“Throw those two scumbags in prison!” – The digital screen on Martian Chief’s chest displayed in a Red colour indicating fury.

Maria wanted to argue, but suddenly everything was blacked out. She couldn’t see the red hues which surrounded the place any more. In that shock, she wanted to express her agony by shouting. But she couldn’t hear her voice! Nor she could hear voices of countless Martians that surrounded her till now.

She tried to touch her mission partner, Joseph. Damn. She felt much scarier now.  She couldn’t feel Joseph, who was chained along with her. How could all this happen suddenly? She folded her fist in despair. In all these sudden mishaps, she realised that she is not able to smell her odour once again. How on Mars, could he lose all her senses at once!

Maria took a breath heavily. She smiled as it is confirmed that she is alive. But what is this state she suddenly transformed into? She hit her head with hand. There is no feeling once again. Unable to convey anything, she collapsed on the floor.

It was nearly a month ago that they landed on the surface of Mars. NOSE (National Organisation of Space Exploration) worked night and day past five years, after successfully launching a probe, MORB into Mars orbit and then another probe (MARF) to move over the surface of Mars. While those both probes collected a lot of data about the environment, weather and climate, a lot of other details could be investigated further if a human mind reaches Mars – mainly human inhabitation. NOSE took this project ambitiously and selected very experienced astronauts in their nation Maria Lomond and Joseph Strausser for the mission. After four years of rigorous training, many successful and failed experiments, learning to survive in the mock environment, they finally started their journey to Mars. Man mission to Mars is a dream come true for NOSE and their Nation.

A mint flavoured tablet passing down her throat brought her out of the thoughts. She had that feeling once nearly for every 24 hours approximately for past five days. It is still the darkness. None of her senses is working. She is worried a lot about her friend Joseph. Thinking about the past is the only reminder that she is alive.

Funds were allocated abundantly for the project. There is no looking back from the government for approving anything that NOSE feels necessary. While there are chances that mission could fail, NOSE counted on the experience of both their experienced astronauts and the hard work done by hundreds of other scientists, engineers. The day finally came, when the doors of their rocket were finally locked. They travelled for 104 days to enter Mars orbit and 20 days further to reach the surface of Mars.

It is that fateful day they hit the Mars surface at wrong coordinates. As soon as they are about to touch the surface, they have experienced a heavy gravity pull.  That is the first time in past four months that they are experiencing the gravitational force. That force which is pulling them down is stronger than they have ever experienced. Maria looked at Joseph and smiled thinking that it is the last time they can see each other. Life is always beyond our understanding. It teases us the way which we never imagine. They crash landed over a surface and thrown out of the rocket chamber far apart from each other. Maria and Joseph were unconscious for a long period.

When they woke up after what seemed to be an eternity, all the red land which lured them from space turned into black only to realise that it is not the land but their visibility that turned blank. They were not able to see anything. They both shouted in agony. Voice is not being transmitted to each other, as batteries in the suit are dead. They didn’t have a clue about the sudden loss of their sight. Their only option for survival is the amazing invention for this mission – The mint flavoured food capsule. One doesn’t feel hungry for 24 hours if it is taken once. They were strategically placed in such a way that capsule directly enters mouth through a nozzle connected to helmet with just a click of a button inside their gloves. Each finger has different button has different function installed inside it for optimising movements of astronauts in space. 

They sat and then stood in the same place for nearly a week! When both saw each other, they couldn’t believe that they are alive. Regaining ability to see and speak, brought them back into life. But they are not able to hear their own voices. It is hard to believe. Unable to express their anger in any way, they started to go in search of their Spacecraft. Their only hope for something to happen!

The empty and vast red land seemed endless. Maria and Joseph used to walk till they were exhausted. When they became extremely tired, space suits were their bedrooms till they get motivated to start searching again.  Staring into the dark space is no more fun. Walking seemed easy as they progressed.

A few more days passed by, they were able to see each other and hear their voices. Never before in life were they so happy to see each other. They used to draw on the surface if anything has to be communicated. Surprisingly, past two days they were not able to sense the mint flavour of the capsule. They didn’t mind this problem since they have experienced worse. Their hope led them ahead. 

Five more days passed and now a new problem. Maria was not able to smell her odour. When she communicated it to Joseph, he confirmed that it is the same with him too! Not bothered the by experience they moved on. Seven more days passed. 

With enormous difficulty, Maria wrote on sand that she was not able to sense any buttons inside the suit. Joseph expressed the same! Bewildered now completely, that each of their senses is being lost for seven days each Maria feared what lay ahead for them. Since there is nothing else to do, they continued on their only mission of finding their rocket.

Taking food capsule became enormous task now. Sometimes pill wouldn’t pop up at all and sometimes two or three pills would pop out of the nozzle, as they are not able to sense the button. Seven more days passed in the eerie silence. Suddenly Maria started to feel those buttons. She soon realised that all her senses are working at the same time. They both hugged each other’s space suits in happiness.

In that land of red hues, they continued the search. Six more days passed. One day they saw two tiny green lights approach them. Maria and Joseph got closer. They feared if it is an alien. When those lights approached closer, they indeed saw an alien. Their faces went numb as they were unable to express either happiness or fear.

“Hello earthlings”, a digital voice was heard from a speaker attached to alien’s neck. Maria was still in surprise to see the nearly seven feet tall alien. A dark green body with shining green eyes is in front of them looking them eye to eye. It is protected by a sleeveless on top and undergarment like thing on bottom appeared to be made of leather. Maria wondered if it is trying to convey to them anything.

Maria causally waved at Alien and said “Hello”

Alien exclaimed, ” Oh finally, I heard a human talk”. Maria was surprised that she could hear aliens voice coming out of the speaker even when she is wearing a helmet. Alien continued “I’m Esmapi, a space research scientist here in Umra, the capital city of this planet. I don’t have time to explain everything. You both are in great danger. I will take you to a hiding place. When it is safe again, we can plan to think about going back. You are already acclimatised to this atmosphere past one week. It is very safe to remove your space suits. It will make you run faster, we don’t have time. Come on, follow me.”

Maria exclaimed “Remove space suits? What are you talking about? We are here for more than a month, not a week! What danger are we in?”

Esmapi grabbed them both and started running following the green light from her eyes. It started to explain. “Listen, you are now in inner sphere of Mars. Only our outer surface can be spotted from Earth. It is a very hard, thick shell which has microscopic holes called gorges. Humans cannot believe that sunlight can be transmitted through gorges. Our inner sphere also rotates, but much slower than the outer sphere. It takes nearly168 hours to rotate around itself, which is nearly one week for you.

We have concealed all our important and natural regions which are essential for our survival from you humans. That’s why probes sent by you never detected our presence. Have a look at this” Esmapi extended its palm in which an image is projected from its eyes.

“MARF! It is in a really bad shape” Maria and Joseph exclaimed at once.

Esmapi continued “We destroyed it. That probe is really intelligent. It might have discovered about us. MARF, started digging at a place on the outer surface, which is very close to our primary connection with the outer shell. Our relays didn’t transmit that information to us quick enough. By the time we reached there, MARF was about to transmit data, but we destroyed it with our very high capacity EMP guns, which are powered by our internal aura. That data never reached you.”

“But how are we in danger? What is the problem?” Joseph enquired.

Esmapi continued “Sunlight is our only source of life. We can’t survive without it. Our ancestors have created seven precious stones in which sunlight is stored for us to live and work even during nights. The primary stone is Dimade, which powers other six stones. All the tiny beams of light from gorges concatenate to power Dimade. We are born with a receptor cell inside our head. In a prayer every day before evening, that light gets transmitted into us and stored in the form of Aura due to which, we can function normally. Since all the light is transmitted to Dimade, it is all darkness around. I still don’t have a clue that you are surviving here without any trouble. My curiosity to meet you both intensified  further” Esmapi paused “You both are heavy with space suits, let me remove them”

They shouted to warn that they will die if space suit is removed.

Esmapi ensured them “Our inner surface is very similar to earth in terms of gases present. Please don’t bother and believe me”

They hesitated, but Esmapi removed their helmets to make them believe. They quickly came out of space suits and felt relieved. “I’m feeling as light as a feather” Maria exclaimed.

They started running behind Esmapi, as it continued “We too are greedy just like you humans. Our ancestors forbade us to explore beyond the inner surface. But because of our curiosity, we made a connection, to the outer surface with a door like an arrangement. When that door is opened and closed, light doesn’t get transmitted uniformly. Due to which we started losing some of our senses occasionally. When MARF dug that hole close to the door, there were more disturbances in our system. Due to a malfunction in your rocket, it landed in a coordinate which is not intended by you. Our fellow Martian, who is working on a hole created by MARF, died in an unnatural way due to the intensity of your crash. It is first time ever such a death happened in Mars. Also crash is again close to the hole, made by MARF. The hole got elongated now and due to that, there is a huge increase in light that is being transmitted to Dimade. Also, our senses are being varied each day now” It laughed and said “Seven days for you”

“Our chief was……” Esmapi fainted. Maria and Joseph saw a group who appeared similar to soldiers in front of them.

“Poor Esmapi is not prepared for the aura absorbing attack,” one of the soldiers said with a wide grin. Maria and Joseph are taken in darkness to a place, which appeared to be their court. “Throw those two scum bags in prison” – The digital screen on Martian Chief’s chest displayed in the Red colour indicating fury.

Last thing Maria saw before being thrown into prison.

A cold touch brought her back into the senses. Someone with an odour similar to Esmapi is dragging her. Maria shouted “What is going on? Where am I being taken, Where is Joseph?”

“You will know, wait! scum bag” A voice replied.

“Ah, here is the Scum bag! I could smell you from a long distance” A commanding voice continued “This is what you Earthlings have done to us. Taking our senses each a day! Do you realise its seriousness? The space junk left by probes, humans sent to Mars has blocked many gorges, disturbing sunlight that is being transmitted to Dimade. Mars population started suffering from diseases for the first time. Our problems intensified with each probe you send. We lost the ability to see on the first day of our week, then we will not be able to hear, next our ability to taste is lost. When few more probes wanted to destroy our lives, our ability to smell and further sensing is lost. All this due to imbalances in Dimade and other six stones, caused by your human greed. MARF intensified such disturbance, your crash has worsened it. All our senses will not function on the last day of the week. Did you understand now? It is due to the protection we have taken so far, that gave us at least a day of the week with all our senses.  Your curiosity’s cost to explore is the life of a Martian. Every human and spacecraft that hits Mars surface from now will be doomed, It began with your fellow human.”

“What happened to Joseph?” shouted angered Maria.

“He died. Tablets with you are sufficient to keep only one of you alive. You too will face a similar consequence as soon as your tablets are finished. Wait for your death. We are not killers like you. Only you can bring death upon yourself.” Martian Chief said.

“I don’t want to hear anything about human till her death. Throw her back into prison.” Maria heard Chief’s voice followed by a propulsion sound.

The pungent smell remained her that she is back in prison again.

“Is being curious wrong?” Maria wondered. “I will find a way to convince, to find harmony with Martians. I have to do it. I shall not die like this without giving any warning to fellow humans” She vowed.

Just then an apple fell on her head.

The hope is still alive.

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