April 21st 2023
Lurid, glowing colours, all around me. Delighted, I submerge in them, letting the pain ebb away. For I hurt. Badly.
I’m angry with myself when adrenaline brings me back—I would rather be in that realm of colours, where nothing else matters.
Survey ship Mechnikov has scattered probes and landers to the surface of the planet Floridana—so named by its discoverer, a gravity-lensing astronomer who analysed the composition of the atmosphere a hundred years ago. She found it rich in metabolic gasses, even saw its very surface, and realised it was seething, crawling, with life—a ‘green world,’ where plants dominate, and animals scurry between the feet of rooted giants; a Carboniferous world, laying down coal for any stupid enough to burn it, hundreds of millions of years later in time.
My side hurts and I catch my breath, hearing a faint bubbling in my breathing. Oh God, my lung is punctured… The wreckage of the shuttle is wedged between vast, alien trees, whose leaves are fleshy and pendulous, and whose greens are counterpointed in their photosynthesis by the livid reds and purples of fruiting bodies. The whole shimmers in a gentle downpour, life-giving water that bathes the world and drips into my ship through ruptured housings. All this would be of incalculable interest to my scientist’s soul, but for the fact I’m dying.
They’ll come, I think with certainty. My beacons will still be sending, they’ll lock in the bearing and get another ship to me in no time. An hour. Less. Just keep breathing…
My mind wanders, slips once more, and the strange and fungoid-looking trees blend into a landscape of insanity, a universe of gesticulating shrubs whose blossoms creep toward me, extending nectar-dripping lips as if to consume my very flesh.
Such are the day-mares of hallucination, and, when they pass, I’m weaker. My body sweats and shivers in my environment suit as I hang in my straps, staring out of the twisted canopy at the tilted world, whose precipitant sky is a flush of salmon pink over the rainbow woods. My fault, I think, I was flying this thing, I hung it up… Only myself to blame. I cough and red droplets mist the inside of my faceplate. In desperation I reach an arm near-paralysed to the instruments, try to bring the com system online, call weakly, cough again…
There are worse places to die.
The thought drifts through my mind like a cool breeze, and I relax, my strength ebbs and I wonder if I’ll drift back into the realm of hallucination. The voice was not my own, but its timbre was gentle, even kind, and I wonder, in my fevered state, what we could have missed in our explorations.
The presence laughs, a cascade in my head as silvery as the patter of droplets, and the pain eases, leaving my mind surprisingly clear for a while. The canopy is shaded by foliage above, so I have a view undisturbed by rivulets. Clouds part a little and weak light floods a glade where the alien plants lie thickly, and for a moment all is magic as the raindrops make sunrays glow.
And there she is…
A shape, distinct from the rain, yet made thereof, she steps out of a sunbeam and looks up at me. Humanoid, yes, willowy, a term oddly appropriate for this world, hair a cascade of falling spray. She seems made of glass, an animated sculpture, and I stare down at her in the trusting way one does in a dream, suspecting the vision may be unreal but accepting it anyway. She looks up, blinks eyes made of water, then strides through the glade, to leap with the agility of a cat from root to trunk to bough, and at last climbs the shuttle hull, to sit by me, just outside the distorted canopy. I raise a hand, with what seems the last of my strength, so my glove palms the transparency, and her hand of raindrops matches it on the outside.
“Who are you?” I mouth weakly, and the face smiles, the voice laughs in my head again.
I am we, we are all, all is everything. Do not fear. You are not alone. There is no alone. All are one.
I try to shake my head but the helmet is too heavy now, my eyes falling closed. “Stay with me…” I whisper.
I shall not leave you.
Part of me is afraid, as mortally fearful as I have ever been, and I glance at the ruddy sky just once more, as if willing a ship to appear, but I’m alone, but for the trees, the rain, and the spirit. Then the pain fades, my last breath sighs free, and I loose all notion of the ship, my suit, and the needs of one moment ago. I feel better at once, and the depth of vibrancy of the world commands all attention. I’m fascinated by the rivulets of water, the drips from great, alien leaves, and step out upon the hull to better see them. She rises at my side and places a hand on my shoulder, cool and moist, and I breathe the alien air, so rich and invigorating.
That’s better, I think, and she beckons. We scamper across the hull, slide down long leaves and drop to the soft fernacious growths below, and I bathe in the golden light, so free and alive. She flicks drops into my eyes and I laugh, realise my hands are also made of water, and without a care or regret I run with her for the joy of being.
This is a welcoming world, after all, I know, one merely has to approach it correctly. But this is no longer important to me, as I sprint through the rainbow woods on spring-heels as if I weigh nothing, and enter the great flow of matter, energy and time to which I have been invited—me, and my rain girl.
Mike has been a university educator since 2006, has worked in the replication of convincing ancient fossils, is a passionate photographer, master-level hobbyist, and journalist for international magazines. Short fiction sales include to Metastellar, The Strand, Little Blue Marble, Abyss and Apex, Daily Science Fiction, Compelling Science Fiction and Nature Futures. He has placed some two hundred stories to date, totalling over one million words in print. He has completed his first Sherlock Holmes novel with Belanger Books, and will be appearing in translation in European magazines. You can catch up with his journey at his blog ‘The View From the Keyboard,’ http://mike-adamson.blogspot.com
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