Olympus Mons Discovery – #atozchallenge
Olympus Mons Discovery
They’d finally found a cure. For five years, Charles had waited. Watched over her daily. And now the time had arrived.
“It will still take three years to bring her out of cryogenics safely, Charles. Go. Do what you love. Explore Olympus Mons. By the time you get back, she will be healthy and waiting for you.”
Charles knew his friend was right. He was a geologist after all. It was why he’d come to Mars in the first place. And then a mysterious virus had struck all of the women. The scientists were baffled so they froze them all and began working on a cure. He just needed to be patient a while longer. Soon Elizabeth would return to him.
Charles set out in a land rover. In ten days, he reached Olympus Mons. He would fulfill his mission – map out the most treacherous path and the easiest path. He wouldn’t fail.
For the first year, Charles took his tablet with him and marked the passages he took. He trekked up the mountain, explored path after path. Some days, all he could think about was Elizabeth. Other days, he got lost in the beauty of the rocky terrain. But the path was dangerous and he’d nearly lost his life several times. He went back down the mountain.
In the second year, he stopped using his tablet. Instead, he made recordings of his findings. Simple paths marked by golden rocks. If they followed only the golden rocks, they would safely arrive at the top of the mountain. He rarely thought about Elizabeth.
During the early months of the third year, he happened upon some etchings in a rock near the top of the mountain. He took out a notebook and copied them down. He discovered them all throughout the new path he’d found. Each night, he fell asleep under one of the large stones and dreamt about Elizabeth and the etchings. Each morning, he wept for her as he uncovered more etchings. And then one morning, when he awakened, he was surrounded. Humanoid figures gathered around him with long poles aimed at his chest.
Charles scrambled to his feet and backed up against the large stone. “I mean you no harm,” he protested as the figures thrust their poles toward him.
A slightly taller figure emerged from behind the others. “I’ve been watching you, Earthling. What do you hope to find on my mountain?”
“Pa… paths,” Charles stammered.
The figured cocked his elongated head to the side and glared into Charles’ eyes with his own oval-shaped ones. “Paths to where?”
“Ju… just over the mountain.”
“Not through it?”
Charles shook his head. “No, just over it. To the other side.”
“I’ve seen what your kind has done to mountains on Earth, earthling. You drill through the mountains. Destroy them. Your kind can’t be bothered to go over or around. You want to go through.”
“I don’t know of any plans for that.”
“Come, let me show you what your kind would destroy.” The leader traced the ruins of the big rock and it slowly rolled away.
Charles followed the humanoids down a long twisting path. When they arrived in the center of the mountain, Charles stood there in awe. A large beam of light streamed down from the top. He saw waterfalls, lush valleys, plants and animals of all sorts, and more humanoid figures everywhere. They all stared at Charles in fear.
“Do you understand now?” the leader asked.
Charles slowly nodded his head.
“I’ve one more thing to show you. Come!”
Charles followed the leader off to a stone structure. Inside, a host of female humanoids buzzed around. Suddenly they all parted to make a path for the leader. In the center, lying on a long slab of stone, was Elizabeth.
“My wife!” Charles yelled as he ran toward her, but the leader placed his hand on Charles’s shoulder and held him back.
“She is safe, earthling. Thanks to us. If we had not brought her here, she would be dead.”
“I don’t understand,” Charles whispered as he stared at the leader.
“Their cure did not work. She was almost thawed and her life force drained. We knew how much she meant to you. You thought about her often when you first came to the mountain. Why did you stop?”
Charles drew his hands to his face and sobbed. “There was nothing I could do for her. I believed in the scientists. So, I focused on the work.”
“When the dreams came, we knew. So we brought her here.”
Charles lowered his hands. “How can I ever thank you?”
“By destroying all evidence of the golden stones and the etchings,” the leader said as he lead Charles forward toward Elizabeth. “Let them think there is only a treacherous path. They will find your body at the foot of the mountain.”
“So you mean to kill me?” Charles inquired as he faced the leader with his brows furled.
The leader laughed. “No, earthling. We mean to save you and all of us. It will merely be a clone of your body.”
Charles breathed a sigh of relief. “But what about Elizabeth? Won’t they come looking for her?”
The leader shook his head. “They’d already discarded her and the other women.”
The female humanoids backed further away to reveal rows upon rows of female earthlings, all lying upon stone slabs. Charles saw the rise and fall of their chests. They were alive.
“So you will help us, earthling?”
Weeks later, an expedition team happened upon Charles’ body. They found only his tablet filled with the markings of the treacherous path. Since the women were gone and now Charles was too, they ended their exploration of Mars.
From the top of the mountain, Charles and Elizabeth stood with the other earth women and Martians. They watched as the Earth rockets left their planet. For now, they were all safe, at least until the earthlings decided to come back.
©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
The Prompt via Mandy Wallace: A man decides to climb Mars’s Olympus Mons. He’ll finish in three years, just in time for his wife to emerge from cryogenic freezing.
Each day for the A to Z Challenge I will be writing a 500-1000 word Science Fiction story. I hope you will enjoy them.