Thursday April 3 2081
I feel kind of strange tonight, restless, as if I’ve eaten too much candy. I just keep thinking that I’ll be seventeen soon and the most exciting thing I have ever done is sneak through the ducts to the edge of the dome during a storm with Vlad and Susan. It was pretty awesome – the dome creaked and groaned so loudly we could barely hear each other. They were both so scared of getting caught that we only hung out there long enough for me to carve half my name in the vinyl floor. I wrote “Mauro” but didn't get to my surname. We are the only teenagers on this planet, but I seem to be the only one who doesn’t worship the rules in this place.
I’ve been dreaming about stealing a buggy and getting out of the dome for the first time in my life. I made the mistake of mentioning it to Vlad. He looked so shocked I pretended it was a joke. Not funny, Mauro, he said, which is kind of ironic, because I wasn't trying to be funny at all.
Saturday April 5 2081
Family chat tonight with Uncle Antonio in New York. Our screen is kind of bust and we kept losing signal – the next transit with new parts to repair it is only arriving in a few days’ time. But we could see him and Nonna and the cousins holding up huge wads of the pizza they were all eating for dinner. Uncle Antonio asked Dad if he missed real cheese but he just shrugged and said he didn't care. Later while we ate our own dinner, delivered to the door of our family pod as usual, I wondered what it must be like to have a home you cook food in. And what real cheese is like. Because obviously what they call cheese here has to be fake. There are no cows on Mars.
I told Vlad about my thoughts but again he looked at me as if I was crazy. Of course there are no cows, Mauro, he said. What would they eat? They would never survive the trip! I dropped the subject and we played a simulation together. But that wasn't what I meant at all.
Monday April 7 2081
At school today we read an old story about a couple of guys travelling across America on motorbikes. I can’t stop thinking about it: a road, a destination, hamburgers. Chocolate shakes at a diner. An atmosphere that a human can actually breathe without dying.
Mom and Dad were both distracted this evening after an “exciting” day in the lab. Personally I don’t think “exciting” and “lab” belong in the same sentence. But that, unfortunately, is just me. I asked my dad what it’s like to eat a real hamburger. He said it’s “not unlike” the meat substitute squares we get here. But his eye was twitching as he said it. Then he told me, as he always does, how lucky I am to live here. First child ever born on Mars, blah blah. What an honour.
I think I would rather be a normal kid who can go get a chocolate shake at a diner.
Tuesday April 8 2081
I tried to convince Susan to come to the dome with me again but she wouldn’t. She is such a stiff. We are the only teenagers on this planet besides Vlad, I told her, and we have an obligation to be rebellious. I said if we don’t show some spirit then the little kids will grow up as boring as everyone else. She said my argument was flawed and that rule-keeping doesn’t necessarily make a person boring. I think she thought I was angling to get her to let me kiss her again but I wasn’t. She might be the only girl my age in a hundred and forty million miles but I have decided she’s not my type. Then she told me I should cut my hair or at least comb it. I give up on that girl, and Vlad too. They don’t understand.
Friday April 11 2081
Mom got an award today for discovering a new blob. She hates it when I call them that but someone’s got to hate them. It blows my mind the way everyone here is in love with invisible specks that don’t even have brains. My parents love those blobs more than they love me, that’s for sure. They came here, gave up cheese and hamburgers and everything, to study them. Those blobs/pests/germs or whatever other name I find to call them are the reason for existence out here. The more of them they find the more boring it gets. The one my mom found has flagella. Woo hoo.
I asked them if I could get a tattoo. There’s a lab tech guy in Sector Three who will do it for a week’s candy ration. I was thinking a bug-eyed alien on my forearm, but Dad looked horrified and Mom said if I ever do that she will boot me from here to Uranus.
Sunday April 13 2081
I convinced Vlad to come with me to watch the transit take off. It’s the most exciting thing that ever happens in this place. We have to watch from the viewpoint inside the dome, of course, and you can’t see much through the dirt, but it’s still cool. There’s fire and explosions and smoke and weird vibrations and it feels dangerous. I asked Vlad if he would ever leave. He said when his parents retire he might go back to Russia with them but until then he would be happy to get a security job here. We worked out that he will be forty three years old when that happens.
I don’t want to stay here until I am forty three! I don’t want to step onto the earth for the first time when I am already that old. I watched the dark shadow of the transit heave off through the dust and dirt into the sky and I decided something. I am done with this place. I am done with Mars. I want to walk on grass and have a shower that lasts more than one minute. I don’t want to be a scientist or a government employee. I want to hang out with other kids my age and ride a bike. I might have been born here but I’m still a human being and I belong on a planet with air I can breathe. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Tuesday April 15 2081
My parents are mad. Mom scowls and Dad keeps crying. They say Earth is polluted and messed up and life is better here. They went on about wars and viruses and tax and traffic. But my mind is made up. I told them I am going to demand that as a United States citizen I be returned to the United States. I never asked to be here. I have rights too.
Besides, wars and traffic sound kind of exciting. Viruses and tax – not so much.
Wednesday April 16 2081
I went to speak to the governor today. He likes me; he always says I am a breath of fresh air. I don’t think he thought that today, though. I told him I want a place on the return transit or I will contact a bunch of news companies and tell them I am being held against my will. He sighed and said he had been kind of expecting this, ever since I was a kid and I threw a tantrum about wanting a horse. Unlike my parents, he understands that I don’t fit in here. He’s going to make a plan.
Friday April 18 2081
A plan has been made. I leave on Monday. I insisted on it being soon, before my parents have a chance to get hysterical. They haven’t offered to come with me, though. Not sure how I feel about that.
I am going to stay with Uncle Antonio and Nonna, who squealed with excitement when we told her and kissed our (now repaired) screen. I will go to a real high school, with hundreds of other kids. I will miss Vlad and Susan, I guess, but not that much. Vlad cried when I told him I was leaving. I suppose I feel sorry for him. He’ll only have Susan and the little kids now.
Sunday April 20 2081
I am writing this from my spot next to the dome. My whole name is carved into the vinyl now, with the date I was born and the date I will leave. I guess I will have some use for my surname on earth – it’s unlikely I’ll be the only Mauro there. There is a storm outside again, a strong one. The dome is vibrating with the force of it. Susan asked me if I would miss the storms. I said I thought that was a stupid question. There are storms on earth, with actual rain, I said. She just blew air out of her nose and walked off. If I didn’t know better I would say she’s upset that I am leaving.
Wednesday April 23 2081
I am on the transit, strapped into my seat. It’s been three days and zero gravity is getting old. I am surrounded by retired scientists and technicians, and a couple of losers who have been fired. I think the one guy was brewing alcohol in the dome kitchens and selling it. I wish I had known about that before I left.
I had a little cry this morning thinking about saying good bye to Mom and Dad and Vlad, and the tears just stuck to my face. I had to push them away and watch them float off. The food is way worse than what we get in the dome. There is cheese, but it’s in tubes that you squirt into your mouth and it tastes like plastic.
They give us sedatives so we sleep most of the time. My body feels weird and even when I am awake I feel sleepy. I thought about writing about how we use the toilet but I don’t think I want to remember it. After weeks of this I am going to love my first real shower. Everyone’s hair sticks up into the air and it made me feel kind of sad to think that Susan isn’t here to tease me about mine.
Wednesday May 21, 2081
Landing tomorrow. My first steps on Earth will be in the transit dock in Moscow, if my legs can hold my weight. I’ll have to wait a day or two for a transit back to the US. At least I will have a chance to get my Earth legs before I get there. I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of Uncle Antonio and my cousins.
Friday May 23 2081
I am on the transit on my way to America. I was on Earth for 48 hours before I left it again, ha ha. I wish I could tell Vlad what it felt like to breathe real air. They wouldn't let me leave the base but on the way out I stood on the ground, on the actual earth, and I breathed. I felt wind on my face and it was awesome.
So far Earth food sucks almost as bad as Mars food. The bread is brown and bitter and they gave me salad, which always looked good on the screen but tastes terrible. Maybe when I get to Uncle Antonio’s I can just carry on taking vitamin pills and not eat leaves. I tried a piece of fresh meat too and it kind of made me want to throw up. I won’t lie: I am disappointed. I didn't come to Earth just for the food but today I am craving a slab of meat substitute and a good thick pile of crackers.
Sunday May 25 2081
Well I am here at last. I walked myself out of the transit dock to where Uncle Antonio and the cousins were waiting. My cousin Gio held up a big sign that said “PRIMITIVE MARTIAN LIFE FORM” on it and I knew we were going to be friends. Nonna cooked dinner which was a relief. American bread is good and they didn't force me to eat the salad. Also, I drank Coke and it was awesome. I will try to explain it to Vlad when I get to chat to him but he’ll never believe me.
It’s different here; it’s very loud and huge and overwhelming. Smells and sounds are everywhere and I have felt kind of nauseous ever since the transit arrived. It’s not like I imagined, but it also is. Susan would say I am being illogical but whatever, that’s how it feels. I try not to think about Mom and Dad, but they will retire and come home some day if the blobs don’t rise up and rebel first.
I went out on the tiny balcony when it got dark. I looked up at the stars and Gio asked me if they look different from Mars. I laughed because I never saw the stars from there at all. The dome is too dirty. He was so surprised – I suppose he was imagining me walking around in a space suit with Jupiter in the background. I told him it was more like being a rat in a lab. He didn't know what to say to that.
I was made for this planet, for this exact spot in the universe this exact distance from the sun. The blobs can have Mars; I don’t care. I will stay here, pollution and wars and viruses and all, here where there is nothing between me and the rest of the Universe but air that I can breathe.