A Red Wind


Fair use image from Wikimedia Commons under CC Attribution International License 4.0. Original image obtained from the European Southern Observatory (ESO/M. Kornmesser); photo was originally found at http://eso.org/public/images/eso1509a/.

Dylan Stuflick, Author

Two moons shone down on a gravel path winding through a red desert sparsely bordered by small tan houses, each the same shape, the same color, with the same doors and the same windows. All were stained red by countless Martian dust storms whipping across sparsely populated craters and barren plateaus scattered with fragments of a Mars long past.

Blair Stevenson walked down that gravel path, a long tan overcoat pulled tight against him, collar turned up to shield against the biting wind driving itself across the planet’s surface. The wind whipped his short black hair back, bringing a rusty smell that singed the inside of his nose and burned his eyes. Blair’s dust-coated boots crunched down the path toward his identical house, their worn surface gathering even more dust as he turned towards his front door.

He reached the dark gray metallic door and slowly opened it, the cold handle bringing thoughts of his wife. Their relationship, like so many others, had burned so bright at first, but then, as the fuel began to run out and the light began to fade, so had their passion died off to cold embers.

He didn’t hate her, but love was too strong of a word to describe his emotions now. He didn’t bring flowers home to surprise her anymore, and they had both given up arguing over having kids someday. Shouting no longer filled the void between them every night; now that they had stopped their screaming matches, the chasm between them had only widened further.

He opened the door and was greeted by a dark room. It wasn’t just a dark room; it was an empty room — a room devoid of sound. There was no soft plodding of feet as his wife walked out of their bedroom to greet him, no dirty dishes in the sink. Nothing was out of place. The abnormality of the normality, the eerie perfection of the normally chaotic house, set him on edge.

Blair was confronted by a slow, rising panic in his heart. Something was wrong, and the obvious effort to make it seem as if nothing was off only made it seem all the more wrong.

A sudden rustling came from behind his bedroom door, but instead of easing his fears, it only increased them even more.

He walked slowly towards that foreboding dark wooden door. Each step pounded the terror deeper and deeper into his heart, taking him closer to his fate — good or bad, he didn’t know. Anything could be lying in wait at the end of the hallway. And that dark, traitorous part of his mind told himself that there was something back there in the shadows, hiding behind his bedroom door. That perhaps the shadows themselves would leap out at him. A murderous beast had taken his home away from him and made it into its lair.

The door was right in front of him now. He could reach out and open it now, if he wanted to. But he didn’t want to. His heart screamed out at him not to. That there was something behind the door, waiting to reach out and destroy everything he still loved, waiting for him to open the door to one of the most familiar places in his life. To a place that had somehow become inhabited by that murderous beast.

Blair opened his coat and placed a hand on the gun at his hip. He wouldn’t need that, right? And yet his hand stayed there as he reached out to open the door.

With a trembling hand, Blair pushed the door open into another dark and deafeningly quiet room. A figure moved in the darkness, coming toward him, reaching out, trying to take him away. It was right in front of him now — he couldn’t let it take him, couldn’t let it ruin his life. Couldn’t let it bring that coldness here.

His heart beat once, twice, and then it almost seemed to stop.

The figure dropped to the floor, and the gun pointing into the open doorway let out a breath of smoke.

The figure now on the ground slowly moved. Reality suddenly crashed down on him with a sickening, suffocating weight, forcing him to his knees. He knew that figure, that hair. He slowly crawled to that shapeless lump on the ground. With trembling hands, he brushed that long, black hair away.

It was his wife. It was his wife that was now slowly forcing the last fragments of life from her body with each labored breath. Two growing red stains began to claw their way across her body, taking, stealing the last thing he cared about on this planet.

There was no passionate love or anger, for who would he have taken revenge on for this? There was no Romeo and Juliet moment, for that would have been too easy. He deserved to suffer for what he did, to feel the pain. Taking his life would only take the pain he deserved away from him.

There was a connection between the two of them that only years of sharing every struggle, every triumph, could create, and it was gone. Severed by his own hand.

He had taken it away.

As the sirens began to blare, bringing the fate he deserved to his front door, he broke inside. His tears dripped down his face, then began an earnest downpour over his wife, streaking down his face, faster and faster, running down onto her body, mingling with the blood spreading across her chest, diluting the mark of what he had done on her body — but not the mark it had left on him. And as the lights began to pierce the darkness that enveloped their home, Blair dove headfirst into a pit in his soul that no light could ever reach.