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Red Martian soil stained Mark’s fingers and he smiled. A terracotta pot, hosting his only companion, a prickly aloe, took water. His rough palms embraced the cold surface and he stood there for a while, drinking the silence of the Second Post.

The concrete structure, perched on the hilltop, commandeered the sweeping views of an endless plain. The transparent panels could withstand the full force of the equatorial gales, howling nightly outside the lighted box of the Second Post, which protected the only human in this part of Mars. 

The rest of their crew was busy in the northern hemisphere, where the robots have been busy building the landing facility for the spaceships expected to land here next year. Mark Forster volunteered to staff the Second Post, longing for some solitude after six months of the flight and another half of the year sleeping, eating, and rubbing shoulders with people, according to the bunch of tests, were the best company for him.

Not intending to argue with the tests, Mark wanted to listen to the songs of the winds. 

Their crew explored just a minuscule bit of a vast uncharted Mars, but in all honesty, Mark rarely ventured outside the stronghold of the Second Post. Even at the height of the day, such expeditions asked for a protective suit, which bulkiness Mark hated passionately from his time on the Moon. 

One of these forays brought back the specimen of the Martian soil, where Mark transferred the aloe, which traveled with him on the all-terrain vehicle all the way from the First Post. After depositing him on the hill, the guys returned to the main base, and Mark embraced the quietness of Mars, interrupted only by the storms howling on the plain. 

Waking up at the dead of the night, he gazed at the constellations, dancing on the black velvet of the sky, sometimes staying at the panoramic window until the ethereal grey light of early dawn, illuminating the aloe leaves as if glowing from within.

Still standing over the pot, he looked at the plant. Mark could swear that the prickly aloe moved a little. Something violet appeared on the top of the soil, and he froze. The aloe leaf bent, digging into the red surface, helping the shoot to reach the light. 

Mark extended his trembling fingers to the pot, where the Martian plant leaned towards its Earthly sibling but stopped in his stride. Below the hill, the shades of lilac painted the lifeless plain and more plants rushed to the low sky, blooming under the distant Sun, knowing they are not alone anymore.

The End


  • Nelly Shulman is a writer based in Jerusalem.Her short stories appeared on, in the Vine Leaves Press Anthology of the Best Flash Fiction, and the various literary magazines and anthologies.

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