The Planet Mars

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Alain said that when you wake, you are supposed to see things. “Instead,” he said, “the angle of repose seemed fishy.”

“Her hourly stare transfixes,” Alain said, “in every appointment of the sky that absorbs light. This nomenclature is opened by space-time developments in the enclosures of jackets and spacesuits. There are little plastic plates with indentations that are filled with solid foods that have been churned into earth-colored pastes. The planets outside oscillate and darkness is imposing. The trigger finger of light explodes on occasion, where darkness is forever forming.”

Alain looked out the window and said, “Transplanted eyes in the memory of the moon looks back at you in the reflection of the glass. The round table you had hoped would gather the others sits empty, except for the scattered papers. Each sheet was an invitation.”

“When I write works that are a glimpse inside,” Alain said, “you are welcome to be there, to love me, but if it is too much for you, there are others in other rooms.”

It was like he was talking of a brothel. But it turned out that the experiment only coupled a few. There were always Alpha boys, who kept a harem of the women, who it turned out didn’t care that they were sharing someone who was strong enough to make sense of things. And I knew this was how it would work, because it came to me as something strange and effluvious.

“When I write words,” Alain continued, “they are a glimpse inside and you are welcome to be there, to love me…”

Alain wasn’t talking to me, but to Margaret, who was lithe and happened to be there slouching in a chair just to be away from Dirk, who was one of the Alpha boys. Apparently, they had fought and she was sulking and using her absence as a psychological device to ensure jealousy and desire. I watched her because I didn’t often get to. She was always smothered by one of the other men, like a sex doll, perfect in every way, but always untouchable. What I had to offer were words only, no stately shape, no promises of protection from the elements, which were always out there.

Although Alain wasn’t actually looking at Margaret while he continued, you could tell the words were meant for her, but she wasn’t listening. She was in a different place, that place where she hoped to ensnare Dirk’s passion.

When Alain talked about the other rooms, he was referring to the rooms in the hallways of the buildings on Mars, where we had all been willing to shuffle with the promise that we could never come back and that was fine with me. I had discovered who I was long ago when I heard the monologue of T. S. Eliot reading “The Wasteland:”

“APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire…”

“It is a hallway of lives,” Alain said, “each room is equipped with exactly what that person needs, because he/she has discovered who they are and what they are supposed to be doing.”

I watched Margaret. I followed the lines of her feet up her legs until the edge of her short shorts and I could go no further. But, I wanted to. I wanted to touch her, but that was impossible. There were rules for where the mind could wander. Even on Mars our desires were sequestered, compartmentalized into the impressions of truth, ideas we never actually tested but could figure out on our own. She never looked back for one thing, and by now, I was a middle-aged man, and she was younger, certainly a fine match for Dirk, who I conveniently had forgotten. I wanted to tell her the truth of what I was feeling, but it was pointless and that is what made my being here so lonely. None of the women, even the woman I was meant for, turned out to find me appealing, and so that was the end of it.

“I am the recorder of morning,” Alain said, “that is often afternoon, because I spend all night into early morning contemplating the sun…”

The sun shines for 24-hours on Mars. And so, for the time being, all of us are waking at different points along this spectrum of light and dark and most of us are taking notes. There are fewer opportunities for conversations and yet there are people in almost every room. As you know, relationships are formed in eight seconds and that’s pretty much how it will be for the duration.

“…I read books and interact on the computer with voices, talking heads, but none of us ever really connect,” Alain continued. “We flip through the dating site pictures and just for the fun of it, find no one we’d like to date, because we know it just boils down to power over the other, because wanting to be loved is a weakness, and people you love always don’t love you as much,” he said.

I am listening to Alain because what he is saying is a big joke. We can’t date the people on the dating sites, because they are all back on earth and once they find out that he’s on Mars, all they want to know is what it is like. It’s not like they are ever going to meet. Because, once they realize how alone he is and what it’s like here, they are never going to want to come. Wherever we go as a species, we take our habits, our character. There is no escaping how we structure ourselves socially. We can’t escape the fact that we are animals and the need to be loved and to belong to the group is what draws us.

“Desperation or longing is not romantic,” Alain said. “And that’s the end of it. And so the desperate one crawls back into his/her hole feeling the expression of desire was cruelly shut down.”

I am looking out the window while Alain is giving his diatribe and I see the long arc of flat land, not unlike a reddish Burning Man. “There are mountain ranges and sandy plains, and even some of the largest sand dunes in the Solar System. But, other than that it is plain, on going and empty. Occasionally, there are dust storms, like small tornadoes. The dust storms can reach thousands of kilometers wide and last for months.”

“But, we all want love, you would think,” Alain said, “except we’ve been out of love for so long that when we see it we stomp on it like a weakness in ourselves, or as some dangerous bug that if it touched us, it would sting.”

That resonated with me. I had grown so cold to the chance of love that it became painful to think about. I was embarrassed when I read that a student had told a teacher that he could learn more if she were naked. She was angered by it. She said: “I was so angry, and embarrassed, hopeless, and exasperated all at once.”

I saw the student as painfully aware of his faux paux. The truth had become unwanted and it made him question himself. He had nowhere to go. It turned out the teacher made an example of him. And knowing he was wrong for doing it, he did not return. He never again said what was on his mind, what made him real. He hated power. Power always told him how to act and it smothered him.

“The mesh of the wires,” Alain continued, “in our brain has become crossed. The world of God had been lost because of the spin. It is now a cacophony of fear and misunderstanding. This is why I am disposed to wake when I do and record the first words as the truth of the day.”

I looked at Alain. The sadness in realizing he was correct made me slouch in my chair. I felt completely isolated. I had to accept that it would never change. The possibilities were not endless. I was alone with myself and so how can one love oneself, where the world had already passed judgment, where I had already passed judgment on myself?

“Still, I often miss the dreams that recalibrate my eyes and nose to the grindstone of truth that I am forever seeking,” Alain said.

“I am eternally waiting for the voice,” Alain said, “of the muse to fill me with beauty and mystery so that I might share the joys of living and the intrigue of our being here.”

What Alain said wasn’t registering. There were words, but I couldn’t hear them.

“It is very simple,” Alain said, “how the plans started on Mars and how things began breaking down, gaps in the spaces between the structures that we couldn’t fix, and so we closed those units as best we could and some people ended up moving in with others; it was so that we were able to breathe.

“Eventually so much was taken away that we just left things as they were,” he said. “It seemed like the environment had changed us. We were like field mice. We scurried about always worrying if there would be food but we were not willing to go outside to see if we could survive. The environment had gotten to us and we became like furniture: staid and silent, motionless. Suppressed.

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4 comments

  1. I am glad you guys are liking this, but I am hoping you see all the things I am trying to bring to it. There’s the issue of the planned trip to Mars, where no one can come back because we simply don’t have the technology and the people who go are going to have to be trained to take care of each other and themselves. There’s the issue of Alain, who seems to ramble, but he also exudes a personality so lost in space, so affected by the elements/environment.

    There are references to Kubrick’s 2001, a Space Odyssey, Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972).

    What it is actually like on Mars. There’s the idea of what we do as self-expression and how that self-expression translates into the desire to couple. How there will be couples going to Mars, I assume, who will be paired, but I believe that inevitably Alpha men will arise, who will become attractive to all the women and the other men will be played against them by the women and it will reveal a dependent relationship of women needing men.

    It talks about lust and impossibility. A description of what seems a human-supporting earth, where men still talk of it as if it were a wasteland. This signifies that our lives are perceptual-based and not necessarily real, and yet Mars will pose a bigger pressure on this ability to adapt mentally. Maybe man-made structures cannot support man.

    The issue of weakness.

    Anyway, I hope people see what I had hoped to create in imagining this event to Mars as well as what goes on on Earth.

  2. Very interesting thoughts here. I think an alpha male will always seek to rise, no matter what planet. I’m not in favour of turning to another planet – I think we should focus on making this one work.

  3. Agreed WFFME. We should assume since this is where we were born and evolved over millions of years that to engage another seemingly hostile environment as we are, the environment would win out and our idealism would be hard pressed to remain idealistic.

  4. Loved reading your story. I think it is very well written and this is what I interpreted:
    To me it is a fictional short story that seems to depict dehumanization among the members of a community living on planet Mars. It becomes a story of the absurd as these human beings seem to have been deprived of open air life; they live in rooms which could symbolize this kind of incarceration, losing freedom and life authenticity. Love life as traditionally understood also seems to have disappeared. As the story develops, it looks like there is a kind of experiment with Alpha boys which seems to bear a resemblance with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It makes one immediately think of the conditioning process applied to the different members of Huxley’s futurist fiction society where people are born artificially and not conceived by love-making. Thus the resemblance with Huxley’s novel is certainly strong. In this story there has also been a conditioning process after the members of this community left earth and came to Mars. While the character Alain seems to more or less have adapted to this new situation, the first-person narrator has not. He feels love in the tradtional way when he looks at Margaret. He seems to have discovered who he was through T.S.Eliot and “The Wasteland” which becomes the symbol for the truth, what has been taken away from this dehumanized community. He has also “memory and desire”, the latter cannot be fulfilled because this new society has been completely alienated. It can only survive as it is by keeping this new power structure where, according to Alain, “desperation or longing is not romantic” which brings human life to the absurd. Planet Mars could represent an allegory of our modern society and the dangers of alienation through our current neoliberalist powers. As a reader the story produced me feelings of ANGER, RAGE and REBELLION against this dehumanized society.


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