A Farewell to Mars

On and for the 54th anniversary of “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

AS HE DANGLED FROM THE upper corner of the window before my typewriter, inverted and scowling, I first saw the Man from Mars.

His identity was obvious: three feet tall, emerald green where the spacesuit didn’t cover him, with more-than-vestigial antennae sprouting from a large bulbous head. His expression mingled disappointment with incredulity, as though his highest hopes had just been dashed, and with calculated cruelty.

“I cannot believe you people,” he said in a flat baritone. “Just can’t believe you.”

“I’m not sure I believe in you either,” I said.

He slid down to the sill, his scowl now level with my eyes. “That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Would you mind opening the window?”

“I would,” I said with ill-concealed suspicion. “How do I know you’re not, you know … part of some horrible invasion-force or other?”

“Because I’m the only Martian left – and I can’t even open the window by myself,” he said. “Besides, the latch is on your side.”

“So it is,” I said, and raised it.

He half-dropped into the room. His ribbed silver spacesuit sported a tubed canister on his back, suggesting a helmet stashed somewhere nearby. Most likely in his flying saucer, I thought.

“This is why I contacted you,” he said, looking up at me with a ghost of hope in his large black eyes. “You remember.”

“Remember what?”

“Remember me. Remember us. ‘The little green men from another world.’ Only the old-schoolers appreciate those days. I mean, you still use a typewriter. And not for irony.”

“I like to pound words into paper,” I said. “It feels like I’m sculpting them.”

“Whatever,” he said with a dismissive wave of one three-fingered hand. “You still know the old future.”

I paused. “You mean, the shiny and exciting one? The future worth a damn?”

“When there was a future. These days it’s all zombies, and mutants, and vampires. Which are by the way the most pretentious of all the undead.”

“No question there,” I said. “But what’s your point?”

“What’s the first post-apocalypse setting you ever saw?” he asked. “Mad Max?”

“No, Road Warrior,” I answered. “I missed the first film somehow. But I had a subscription to Heavy Metal. I worshipped at the Church of Moebius.”

“Same thing,” he said. “D’you recollect the world situation then?”

“Sure. Ronald Reagan vs. the Evil Empire. We expected nukes to drop any minute.”

“Right. Sure did take off, didn’t it?”

“What did?”

“Post-apocalyptic chic. It’s everywhere now. Very seductive: wrecked cities, frightened survivors trading whatnot for food. Ragged black trenchcoats. Flickering green lighting. Not like our future – the indomitable human spirit leaping outward-ever-outward. See the connection now?”

I looked at him with blank confusion. He looked at me with sad patience.

“You weren’t expecting the future anymore,” he said slowly. “So you stopped dreaming of one.”

An icy claw gripped my heart. He caught my fear-widened eyes and nodded.

“My God!” I exclaimed. “What happened to us? This is why there’s no jetpacks – we’ve replaced them all with franchised nightwalkers.”

“That is about the size of it,” he said, shaking his head. “That’s why I’m here – to say goodbye to someone who’d miss me.”

“Wait! What about Roswell?” I stammered. “Flying saucers are still part of our culture.”

He stepped to the window, put a leg up. “But those saucers crashed,” he said. “And you autopsied the occupants. Don’t need to be Carl Jung to figure that one out.”

Then he was gone.

I hope he comes back.

7 comments for “A Farewell to Mars

  1. Kathryn Hildebrandt
    2023.07.23 at 0958

    But we still have Star Trek

    • 2023.07.23 at 1249

      As the Martian would say, “Sure — for those of you who remember.” 🙁

      • Kathryn Hildebrandt
        2023.07.23 at 1252

        But the franchise is ongoing. Maybe not as good, in the opinions of us Boomers, but still with the same basically optimistic message, yes?

        • 2023.07.23 at 1259

          I must confess ignorance. We watched the first five or so episodes of “Picard,” but it was too dark even for us. But I hope you’re right. (Speaking of “hope” — among the Smashwords tags listed for my Prosatio Silban books is one called “hopepunk.” Apparently, it’s a real thing; a genre depicting decent people doing decent things. I am proud to share that designation with the canonical hopepunk work, “The Lord of the Rings.” I may not write as well as J.R.R., but at least I can tenlike.)

  2. Kathryn Hildebrandt
    2023.07.23 at 1309

    Actually, I should be confessing ignorance. I haven’t watched any of the new stuff; just get snippets of opinions from fans here and there.

    Having just now Googled the specific question of optimism, and seeing the ongoing debate, I’m thinking your impressions are closer to the mark. In fact, I knew Picard was dark – that’s why I’ve avoided it. But they’re saying Lower Decks brings back the optimism, so there’s that.

    • 2023.07.23 at 1614

      … in addition to being a GREAT TNG episode by the same name!

      • Kathryn Hildebrandt
        2023.07.23 at 1615

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