A Season in Hell
I watched Sol dwindle away like a little thimble of light as I fell faster and faster through the void of space. Dagon was my destination, a massive red planet on the edge of our local cluster. Many considered time there as an exile, ‘spending a season in hell’ they would say. But we have sucked our sweet mother Earth dry, turned her minerals into nothing more than floating debris and rotting cities. Now we must scour the universe for resources just so we can keep on fucking and building and killing and fucking some more. And those who left, fell through space like I did, a million stars away from home, are considered madmen and degenerates. No surprise when considering that even a murderer can shorten his sentence by doing time on a distant mining colony, and still, the majority choose to rot in a cell.
When I told them I was leaving for Dagon, they asked me what I was running from. They asked who wanted me dead. I told them it was nothing more than a lucrative business venture.
I remember the planet when we finally arrived. A red planet indeed. But not like Mars, that burnt-out-faded-orange neighbor of ours. Dagon was a deep crimson, as if painted a permanent red, still pulsing, and still beating vigorously.
Before we left home they told us to bring two things: a small personal object, and a letter from someone that loved us. This would remind us of home they said. This would remind us why we were spending our season in hell. Everything else would be provided. I brought an old coin that my father gave me and I asked Her to write the letter, told Her I was leaving for Dagon to sort some things out and that any words that came from Her would help me forget how far away I was. She sent me a picture of the ocean, not a modern one though, but a rendered old ocean. They used to be blue, apparently, not dead and grey like they are now. The only blue we have now is a synthetic one. Even our eyes have turned grey with smog and poison. On the back she wrote:
Do me a favor and never contact me again. That way, if you do manage to come back alive, I can still just assume you’re dead. Also, it’s been nine years; about time you found something new to obsess over.
I burnt it. Set that fake sea ablaze. The coin would keep me sane I decided. After all, this was nothing more than a lucrative business venture, and what better to remind me than a little piece of old money?
I remember when we were landing, spiraling down as the planet seemed to grow and grow. We descended through a violent red storm. Smith, the captain of my squad, told me the planet is so large and rich with minerals that it rains metal. I asked him then why the fuck are we digging. He didn’t even crack a smile and told me that if I wanted to be a smartass he would throw me outside without a suit and let everyone see what happens when the gravity crushes every single miserable bone in my body. I lost my sense of humor real quick.
Our mining facility looked like a big metal spider nestled in a jagged valley. First they let us few volunteers off, then the convicts. They gathered us up in a big room and Smith stood on a table and started talking.
“Gentlemen, welcome to your new home. You’ll be spending one year on this planet, the equivalent about three earth years. You’ll be working with rapists, killers, thieves and psychotics, but that’s not what you need to worry about anymore. Dagon is the thing trying to get you now. If you don’t get crushed by rocks, shredded by steel rain, or driven insane by the 40 hour days there’s still a legion of beasts that just seem to love the taste of exotic human flesh. And these fuckers are built for this place. The extraterrestrial biologist gave up cataloguing them about ten species in because of the rapid mortality rate. But we do know plenty about one: the kita. You may have heard about them. These fuckers are so big that even a runt could swallow that ship we took here whole. And if the mouth don’t get you, you still gotta worry about fifty or so writhing tentacles that sprout off in every direction. Luckily, we figured out that these bastards can’t stand a certain low frequency wave. But every once in a while one gets sick or desperate enough to charge anyway, and whole operations go dark in minuets. So I guess what I’m saying is make some new friends, because these miserable fucks are probably the last human faces you’ll ever see. Now go check the board over there to see your room assignments.”
Everyone scurried like ants to see whom they’d be sharing a little metal box with. But I just sat there. It wasn’t going anywhere. And we weren’t going anywhere either, unless maybe some rockslide punctured our pressurized metal dome and turned our bodies into pink mist.
Once the room cleared I went up and checked for myself. Room A619, volunteer wing, bunkmates with a guy named Carny, Alex Carny. There were only five of us volunteers. They said that was more than usual. Most of the time only inmates are desperate enough for this place, but every once in while someone is greedy enough to exile themselves here. They say one handful of Dagon’s sand has enough lead for fifty bullets. I knew if I made it back, I’d never need to work another day of my life. And maybe She will be able to stand the sight of me again, dump whatever twat she’s with now to be with a real man again, a man who flung himself across the universe for riches and adventure. And as she looked in my eyes again, lucid with the light of other suns, she’d realize that she never loved anyone else.
I wandered around for a little bit. Everything was cold metal. I found my room and walked in. My bunkmate was already there. The first thing he said was in some bitchy voice, telling me to keep my shit clean and stay quiet when he was sleeping. I told him back home I was messy, but it shouldn’t be hard to keep my one little coin in order. We each had two uniforms and hardly enough space to stand all the way up. I didn’t try to get to know him. I just laid down and closed my eyes. My knees were bent, the fuckin room wasn’t wide enough either. Just before I fell asleep, I tried to imagine what a kita looked like with Her falling down into its endless black hole of a mouth, and with a smile, I started falling too, right after her. Right then I knew I didn’t come here for the money. I came here to get as far away as I could from Her, as if by some sudden impulse. I wanted to die. I wanted Dagon’s endless storm to choke me with sand and blood. I didn’t want to lay down and die on that same miserable fucking cesspool of a planet with Her. I wanted to bite the butt of my executioner’s gun. But laying there in that little metal bed, on the edge of existence, I started wanting nothing more than to fall back home like a comet flung to the edge of its orbit. I wanted to see the ocean again, grey as it was, and tear these ghastly memories from the skull of a damned man. But it was too late. I swallowed my cowardice. My season in hell had just begun.