Among the Stars

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NASA spaceship: “Asteria” (9,294,033 parsecs away, 3:12 am)

The camera shows the entirety of the crew huddled around Commander Jack Sing. Everyone is struggling to keep their eyes open and leaning on each other for support. Eddie’s head is resting against Owen as he snores. Off in the distance there is a white orb, bigger than Earth, swirled in a red dust cloud.

“See that grey rock over there?” Commander Sing asked. The group gave a response of inaudible murmurs. “We are going to land there and see if there is life on it. It’s the first planet we have found on this journey and though it may not look like much, if there’s a chance we must look. I want everyone to suit up. We land in about half an hour.”

“That planet looks like a toxic wasteland.” Alec protested.

“Earth is not so different da?” Vlad pointed out. “It cannot be that much worse.”

“That red cloud looks like blood.” Felix squeaked.

Melanie rolled her eyes. “It’s not blood Felix. Toxic rain maybe or just red rain, but definitely not blood. It doesn’t evaporate like water.”

“You Americans are so mean. It could be blood. We don’t know that it’s not.” Owen protested.

“Thanks Owen.” Felix smiled a toothy grin.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news Felix but if that cloud is blood we are in for a very bad day.” Jimmy pointed out.

Felix groaned. “We’re all going to die. First new planet we discover and it’s going to kill us.”

“Kind of fair considering we all basically killed the last planet we were on.” Zoey said.

They all head into a large room, the walls covered with white suits and helmets. Each suit had a different flag for the corresponding country of the different astronauts. The boys go to the left and the girls to the right. Everyone begins by pulling on their suits, locking the different pieces into place. They leave their helmets off and carry them under their arms. When everyone is ready they return to the main control room, facing their commander.

“We are entering the planet’s atmosphere soon. Take a seat and prepare for it to get a little bumpy.” Commander Sing warned.

Everyone takes their seats. Felix is a peculiar shade of green and whimpering in his seat. Jimmy sits as far from Commander Sing as possible next to Owen. The entire ship begins to shake roughly. Some things fall in another room and make a loud crash. Fire gathers at the front of the ship. As they get past the worst of it, the ride smooths out and they make a gentle landing on the surface of the planet. They have landed a few miles away from the crimson cloud and the ship sits on the white powder surface. Felix turns and throws up on Melanie. Her suit now stained greenish yellow.

“Jesus Felix, really?” Melanie complained.

“Hush.” Commander Sing commanded. “Let’s roll out. Everyone turn on their head cameras and comm systems.”

“Is there a way to turn off just the comm connection to Captain Jackass?” Jimmy whispered to Owen.

“Captain Jackass recommends that if you would like to get left on this rock.” Commander Sing paused. “You know what… why don’t you do that. Gives me no liability when I do leave your sorry ass.”

“Dick.” Jimmy muttered.

“Come on mate. Shake it off. We’re about to explore a new planet for queen and country. The life dream remember? This should be thrilling.” Owen encouraged.

“Yeah, you’re right man.”

The group falls silent as they shuffle to the door. They walk inside and activate the air pressure and vapor lock. Commander Sing is at the front followed by Melanie and Zoey. Everyone else remains back together. As the door swings open the white powder landscape appears. Allison pushes past the three at the front and bends down.

Allison giggled. “Kind of looks like cocaine.”

“There is no way this planet has life. That powder looks no better than the sand on Mars.” Jimmy observed.

“Enough chit chat. We have a purpose here. We will search anyways. Split up into 4 groups. We will each head a different direction.” Commander Sing ordered.

“Owen, Felix, Eddie, and I will head North.” Jimmy volunteers.

“That’s fine. Melanie and Zoey, you will come with me and head South. Alec and Allison go East. Enzo and Vlad go West. We will meet back here at noon.” Sing commanded.

The crimson storm cloud is to the North and appears to be heading quickly towards them. To the South seems to be just more white powder. To the East there are large rolling hills that stretch on past what the eye can see. The West there is deep valley that looks like a crater.

“That cloud is moving pretty fast. Maybe we should head back. We don’t know what that storm is. It could be blood or something” Felix suggested.

“It’s gonna to be fine mate. Probably a touch of rain.” Eddie assured.

“The cloud’s red.” Felix protested.

“Dust?” Owen said unconvincingly.

“What do you think it is Jimmy?” Felix asked.

“It looks like…” Jimmy gulped. “Like what I imagined the skies of Hell to look like.”

The storm let out a whistling hiss and lightning flashed within it.

“Don’t be such a tosser Jim.” Owen laughed.

“Do you notice how we can’t hear the others anymore?” Felix asked, panic rising in his voice.

“Krickie we’re probably outta of range.” Eddie reasoned.

Out of nowhere the storm was on them. The red swirled around them, hissing as it did. It wasn’t dust though and it definitely wasn’t rain. The red cloud oozed red sludge from the sky. It did look a lot like blood, but as it touched them it wrapped them up. The storm tossed the boys to the ground as the sludge covered them. Felix let out a terrifying cry. No one can see him. All they see is red. Crimson paints the white powder landscape.

“Felix! FELIX!” Owen yells through the radio. “Where are you? Answer me buddy!”

“It hurts. Everything hurts.” Felix cries into the comm unit.

The sludge wrapped around Felix squeezes him merciless. It’s wrapping and clawing at his helmet, like it’s alive. The others have managed to get to their feet but still can’t see much more than a few feet in front of themselves. The slime seems to have targeted Felix. It all has oozed across the ground and is working to smash in Felix’s suit. It’s almost like it knows that its prey is weak. Jimmy flicks on a flashlight connected to his suit and begins searching for Felix.

“I think it’s trying to eat me.” Felix whimpered.

“Remain calm Felix. We’re coming to help you mate.” Eddie promised.

“I’ve found you Felix!” Jimmy exclaimed. “Can you reach your hand to me? I’m going to try and pull you away.”

Felix struggles to extend his hand. The sludge is fighting to keep him restrained. Jimmy manages to get a grip on Felix. The red sludge is hissing and bubbling. Felix lets out another tortured cry. The sludge is now starting to crack Felix’s helmet. Smalls lines start spreading out on his helmet visor.

“Oh god hurry it burns. Please make it stop.” Felix begged.

“Pull Jimmy, Jesus.” Owen pleaded.

Jimmy grunted in effort. “I’m trying. I don’t see you helping any.”

“I’m going to die.” Felix whined.

“We aren’t gonna let ya die today little moose.” Eddie promised.

Eddie grabbed Jimmy around the waist and began to help pull Felix away from the sludge. They finally started to make some ground. Owen grabbed onto Eddie and finally half of Felix is visible. After a few minutes the group finally pulls Felix free of the sludge. Felix’s suit is in terrible condition. The bottom half has claw marks and is torn to shreds. His helmet is the only thing keeping him alive. Felix is struggling to stay on his feet. The red sludge is not far away, and tentacles are whipping out trying to catch something in their grasp.

“Come on we need to get out of here.” Jimmy yelled. “That thing is hungry, and it wants blood.”

“I can’t.” Felix sobbed, almost tumbling to the ground.

“Owen, carry him first. We can take turns if we need to.” Jimmy ordered.

“Come here buddy, I got you.” Owen said.

Owen scoops Felix onto his back and the group begins to run. The red sludge screeches so loud the group drops to their knees. The sludge lunges for them and they barely have time to jump out of the way. Tentacles shoot out as a last attempt to get them. The group jumps back onto their feet and begins running again. They stumble as they realize the ground is starting to bubble and melt away behind them.

“What a crap planet!” Eddie complained. “Absolutely just shit.”

“We need to get back to the ship!” Jimmy shouted.

“I can see it!” Owen replied. “Just about a half a mile out. We can do this.”

The entire group, from every direction, is running towards the ship. Alec and Allison reach it first and open the door. Everyone rushes in. The sludge is not far behind and neither are giant white creatures with foot long teeth, hopping on two muscular legs. Melanie shuts the door and vapor locks it. Commander Sing rushes into the command station and revs the engines. Some of the creatures and sludge jump and attach themselves to the ship. The ship shoots upwards and out of the atmosphere in a matter of seconds. The creature’s dead frozen bodies plummet back to the planet and the sludge dissipates into red dust.

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