The Mission

Originally published in The Were Traveler in October 2013 (link)

He releases the locking mechanism on his helmet, still smiling, happy to be the first man to set foot on Mars, at least the first in millions of years, as the recent unmanned exploration missions hinted when they revealed the presence of strange artifacts, ten to twenty feet below the planet’s surface, and not foreign artifacts, but common tools and weapons, all buried under layers of volcanic ash, trapped between walls of lost civilizations that somehow made their way over hundreds of thousands of miles, so he accepted this mission, hoping to answer the question: ‘was it man or other aliens that visited Mars in the past?’, but now that he is finally here, he knows he won’t be able to prove anything, not soon, not tomorrow, not ever, not with these fifty foot sharp-toothed worms suddenly spawning from the drilling wells, swirling around him in tight circles, which made dying from lack of oxygen a dignified option compared to being digested in the belly of a giant metal caterpillar.