It's really hot in Adelaide.
Rest kicks at the buckled frame of his escape pod and steps out onto an alien world.
Here, he will know himself.
His boots crunch on green rocks and sink into metallic earth.
Smoke billows from the wreckage of the pod.
Above, in the bright sky, not a trace of the craft that jettisoned him.
Lost now, to time and light.
Rest leans down and winces at the heat as pulls an emergency lever on the side of the pod.
Above, a dying sun, heavy and lurching, beats down hard.
Sweat pools in the sides of Rest’s space suit.
He dare not take it off.
The lever recedes, and releases the emergency bot.
The bot trundles out of its cavity, unfolds onto the new world.
Click click, it offers helpfully.
Rest smiles, and forgets for a second where he is.
The bot produces a small allotment of cooled rations from within its small frame.
Offers a snaking drinking tube, connected to its small water supply.
Takes it back too quickly.
Click click click.
“You’re right,” Rest smiles – “it might need to last us a long time.”
Not long enough.
Rest looks upward.
The sun is relentless.
Rest is wrapped in foil, ready to bake.
He longs to take off the suit, but fears this new atmosphere, and instead chooses to live with the heat.
Rest turns to the horizon, and sees a great monolith, striking up towards the strange sky.
A series of ebony towers, glistening in the fierce fire of a fading star.
Details masked in shimmering heat haze.
Rest sets off for the alien structure, blind in hope.
His bot follows along, clicking wilfully.
The company keeping him alive, step by step.
The sun doesn’t move.
Stays fixed in its gaze, at the top of its peak.
Days do not pass on this world, but months of his own roll out of Rest’s shoulders in soaking sweat.
Occasionally, he pauses for water, and listens for the reassuring clicks of his last remaining friend.
The monolith grows no closer.
Stays ever distant, huge on the horizon.
“It must be…” Rest remarks.
Click click click click.
There is nowhere to go but forward.
The pod is as lost now as the rest of his craft, disappearing behind him at the end of a line of footsteps in green sand.
The monolith blinks in the sun.
The landscape doesn’t change.
Rolls slightly under Rest’s feet.
His vision blurs in the slowly drying moisture inside his suit.
His body is running out of things to give.
Rest leans down and connects his suit to the bot’s water supply.
The bot quickly retracts the ration.
Rest remains on his knees, and stares hard at the bot.
Feels the back of his throat start to unravel, and waits.
Pleads, silent and final.
The bot concedes.
Lets him drink the rest of the supply in one, blissful, gulping moment.
Rest places his hand on the back of the small, metallic cube in thanks.
The two of them set back off on their endless path.
Side by side.
Towards a monolith that is so far away that its perspective remains fixed
Night finally comes.
Fast and deep.
Rest lies down in the green rocks and closes his eyes.
Dreams of rising.
To the top of a great monolith.
Carried by light.
Clicks ring, pulsing, in his ears.
Before he is woken by the heat.
Searing on his back.
The day has returned, and is sweeping through his bones like fire.
Rest reaches up, and pulls off his helmet.
Forgets where he is and removes his helmet.
Holds his breath.
Lets the comparatively cool surrounds outside the helmet cling to the last droplets of sweat on his brow.
Holds his breath.
Pulls away the suit.
Holds his breath.
Looks to the monolith, still so far away.
The air tastes sickly and sweet but doesn’t tie his airways into knots.
The sugary taste prickles in his lungs.
A pleasant reminder of something.
He looks to the horizon, grateful for the brief moment of relative cool.
The monolith is gone.
but it’s nowhere.
The world is a featureless haze.
The monolith a dream or a mirage or a beautiful, beautiful trick.
Rest looks down to his friend.
Hopes for an answer, or at least a confirmation.
Rest waits for a click.
The world is sweeping and vast and alien.
And Rest drowns in the middle of it.
He touches the bot carefully, coaxes it onward on its caterpillar tracks.
Tries to will it back to motion.
The silence rings, deafening.
Rest picks up his friend.
And says goodbye.
Rest falls forward, finally, and sucks green earth into his lungs.
Cool and sharp.
His friend tucked under his arm.
Here, in frozen time
he dreams of somewhere else.
Words copyright Matt Vesely. Image copyright David Keen.