Lost in the Sand
I knew there were dangers outside the base, and not just because of the electrostatic sandstorm. I wore my battlesuit and carried my best rifle, and I left feeling like I was ready for anything.
I was of course very wrong, but I’d only been on the planet for a day, and no one had told me much about the local life forms. All I knew was that they were huge and dangerous, and that the general strategy was to shoot first.
I was fully prepared to shoot first.
It was a different world inside the sandstorm. I couldn’t see far; all I heard was the hiss of sand against my visor, and the whole world seemed to shift. Then I saw something move, and glowing eyes turned my way.
Time slowed down. This was the monstrosity I had been warned about. It was charging toward me across the tilted landscape -- a thing of spines and claws and multiple arms, with a fanged mouth open in a shriek that I barely heard. Those red eyes stared into my soul. Electricity crackled along its limbs and my own as well, as I struggled to find stable footing so I could aim.
My heart sank when I realized that it would reach me before I could target it. Why did I leave the base alone? Right then I wished the sands would swallow me; it would surely be a quicker death.
But on the other hand, I had trained for this.
I aimed as best I could, firing wildly at its head and hitting nothing. I ducked and rolled a ways down the slope, looking back up to see the thing snarling at me with a crocodile grin. I fired again, but it was fast.
Before I could move aside, it leapt toward me and slashed through my armor with one massive taloned hand. I stumbled back and fell, rolling in utter disorientation. Even when I stopped moving, the world didn’t.
There was some kind of poison on those claws.
Suddenly I felt very alone, lying there on the ground.
Then that monstrous face appeared over me, shifting like the rest of my world, and something was different about it. Something lovely. In my disoriented state, I felt like my entire life had been leading up to this encounter.
I was being lifted. I couldn’t move, but found myself not wanting to. My head lolled. I watched my fallen rifle disappear under the drifting sand. It felt like an out-of-body experience, floating into the sky.
I managed to turn my head and behold the confusing entity who held me. It was at once the closest friend I’d ever known, a wondrous new acquaintance, and a symbol of leaving my old life, which faded behind me with the fallen gun. Thoughts and emotions flitted past. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I needed my new friend to tell me. I surrendered to the not knowing.
It occurred to me that I was no longer sane, but I found that I didn’t mind.
We traveled through the swirling void for an unknowable amount of time. I wanted to pry off my helmet and fling it aside; I wanted to vow my dedication to this new soulmate; I was experiencing a new kind of sanity, and I embraced it.
Then the creature set me down.
The sandstorm was fading. I lifted my head to see the base I had left a lifetime ago. Managing to sit up, I turned to see my savior running off into the remains of the storm.
I’ve never felt such loss. How would I know who I was, alone like this? I didn’t want to return to the old type of sanity.
My thoughts swirled like the storm, and I stayed there staring while I slowly bled onto the sand.