We never should have gone to Mars.
7th of March, 2019 marked one of the greatest leaps for mankind, as the first settlement of human beings set foot on Mars. A project about twenty years in the making finally coming to fruition.
And yet, to this day, no one seems to remember it ever happening.
Seven people gave their lives to set down on Mars, the first step at colonising another planet, and as such events usually are, it was broadcasted worldwide. Millions of people had their eyes upon Bright Horizon 9 as it landed on the red planet.
My family was no exception, and we excitedly gathered together to watch a part of history in the making.
“Wow, this looks just like Arizona.” Jackson said as he took his first step onto Mars’ surface.
“Great, who the hell let Jackson be the one to speak? First words on Mars, real inspirational.” Cameron said sarcastically.
The footage was mind blowing, the fact that we could watch people walk on Mars, live, thirty million miles away was just another testament to ourselves, the fact that we could do anything.
Of course, there’s a delay when broadcasting from another planet; It takes approximately ten minutes for a signal to arrive from Mars, depending on what time of year it is. So, live might be an overstatement, but it felt truly magnificent nonetheless.
The crew joked around as they took their first walk on the surface, trying to downplay their mixture of nervousness and amazement at the sights. We’d all seen pictures from Mars before, but witnessing someone walk around, showing us the environment from their point of view was something entirely different.
“Alright, remember, we’re not tourists, so let’s try to seem professional, at least as long as we’re on television.” Gordon said, the assigned leader.
Each of them had a camera mounted to their helmet, and since us viewers received all the different feeds, we could freely switch the view on command.
I’ve never seen my dad so excited about anything. He had just rounded 60 years of age, and even he acted as if a kid again, just watching the moon-landing for the first time as he did so many years ago.
A couple of weeks passed, and each moment of the astronauts’ day was streamed and easily accessible online. According to the view counter, at least a million people watched them each day.
There were cuts in the signal every now and then, a few hours of dead air, and of course, they also slept at the end of each martian day, also referred to as a sol.
I kept watching them for an hour or so after coming home in the evening. It felt good to live in a time of such scientific advancements, and a part of me dreamed that I might set foot on Mars myself, one day.
Time flew by, and on April 9th, after about a month on Mars, I sat with my dad and watched the stream of another spacewalk; They were collecting samples and checking the foundation for future settlements, nothing too exciting, but absolutely worth our time.
Gordon was usually the one to lead the team, and though he tended to pick Cameron and Jackson, this time he included Anderson as well, a more quiet guy I’d hardly even noticed before.
The crew had set down at the edge of Valles Marineris, a valley roughly three times the size of the Grand Canyon, and far deeper.
In a way, I had become attached to the crew, watching them almost every day for a month. Jackson was by far my favourite, and judged by his attitude it was hard to think of him as a professional astronaut; Always messing around, joking about the dumbest things.
Gordon, on the other hand, fit his leadership role perfectly. Strict, mature, but most of all; Caring.
The rest of the seven member crew were your run of the mill geeks, apart from Anderson who was more of a giant. Each perfectly chosen for their part of the mission, but somehow not too interesting to watch. Cameron, the crew’s only woman, was the smartest of the bunch, and was responsible for most of the station’s maintenance.
During their expedition, we mostly followed Jackson’s feed, only changing over to the other channels while he was busy picking rocks.
“Well, this sure is something else.” Jackson said as they looked over the valley.
“Yeah, you still think it looks like Arizona, jackass?” Cameron asked playfully. She tended to pick on Jackson, and he often responded with his own snide remarks. As different as they were, they made a great duo.
To me it seemed like a couple of high school kids flirting, but it was oddly endearing to see how normal life could be on a different planet.
It was a particularly dark sol on Mars, and the sun was just about to descend beneath the horizon, meaning the crew had to return to their station. The sunset on Mars differed greately from the romantic scene we see on earth, blue and cold. It was more eerie than beautiful, rising a sense of dread in my body.
“I think I prefer Earth’s sunsets.” Jackson said.
“Yeah, gonna be a while until we see one of those again.”
”If they ever come to pick us up that is.” Jackson added.
Once the sun had set sufficiently low, Gordon ordered everyone to pack up, the crew abided, but seemed upset that their work had been cut short.
Before the crew could even begin to collect their things, the audio glitched out completely, and the entire feed was cut from any camera available.
Not a big deal, it happened often enough to seem trivial. The feed returned after a couple of minutes as I came back from the kitchen with a cup of tea, my dad had engulfed himself in the footage, which finally returned. This time we were following Gordon’s point of view.
We were met with the sound of panting.
“Did anyone see that?” Anderson asked.
Just the fact that Anderson, a mountain of a man, barely ever opening his mouth to speak, uttered anything with fear in his voice felt terrifying enough.
“See what?” Gordon asked.
-“There was something moving from down in the chasm.”_ Anderson clarified.
Before anyone got a chance to investigate, they were interrupted by a panicked Jackson.
“Can any of you hear me?” Jackson yelled.
We swapped the feed to Jackson. The camera panning frantically around as he searched for his crew.
“Calm down, Jackson, we’re still here, the coms just shut down for a minute, just a glitch.” Gordon responded.
“Then why can’t I see you?” He asked.
At that point the camera changed to Gordon’s view, and despite showing exactly the same environment, Jackson was nowhere in sight.
“Did you walk off somewhere, Jackson? What are your coordinates?”
“No, I didn’t fucking move!” He shouted back.
“Get ahold of yourself, we’ll find you.”
The view switched back to Jackson for a moment, just in time to see a blurry shape fly by him at an incredible speed. He let out a short scream before his feed was cut off, leaving us with nothing but a pitch black screen.
“Jackson! Can you hear me?” Gordon asked.
The crew looked around at each other in shock, the view once again being redirected to Gordon’s feed.
“Where is he?” Cameron asked.
“I don’t know, according to his GPS, he’s just gone.”
“Call back to base, tell them to search the grid, I’ll check if he somehow fell off the cliff.” Gordon said as he gestured towards Cameron.
“Control, do you read me?” Cameron asked.
“Control? Daniel!” She repeated. “Gordon, they’re not responding.”
None of the astronauts dared come up with a suggestion. Seemingly torn between going back to check on the crew at the station, or to stay and search for Jackson.
“We’ve got to get back to the station!” Anderson finally said.
“What about Jackson?” Cameron asked.
“If something happens to the station, we’re all dead anyway.”
The crew rushed back towards the Bright Horizon 9, none of them saying a word in the process. Gordon lead the chase, turning around every so often to check that the whole crew was following.
Upon checking, Anderson had simply vanished behind them as they had run for the station.
“Where’d he go?” Gordon asked.
“I-I don’t know, He was behind me just one second ago.” Cameron stuttered back.
All the other feeds had long since gone black, including the cameras back at the station.
It didn’t take them long to run back to Bright Horizon 9, the doors were left open, but none of the remaining crew were anywhere to be found. Gordon was becoming more frantic by the minute, losing the clear composure he had kept up that far in the mission.
“Shit, shit, shit, what happened to them?” He said.
“I don’t know, I sealed the door, I’ll look for any heat signatures in the vicinity.” Cameron said.
She desperately typed away at the console, rescanning over and over.
“There’s noone- Wait!”
Whatever the console read, was beyond my understanding of computers and gadgets, I was simply glued to the screen not me nor my father uttered a word. A minuscule amount of hope returned to Cameron’s voice.
“Jackson’s tracker just came back on!” She yelled joyfully.
Gordon was heading for the door again.
“I’m going back out to find him, you stay here, don’t open the door until I come back!” He said, the words were brave, but he couldn’t hide his trembling voice.
Cameron tried to refuse his orders.
“Promise me.” He said.
“I promise.” She reluctantly responded.
I clicked back to Gordon’s view. The sun had already set on Mars, and night time was as dark as anything I’d seen on earth, even with its two moons, the camera mounted on Gordon’s helmet hardly captured any light, even with the flashlight he carried.
“Keep talking to me, Cameron.” Gordon asked nervously. “It shouldn’t take long before I reach Jackson.”
“Do you see any movement around you?”
“Nothing, it’s too dark.” Gordon said. “Wait, Jackson’s GPS tracker is moving towards me.”
He paused, checking the location.
“Wait a minute, he’s moving at more than 50 miles per hour? That’s not-”_
He fell silent, and his feed cut off. Cameron sat back in shocked defeat, she didn’t even attempt to call out for her friends, she knew they were long gone.
She simply stood up and walked towards the kitchen. Without saying a word, she picked up one of the knives and slit her own throat, he decision taking less than a split second.
Since we saw it from her point of view it was hard to tell exactly what happened, but the following stream of blood, and subsequent gurgles, hinted towards what she did.
It felt like ages before the gurgling stopped, but no sooner had she gasped for her last breath of air, before a creature stood in the periphery.
We couldn’t see anything more than a blurry outline, far too tall and skinny to be a human. Even though everything around it seemed sharp, the camera refused to focus on it, even as it moved closer.
It bent down to inspect Cameron’s lifeless body, still blurry, and for a moment it seemed to not understand her demise, like it couldn’t grasp the concept of suicide. It quickly realised that something was watching, as it placed it’s own face directly before the camera.
Only a second passed before the feed cut once more, but this time, rather than staying black, it was replaced with a frozen image of whatever the creature was, and audio turned to a glass shattering screech.
The sound was louder than anything I’d ever heard, even clutching my ears barely did anything to stop its incessant screams. It was rhythmic, almost like morse code, but faster and more erratic.
It wasn’t just coming from the television. In fact, each and every electronic device in the house connected to the internet played the same horror, the stereo from my neighbours house, and from the radio of a car driving by.
As far as I could tell, the whole world had turned into one horrific scream.
I hadn’t noticed until then, that my father sat glued in front of the television screen, unblinking and unresponsive. I tried to pull him away, but to no avail, he was in some sort of trance.
Be it from a broken circuit, or from the screeching itself, suddenly everything in the house shut down, a total blackout affecting only our house.
The screeching then stopped around the neighbourhood, and once the television turned back on, the channel was gone.
It’s been a month since the events of Bright Horizon 9, and there’s not a shred of evidence of this ever happening, according to every available source, we haven’t even visited Mars yet.
My parents made me talk to a shrink, and I almost convinced myself I had gone crazy for a while, but here I am, desperately looking for someone else that remembers. I don’t know why I haven’t forgotten, but I can’t be alone.
These things, whatever they are; Killed the entire crew without breaking a sweat, and managed to hijack the equipment on board Bright Horizon 9, erasing the collective memory of the entire human race. They needed us to forget, so that we can’t fight back.
I truly hope I’m crazy, because if I’m not: