Science Fiction Horror Romance

The barren charcoal seas of Mare Crisium span the horizon in all directions. The vast Picard crater is the only natural feature of this desolate landscape. Its high outer ridges cast a long shadow across the crash site, as our white hot star races towards sunset and lunar night approaches.

“Harper, put your jumper on,” says Mama’s voice. “It’s getting cold.”

The Earth looms large in the sky, about 20 times more massive than it should be. I take small, slow steps towards it, transfixed. That shouldn’t be there, it’s too close.

Our planet is spinning rapidly — each day only lasts three seconds. With each rotation, this beautiful blue marble becomes ever more obscured by wildfire smoke, noxious gases, and nuclear fallout, until the Permacloud forms and engulfs our home world, suffocating my view.

I leap up high in desperation and reach with straining fingertips for the Earth. Floating ten feet above the lunar surface, a gravitational tug of war fights over me. The mighty planet wants me to come home, but the proximity of the Moon wins this match, pulling me back gently to its dusty surface.

Our stricken Orion-X command module now lies before me, casting a great silhouette across the faint backdrop of our galaxy. This impressive machine towers over me, yet we are both still dwarfed by the endless nothingness of the lunar surface and the infinite space beyond. I hesitate at the entrance hatch door. A familiar tightness across my chest warns me to back away. Death is close. But a promise is a promise, so I force a quivering hand against the frozen palmport scanner.

Nothing happens straight away. But sure enough, the warmth of my touch thaws the device, until the emergency lighting illuminates the sensor pad and the outer hatch slides open. Taking a deep breath of nothing, I step in, shiver and rub my arms as a ghostly chill runs through me. The inner airlock door is wide open to the main chamber. The lunar colony raiders who downed our ship have stripped it of all equipment. Its just a broken shell now, like me.

This is usually the point when I awake, sweating and panicking, but this time is different somehow. This time I’m ready — to accept what has happened. To accept what I must do. Willing myself onwards, I creep around the other side of the central seating column.

Burnsy’s body is still strapped into his flight chair in full EVA suit. Just as we were forced to leave him. The helmet visor is smashed and I recoil at the sight of my dead friend’s face. His one good remaining brown eye stares at me, without seeing me. His features are perfectly preserved in the vacuum of space, with no oxygen or bacteria to do their worst.

“Alright, Harper?” says Burnsy, in his musical Welsh accent. “Took you long enough. Fancy taking this helmet off for me?”

Icy tears freeze upon my cheeks. “But… I’ll need to pull that shard out from your eye first.”

“I’m bled out already. Just go for it.”

So I grip the metal fragment, once part of the ship’s outer hull, with one hand and brace the other against Burnsy’s forehead. There's a squelching sound as I ease it out from his eye socket. The gooey remains of his eyeball and some flesh and brain matter come out with it, making me wretch. Burnsy doesn’t move or make a sound until I have freed the ten-inch bloody dagger from his skull. I fling it away from us, exhale in relief, then twist off his cracked helmet. A pool of congealed blood oozes out, with a sickly metallic stench.

I throw up over my prison scrubs.

“Ahh, that’s better, cheers mate,” says Burnsy. “Hey, what’s with the outfit?”

“Solitary confinement. One year for sabotaging the mission.”

“Well, that’s bollocks,” he says. “It was your father, again. You weren't to know he was in league with those colonist bastards.”

I nod grimly, then clean my hands as best I can on my soiled uniform. Then with great care, I remove both of his gloves and hold his freezing hands in mine.

“I’m so sorry, Burnsy. I gave him the launch codes. It’s all my fault.”

He reaches out to touch my cheek. “No, it’s not. Your father tricked and betrayed you, betrayed all of us. Come on now, no use crying.”

His love and compassion are more than I deserve. Tears are easy to wipe away. Guilt is not.

I collapse into his strong, welcome arms. “I’ve missed you so much. I’ll never forgive myself.”

“Harper, this is not on you. Honestly, let it go.”

His undead hands gently prise me away, then undo his harness buckle. Taking my hands again, the body of Morgan Burns stands up. “Now let me go. It’s time. I’m ready.”

I shake my head. “I’m not.”

He holds out an old-fashioned, wooden-handled spade towards me. “We promised each other, remember? It’s time.”

Taking the spade in one hand, I turn to face the exit hatch. “Come on then.”

We step out onto the Moon’s black surface. My whole body convulses and teeth start chattering. So I put on the old green woolly jumper and sheepskin boots that Mama keeps by the veranda, then Burnsy and I head out for a nighttime stroll under the stars.

Hand in hand, we walk across the dusty front yard, past the crooked gum tree and battered old tyre swing I once loved so much. We continue past the empty rusty cattle pens and into the Outback. The sweet honey aroma of golden wattle trees fills the night air. This is just how I remember it, before the Great Firestorm rose everything to ashes.

With the darkness of a new moon above, the magnificent celestial arc of the Milky Way rises above the domed silhouettes of the distant Kata Tjuṯa peaks.

“Is this where you grew up?” asks Burnsy.

“Partly. This was Grandpa’s station, and the ancestral homeland of Nanna Kirra.”

We rest under the canopy of a pale river red gum tree, where Nanna used to tell my cousins and me Dreamtime stories. “Here, by this creek?”

“Perfect,” says Burnsy. “We were happy, weren’t we, in Australia?”

His face is healed, younger, like from our R&D lab days back in Perth. His long dark matted hair is back, as are the memories of those raucous times. My cautious smile turns into a big grin. “Those were the best days. Remember the nights out we had, with Eddie, Cathy and the gang?”

“They were proper banging, eh?” he says. “How about them drinking games we played? Like Moose and One Lifeboat!”

“What, all the games that you instigated? Not to mention those rude rugby chants you had us singing through the streets after closing time!”

We laugh until we cry. Then we just cry, mourning our long-lost friends, our families and the lives we once had.

Taking him by the hand, I broach the unspoken subject between us. “Burnsy, I’m sorry I never fully loved you, like you loved me.”

His longing eyes are too much to bear, so I look down and make marks in the dirt with a stick. “I just wish I felt those sorts of feelings. I wish I felt them, for you.”

He leans over and kisses me gently on the cheek. I turn my head so our noses touch, and our eyes meet once more. My hands are on his muscular chest. He's not body builder big, but lean, like a man who's spent years building machines with his hands, and with me. He takes me in his arms once more. An alien sensation, an urge, comes over me. So I kiss him back, on the lips, fuller, deeper.

A light breeze rustles the eucalyptus leaves overhead, and their minty, woody scent rains down upon us. Starlight dances upon the unhurried ebbs and flows of the burbling creek. A distant pair of Boobook owls call to each other with mournful hoots, as if for the last time.

Afterwards, we hold each other, gazing up at the night sky through the gaps in the canopy. We lay like this for a long while, putting off the inevitable.

Until Burnsy passes me the spade again. “I’m ready now.”

So I get up and start digging. “Aren’t you going to help?”

“I’m dead, remember?”

“Always an excuse.”

The ground is dry and hard, so Grandpa Handley helps instead.

After a long while, just before the Outback dawn breaks, Burnsy’s shallow grave is ready.

“Climb in then,” I say, but Burnsy doesn’t reply. His lifeless body — short-haired, bloodstained and missing one eye — is already laid to rest.

Scooping up the tear-spotted red earth, I find enough peace to bury my best friend, and say goodbye. Just as I promised.

October 19, 2023 08:20

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08:50 Oct 20, 2023

This is so good ! I really clever way of presenting the back story and laying out the bones of the plot enough for us to add flesh to. And such a friendship. REally enjoyed this one.


M.A. Grace
10:42 Oct 20, 2023

Thank you for your feedback and taking the time to read my story. Glad you enjoyed it :-)


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AnneMarie Miles
21:16 Oct 25, 2023

Hello from your critique circle! This was wonderfully unique. I instantly loved the opening scene where earth was the thing in the sky. Right away, I'm excited to learn more about where and who. I liked the hints you gave us with Burnsy repeating, "I'm ready." I wasn't sure what he was ready for until the end, and that was satisfying. Also the plucking glass out of his eye was a gruesome and awesome image. Thanks for sharing!


M.A. Grace
22:05 Oct 25, 2023

Hi, I have just enjoyed your story in return. Thank you for reading this and sharing the bits you like


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Michał Przywara
02:52 Oct 22, 2023

Lovely! Great, seamless blurring between now and then, between reality and memory. The story gives us a lot of context - lots of loss, lots of betrayal and drama, and a wider story of the planet and the future - without ever losing focus on the main thread, of moving on and quite literally burying the past. We witness a sweet and sad moment, and it really does feel like a final farewell. The narrator can only move on after forgiving themselves, and that opens the door for fulfilling the promise. Best of luck with this one - thanks for shar...


M.A. Grace
18:05 Oct 23, 2023

Thank you Michal for taking the time to read this and write such a considered analysis. I think you understand the story better than me!


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Kevin Logue
12:00 Oct 19, 2023

Nice take on the prompt, sci-fi, dystopian, lost lover, dream sequence. Like how you played it backwards and just hinted at what happened, it kept the intrigue moving forward. I think your missing an "it" in this sentence ,- "I fling away from us,..." A small suggestion, and this is totally just my opinion, this line - "We step out onto the Moon’s black surface. My teeth chatter and whole body convulses." it could flow better, there's something clunky here, I'd suggest >> Teeth chattering, body convulsing, we step out on to the Moon's blac...


M.A. Grace
15:29 Oct 19, 2023

Hi Kevin, thanking for reading, glad you liked the story. And thanks very much for the proof reading! Fortunately I can still edit it ;-)


Kevin Logue
15:41 Oct 19, 2023

Anytime. If only I could proofread my own as effectively haha


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