Written in Dust
by Melinda M. Snodgrass
She banked to come in next to him, and they flew wingtip to wingtip as they passed over the Martian city. She wondered what her dream Martians would make of it now. The jewel-tone towers were still the same, but now the avenues were washed with red dust and filled with the whine and moan of the incessant Martian wind instead of with songs.
The shadow of the ultralights’ wings swept across the red sand and rock of the planet, and played tag with the swirling whirlwinds dancing across the craters and plateaus. The fragile light of the distant sun sparkled on the domes covering the farm fields of the settlers.
Through the front windshield, she watched the looming mass of Mons Olympus, the solar system’s largest volcano, draw closer. The peak scraped at the red sky of Mars, and a few tattered clouds coiled about the shoulders of the mountain as if the massif were trying to wrap itself in a thin shawl.
… They found a level area not far from the sharp cut of the canal and landed. In Mars’s low gravity they were able to take long, flauting strides that quickly carried them to the edge of the canal. It was obvious that it wasn’t natural. The edges were clean, as if cut by a laser, and the walls were impossibly straight. Tilde knew that early explorers had lowered probes into the canals but nothing had been found. Just sheer walls of fused glass. Why had the Martians made them? What purpose had they served?
Initially, the fear that something lived in those deep cuts had discourages colonization, but years passed and nothing ever emerged from the canals, and necessity replaced fear. The home world, gripped in climate change and lacking enough cropland for her teeming billions, needed a new breadbasket. So the doomsayers had been overridden, and the settlers had arrived.
A Martian Lady. Image by © Megan Jorgensen