Prose Header

Souled Out

by C. E. Gee

The spirit had been wandering the surface of Mars for many millennia. And though it possessed nothing resembling the sensory organs of living beings, in its own way the spirit was aware of the constraints imposed upon it by material reality.

But, though bound by the physical plane, the spirit was not of it. And its lack of a physical structure meant the spirit held no memories of its fellow spirits, who long ago had abandoned the spirit to a lonely fate as they themselves regressed their transmigrations to the lowly souls of the dying planet’s remaining life forms — microbes and one hardy species of lichen.

By not surrendering to regression, the lone spirit had kept active an ancient longing. And now the spirit sensed a presence. Driven by a force older than the universe itself, the spirit pushed on toward the presence.

* * *

The inflatable structure resembled a Quonset hut, half-buried beneath the ocher-colored sands of Mars.

Eileen Bevans emerged from the west-facing airlock. Her lissome form was packed tightly into a battered but serviceable Antov WO-2 pressure suit, the joints of which creaked faintly in the weak atmosphere as the young woman trudged off toward Base Camp Bradbury’s antenna farm.

Eileen’s destination was the antenna farm’s communications hut. Isolated from the rest of the camp to prevent its powerful transmitters from interfering with the camp’s delicate scientific instrumentation, the hut was both workplace and domicile for Ed Grimm. And because Eileen and Ed were lovers, the dome had become their own special trysting place, away from the prying eyes of their peers and the disapproving sentiments of their commanders.

Nearing the dome’s airlock, Eileen sensed something. She paused, and despite the suit’s awkward rigidity, she pivoted gracefully around, searching the surrounding area; no one was in sight. It being dusk, the camp had buttoned up for the night. The only signs of life were dim beacons of light emanating from viewports and windows of the camp’s structures.

After cycling through the airlock, Eileen removed her helmet, nestling it under the crook of her left arm as she carefully picked her way down the narrow central aisle. Abruptly, Eileen called out, “Hey, Ed! Where are you?”

Above the wavering and high-pitched whines emitted by racks and stacks of electronic gear came a muffled but emphatic reply. “Over here, babe!”

Near one sloping wall was a small cubicle. Constructed of packing cases and equipment cabinets, the cubicle was barely large enough for a couple of sleeping bags, which were deployed together as comforters on an air mattress. Ed was sitting cross-legged upon the sleeping bags, sipping dark-colored liquid from a plastic cup. Ed was clad in a blue tee shirt and matching boxer shorts.

Hoisting the cup in a mock toast, Ed said, “Hope you don’t mind my starting early. I gotta get up before dawn tomorrow.”

“Oh, I don’t consider that a problem,” replied Eileen, her delicate, elfin-like features enhanced by a smirk. “Just make sure you save me some. Okay?”

Climbing out of the pressure suit, Eileen shyly announced, “I think I have to pee.”

“Head’s almost empty,” replied Ed. “Hydroponics swapped out the holding tank just this morning.”

Eileen strode off to the lavatory; Ed gulped down the dregs of his cup, refilled it, then filled a cup for Eileen. When she returned, Ed offered the cup up to her.

“Thanks,” Eileen purred, lowering her supple young form to the mattress.

Ed took one more sip, put aside his cup, then stretched out.

Eileen sipped at her drink, then asked, “Anything strange been happening here lately?”

“Waddayamean?” replied Ed.

Taking another sip of her drink, Eileen paused in thought, making two vertical furrows between the neatly plucked arches of her eyebrows.

“Just before I came through the airlock, I got the distinct feeling I was being observed.”

Ed snorted. “The way you swing that sweet little behind of yours, it’s a wonder the whole friggin’ camp wasn’t watchin’.”

Eileen put aside her drink, then stretched out next to Ed.

Ed asked, “Want the lights out this time?”

“Yes, please.”

Ed reached back over his head to a shelf, grabbing his iCard.

The instant of darkness, Ed and Eileen reached for one another. They kissed as young lovers often kiss — with an eagerness and passion that overwhelmed their shy tenderness.

Ed reached off to the side, his fingers feeling out the floor near the edge of the air-mattress, fumbling for the condom he’d placed there earlier.

Eileen leaned over her lover, grabbing his wrist as she hoarsely whispered, “This time I want it to be just you. Okay?”

In a not-so-sure voice, Ed replied, “Really?”

“It’ll be fine,” assured Eileen. “I feel special tonight.”

* * *

Timing was crucial. Morphed to a fine tendril, the spirit eased its way inward, savoring the long-absent sensations of life. When ensconced within, it gathered itself around the teeming swarm, then awaited the moment.

* * *

The shortness of the gestation period was a shock to all.

Dr. Wyles beamed. She held the swaddled newborn up one last time for the camp’s cameraman, then said, “I think that’s enough for now, Dan.”

Dan nodded, slipped the tool of his trade into a pocket, then cycled out through the bio-lock.

Dr. Wyles turned, looked lovingly down upon the infant girl that was now cradled in arms, then handed the infant over to Eileen. From the other side of the gurney, a wide-eye Ed looked on.

While assisting the orderly in cleaning the mess, Dr. Wyles blurted out, “I just can’t believe it!”

Then, her voice quavering with emotion, the doctor added, “When I signed on for this expedition, I never expected to deliver the very first Martian.”

Given the circumstances, the good doctor’s ignorance might be forgiven. But in just a few short seconds, the infant, quite politely but firmly corrected the doctor’s inaccurate statement.

A new era had begun.

Copyright © 2013 by C. E. Gee

Proceed to Challenge 534...

Home Page