‘Ahead and to the left’ came the whispered, nicotine inflected instruction. Turning, I could now see it: in between the rocks shone a small fissure of light – a glimmer of flaming yellow and orange.
‘Got it. I’m moving in,’ I replied, guiding the eye carefully into position.
As I moved in tighter the light grew stronger; it’s lure warm and inviting – the coldness of our own distant sun’s embrace briefly forgotten.
‘Closer,’ insisted the voice.
Soon the thin flash of light filled the screen. It was no longer a narrow gap in between rocks: it was a window. From within, the source of the flame was clear as a roaring fire licked through an open grate – a black kettle steaming furiously, yet seemingly unwatched, from inside.
‘Can you see this control? ‘ I stuttered.
‘We see it. Get in as close as you can,’ demanded the previously calm, monotone drawl.
As the extended eye roved the room, silence gradually fell over my headset. The scene was one straight from the pages of Dickens: the wrinkled, red Chesterfield armchair by the fireside; the quaint collection of porcelain figures arrayed on the mantelpiece. On the wall pictures, maps and portraits of people and places – too faded to see details, despite the eye being on maximum zoom.
For the briefest of moments two tiny flickers of light emerged from the darkest, farthest corner. Then again. The eyes betraying a fear – a fear that their life was about to change forever. As I remained, almost frozen, a hand slowly emerged – long, pale fingers gripping the arm of the empty fireside chair. As slowly as they had appeared, the fingers once more retreated, fearfully into the anonymity of the dark. My heart suddenly sank, guilt replacing the explorer’s inquisitiveness of moments before.
Soon radio communications once more crackled through the gravityless atmosphere of the red planet. It was me who was first to speak – to state what they already undoubtedly knew.
‘Houston, we have a problem.’
These words, based on the third definition of the word ‘quaint‘ , form my entry into the Trifecta 110 writing challenge.
This piece was placed second by the esteemed editors of the Trifecta Writing Challenge. As ever I am flattered that those judging saw something in my work. Much appreciated!