and tie a yellow ribbon ‘round the old oak tree, I’m finally going home! Yea Haw!

 

5:59 - Wait a second now. What the heck is that thing, anyway? That ain’t no freakin’ transport! Looks like another probe to me. How the heck is that going to get me home? At least it’s coming down close by. What’s that say on the side? Can’t quite make it out…stupid red dust. Wait a sec…yes, I can see it now. There it is. Polar…Lander…II. Well, that’s original. I hope he doesn’t break his leg when he lands.

 

6:00 - Whoops, spoke too soon I see. I’ll be jiggered. Now if that ain’t a bunch of horse patooties! Leave it to NASA to send another stupid probe, made with the same shoddy parts and with the same worthless two-bit workmanship they put into me! I mean come on! At least I only broke one leg! This one broke two! I could just scream!

 

6:01 - Still, I suppose there’s got to be a silver lining in every cloud. At least now, I’ve got someone to talk to. It’s been forever since I’ve had someone to talk to. Once the ‘ripple’ comes through and he wakes up, wonder what I’ll say? “Hey dude! I’m the Mars Polar Lander…the original, that is. How’s your leg?”

 

***

 

On December 3, 1999, the Mars Polar Lander failed to reestablish communications with earth after its descent phase. All attempts to contact the probe failed. Speculation on what happened, continues to this day.

Point of View

© 2015 by Michael Koogler