It’s been four days since I awoke in this godforsaken place. I’ve spent the last 3 hours sharpening a chunk of debris that fell away from my ship, into a makeshift weapon. It’s long tedious work, crafting this point on a rough rock close to where this nightmare started.
I haven’t seen another living thing since I came to in the middle of the night, freezing cold my leg and head aching from the impact of the crash. I must have bled but I was out so long all that remained was matted hair stuck to the side of my head along with the remnants of a pool of blood, long since soaked into the dry harsh desert that surrounds me.
I was fashioning this spearhead to attach to a long piece of ceramic found in the guts of my ship. The ship is beyond repair; I’ve removed the majority of the insides over the last few days and hollowed out part of the cockpit and engine intakes to make a rudimentary shelter. It matters little to me that I already have a more advanced weapon, or that I have yet to see anything to use either my new spear or pistol on. There are tracks all around me each night I wake, created by some alien creature. The heat on this so far deserted planet during the day is enough to send any man insane. The creatures that inhabit the area and leave the tracks seem not to mind it, as they only move in the daylight, something I cannot do, since besides the heat the days are even more dangerous due to the sandstorms that rage over this planet. What worries me about them is the quantity. Each night I wake to hundreds of tracks of these small creatures, no bigger than my foot by the size of the marks they leave in the red dust of the desert.
At this stage I have no idea what it is making these tracks, if they’re dangerous and more importantly if they’re edible. My rations are running dangerously low, I have enough water to last me another week, but my hunger is starting to affect my senses. Tonight I’ll take my spear, pistol and a cistern of water and travel a short distance from my camp, and wait till day break to see if I can catch one of them. Starting a fire will be easy. I’ve done it at the start of each night. The days may be searingly hot, but the nights are far on the other side of the scale. Of the few instruments that still work on my ship the environometer isn’t one of them, so I don’t know what the dangers of my environment and the daily shift in temperature could be.
I should be waiting for rescue. Standard procedure is to standby close to your wreckage for 5 galaxy days until the hive ship can send out search parties to retrieve the scrap and if you’re lucky the pilot as well. Out here in the depths of space, life isn’t worth as much as the raw materials spent on the ship. Four galaxy days have already passed, and I don’t know how long I was out before I awoke that first night in my own lonely hell. My mind races constantly with the fear that we lost the battle and my hive has been immobilised, destroyed or captured by the enemy. If that is the case, then there will be no search party. There will be no rescue. My training taught me to prepare for a worst case scenario, to think at all times of what can go wrong and prepare for each with precision. Right now that is death. I must survive! I need to find food. Better shelter and a means of turning this wasteland into a temporary home until I can think of a way off this planet and back to civilisation.
At this moment though I must rest, conserve my energy. It’s going to be an arduous task to stay out in the storms and not to get lost. I’ll need all my wits about me. I take a bite of my remaining rations and sharpen the spear head more testing it on the glass of my cockpit when I think it’s ready. It makes a high pitch screech as I draw it across the glass that I barely hear through the thickness of my suit, neatly cutting a perfectly scored line into the inch thick surface. Perfect. I lay the weapon beside me and lie down for some sleep.
I’m woken a few hours later drenched in the cold sweats of fear. As I check my surroundings I realise my dream was nothing but that. Unfortunately I awake to something far worse, that the nightmare I escaped. The same harsh wasteland, slowly warming, as I see the first rays of the baking sun creep over the horizon. Slowly I sit up, careful not to bang my head in the constricted space. I won’t make that mistake twice. I gather my gun and the spear, and step out of the cramped interior of the ship, stretching my muscles and cracking my bones. Taking a long drink of water I start walking with my back to the rising sun. I head for the mountains I see before me, jagged and dry. I don’t know how far they are, but they may offer shelter from the storms, if they start raging again. The last time I was caught in them I was rooted to the spot, afraid to move less I lose my way and become lost in the endless expanse of red, as dust and small rocks pounded me all over. I begin to worry about what I could do for food if the storms get to me before I can reach the mountain range. I push the thought out of my mind, and focus on the repetitive motion of putting one foot in front of the other.
A short while later and each of those steps is taking a huge amount of effort. My leg is aching on the lateral side of my calf where I damaged it in the crash, no blood was drawn but muscle or tendon damage now feels like a certainty. The sun has risen and is slowly creeping across the sand, at present I’m still in the shade. I look behind me and just make out the shadows of my ship, the sides of the shiny metal glinting from the brutal light beating down on it from the other side. I look back to the mountains. They seem no closer now than when I started. I must have covered about two kilometres, and I begin to think of heading back. Try again with a longer start. I guess I have around 10 or 12 kilometres to go on my journey. Thinking to myself I won’t make it in time to avoid the storms, I turn back around. What I see makes my heart sink into my stomach. I can no longer see the ship. In its place, as far as I can see in every direction is a wall of red cloud bulging in turmoil, like an explosion violently driving itself across the gap between me and my camp. The storm is on its way.
I have a choice to bunker down, dig into the tough soil and wait for the storm to pass, or to double my time and get as close as I can to the mountain range. I regret not bringing more supplies with me. I make an instant decision. I can risk going another night without a source of food. I turn my back to the oncoming storm and double my pace, starting with a light jog. Swigging more water as I pick up pace, soon I’m running close to full speed for a long haul journey, using the power of my mind to ignore the pain screaming at me from my leg, and now the throbbing in my head, as the blood pumps round my body. I can keep this pace for 5 or 6 hours on earth. Here may be a different story, especially if the storm catches me. I feel fear rising, grappling for control as I stride forward, my breaths deepening with each second. I focus once more on the repetitive motion of each step, as I used to do in training. Only thing is then, it was to counter the boredom of the marathon’s we ran while carrying our heavy equipment, here and now using it to quench the fear of death and starvation, it doesn’t work so well, and deep down I know I’m screwed.