Ashwin Vaidya About
Short Story | Originally published on One Picture Notes|Last Updated: 03 December 2023


It is a strange thing to wake up every day in an underground chamber. But, today I am up earlier than usual. It is my 1-hour excursion outside. I can only do it an hour a week and that too in a heavy clumsy suit. I don’t hate it. It is designed to protect me. And afterall all this radiation from above is why I am holed up underground. But sometimes I wish I could remove it and feel the fresh air on my face. Except there is no air outside.

Only one set of footprints stand preserved tracing a path uphill deepened by frequent steps over it. It is a little game I play, to step on the same prints every time I go.

As I reach uphill, the same rusted landscape surrounds me. At the distance lies the nuclear reactor which powers my habitat now covered in dust. A few more rovers surround it operating continuously assembling the habitat for the first batch of humans settlers arriving next year. But I am not here to see them. I get those readings even in my lab.

I open the bag I am carrying and assemble the telescope in it. I look up waiting to see it. Oh, how beautiful! The small dot in the black sky. I imagine busy people going about in their daily activities. Oh how much I miss other people. I imagine my parents still asleep in their bed with Friggo sleeping at the door. I wonder if he chases the neighbour’s car even in his dreams. Sleep tight you furry beast. A little beep from my suit reminds me to head back inside.

Humans have always wondered where they came from. We named our planets after our gods. We even sent a few of us here and only to return as heroes. But never did we dare to settle. But this time we were here to stay. I never feel alone. Unlike them when I look up and see home. I know where I came from. I know why I came for. That’s why I do this.

I look up again but the dot is gone. I pack my gear and head back underground.