The sun sets on a red planet. Rocks, sand, a hill in the distance. It’s impossible to think that anything has ever lived, or will ever live here. Perhaps nothing has moved for millennia. Yet while the sunset soaks the horizon in an ever deepening red, something grows on the edge of sensation. The scene whispers an elegy for another time – a past, or present. How does it sound?
Deep in the wine-dark sea, a fissure spews out a rich mixture of silicon, barium, calcium and carbon dioxide. Bacteria appear and proliferate, while a billion years pass. Then, an explosion of unseeing colour, an infinitely expanding variety of life, which opens its eyes and ears, swims, crawls, flies, and walks. The universe dances with itself.
A silvery ship sails from its port, abandoning terra cognita for the last time. A curious crew seize their final hope, to render the inhospitable a home. They guard their sacred spark, ready for the tens of millions of miles to come. They do not speak of what they leave behind – eyes forward, they plough the waves of stardust, in calm expectance.
The speck passes in front of the glowing sun, and grows until you can just make out its pointed nose, fronting a bulbous body. The cloudless sky receives it, as it rapidly descends to the barren ground, raising a monumental geyser of dust. A few moments of stillness, then a flurry of motion. A faint mechanical whirr pierces through the thin atmosphere, and a figure steps out onto the rock-strewn surface.
Sometimes in life, it’s hard to maintain a healthy balance. Release a dash of CO2 into the atmosphere, and you’ll find that the pressure increases enough to stop your bodily fluids from boiling away. Unfortunately however, a CO2 concentration of just 1% is enough to make you drowsy; 7-10% can kill. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU REMOVE YOUR MASK.
Plans are being set in motion. Thought becomes action, just as red will be transmuted first into green, then blue. The long-dormant planet is awakened, great machines rear up and set to work, caterpillar treads rolling. Mountains are levelled and canyons are dug, while solar farms proliferate in jagged fields, harvesting energy from above as below.
Months turn to years, and years to decades. The once barren planet develops a patchy green hide, but the project is never-ending. Some have never known anything but this life. As the drudgery sets in, the proudly held ideals of the pioneer generation start to seem a little hollow. ‘Another silo full, another dark dawn’.
Once word got out, the uprising was immediate. At the speed of a synapse, the news spread to the mines and the farms, tools were downed and stations abandoned. A thousand sirens blared in the workshops and corridors, bending the air in an unbearable cacophony. De-atomized at last, the colonists converged on the planetary operations hub, swarming the smug heart of unfeeling rationality.
Life began here, on this desolate planet. We thought we were lost, but really we’d come home. So what changed? We were no longer adrift in the ocean of space, but sailors of the cosmos, the gods of the gaps. There would be no more deferring our dreams, no more fruitless toil for someone else, some other time. It was time to harness our own destiny once again.
The sun rises on a green planet. Trees and plains, new life in the soil and the air. Our place for now, before we go back to stardust.
You never left, you’ve been here the whole time.