Runner-up, KidPub October 2012 Writing Contest
The President of the United States sits at his desk, the largest man in the country suddenly feeling like the smallest atom cluster in the universe. An envelope challenges him from the tabletop, the creased edges and browning corners staring him down in a battle of wits. It smolders, mahogany sizzling beneath the dog-eared envelope bent in a curve reminiscent of its former container.
Almost impatiently, the letter has been lying in the same position as the NASA officer left it in fifteen minutes ago. The urgency in his voice diffused throughout the air, leaving the Oval Office strung with the tension of a rubber band.
A tentative fingertip inches closer to the dog-eared paper.
Another centimeter. Two centimeters. The President of the United States can hear his heart thrash against his chest from the inside, demanding exit so it may open the letter itself. He can feel the beating in his cranium, in the tips of his toes, reverberating through his body like quick, successive earthquakes. The world as he knows it, as anyone could ever know it, is on the brink of a major metamorphosis. A change of pressure so drastic to be caused by something as infinitesimal as a letter.
A jolt of adrenaline.
The harsh sound of a rip.
Mr. President holds another universe in his trembling hands.
A yellowed paper contains, within his fingers, nearly illegible handwriting inked in wobbly cursive. Russet stains occur frequently throughout the page, likely powder from the surface of the red planet. With a shaky breath and a squint of his eyes, the President begins to read:
My Dear Miss Marceline,
If you are reading this—if anyone is reading this—I am probably already dead. My corpse litters the floor of this unforgiving planet, blue and pallid from starvation and cold. I wonder which affliction will be my ultimate demise; both are arguing fiercely to claim my life. I wish I could only see you face once more, feel your hair run through my fingers, inhale your aroma. One glimpse of you and I would lose all bitterness of this death. The whisper of your voice carried by stardust would be enough to let me perish at peace.
We Martians are a dying breed.
When our ancestors signed up for this top-secret mission to Mars, what were they thinking? I wonder, now, what the point is of being on this accursed planet, subjecting us to lives on this godforsaken ball of rock. We dropped off the Armstrong at the moon and continued on here—but why? The vast unknown must remain unknown—lest horrors like this wretched place be explored. Had we been born and raised on Earth and not here, this love story could have had a happier ending.
Thinking of the night the asteroid hit: I have no regrets. There is a hole in my heart where you used to be, but knowing you are alive and safe heals the wound. I am only sorry that evacuation pods can only hold two people each. I am not sorry that we had an odd number of colonists. I am not sorry that a certain couple had one more child than it was supposed to—excess—because had that child not been born, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with her. You did not cut my life short; I know that I will live forever in your memories—memories like watching the sun rise for the first time, or seeing the first flower grow, or holding each other close during an asteroid drill. Memories like these console me in my dying moments. I am so glad that I died for a reason, that I died for you.
I wish you the best of luck on Earth. Find a fine Earthling man. Marry in a real church, with gowns and suits and flower girls. Watch the sunrise every twenty-four hours. Have children, have as many as you want because the resources there are unlimited. See flowers everywhere; see the beauty surround you. Tell me what it’s like to live on such a planet, a planet we have only seen as a speck in the sky. But I beg you: please do not forget you. I implore you not to forget my messy hair, my crooked teeth, the scar on my pinky, the birthmark on my stomach. I have given you bits and pieces of my soul; please take care of them.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
Marceline…I wish you only the best.
The letter slips from his fingers, fluttering down to the floor like dust. Mr. President stares at his fingertips, stained red from the letter. “Martians,” he mutters, “Martians walking among us.” Walking closer than he thought.
The picture of a dying man, cold and alone on Mars.
The love of his life.
The President clears his throat. “Honey, could you come in here for a sec?” A muffled response echoes through the halls and footsteps crescendo towards the door. Thoughts rush through his head at hundreds of miles an hour, moving so quickly he finds it difficult to breathe. His heart beats in time to the footsteps, quick and short. Loud. Ringing in his ears. Too much, too much for him.
The door opens with a click. She has a flower in her hair, a smile on her face. First Lady of the United States, the dear Miss Marceline.