We start with two characters in a room. A basic writing exercise starting with the line…
‘There’s something happening out there.’
‘Sure there is.’ Jahn mustered the energy for a vague handwave towards the window, dismissing his companions comment.
‘No, seriously. I saw movement.’
‘You saw a dust-bunny, or rock slip. Nothing, and I mean this, nothing worth me getting up for.’
They had been on watch for almost three days by this point, halfway through their shift. Falling back into their usual patterns Jahn had retreated into his default torpid sulk, while Lee had started to let his imagination run away with him.
This was a long watch, made worse by the inevitable boredom that came from being stuck in the cramped bunker and having nothing to watch but the desert. Visible only through the narrow window, the red lifeless sands stretched unbroken to the horizon.
‘What if someone is out there. What if something is out there?’ Lee was obviously working himself up, his hallmark flights of imagination that proved so entertaining in the mess-hall were less amusing when confined to a hardened room barely big enough for two.
‘Nothing is out there, the same as nothing has been out there all week. Which has been true not only for the last year, but probably the last 200 years. The air is gone, there’s no water, and even if you could carry enough water and food to get from one site to another, you’d freeze to death first.’
‘But there was life out there once.’
So they say, but now we live underground. Down here there’s heat and water.’
‘I swear to all that is holy, if you say one more word I’m going to find a way to send you out there to check.’
That got a moment of silence, as Lee continued to fidget. The look on his face giving away the inner struggle to remain silent.
‘All right’, Jahn surrendered. Despite his annoyance it was hard to crush such wide-eyed enthusiasm. ‘Show me.’
Over there I saw a… Lee’s words died out and his pointing finger began to shake.
Even his companion was stunned, ‘What, the hell is that?’