In a Sea of Faces

by R.T. Allenson

Mars knew.

It knew you so well – your will, your hidden desires. The secrets you hold deep in your heart. It was a lens wherein you could see those hidden wants as clearly as day, polished like ebon glass; reflective but obscure.

When we first set foot on Mars we thought it empty, a cold dead world incapable of bearing life. Windswept deserts and ancient mountains dotted the landscape and nothing else of particular interest. We set up the first domes in the following years and eventually pumped the atmosphere with breathable air.

We wanted to make it live.

After the domes (AD), the only thing thriving in Mars is grass. Blue grass. When the wind blows the grass glimmers like the sea back on earth. A flood of memories wash through you when you see the blue grass dance in the wind. It filled our hearts with sadness and we turned our heads back to the sky and left the red planet.  Mars knew us so well. It knew our destiny lied elsewhere – far from ancient rocks, blue grass and the silence that fills the air.

It’s the music of sadness, melancholy. It’s the reality of failure and things unreachable. It’s the sound the blue grass makes when it sways in the wind – it echoes and resonates in your ears, until the songs of distant times fill you with that sense of longing for days gone by. Memories are cruel, you see. They carve a hole in your mind and they play a song within those cavernous walls and, in time, they’ll play that song when you fear the past and you refuse to remember.

It’s the song of the grass, the music of these rolling fields…

Mars knew. In the end, everyone was gone and the only testament to our passing here were the neglected domes and the grass.

And the two of us.

When my father died in the summer of 5AD I was left to tend our dome with Robert, our farm hand. The farming business never really took off you see; crops could only grow within the dome and it became scarce in the long run. Domestic animals were a different story. Something made them different here in Mars and it only took a few weeks before the multi-eyed farm animals would die off from some unknown disease. Eventually we’d run out of the packaged stuff we brought from Earth and many of us would starve and return home. Those who couldn’t afford had to stay and do with what they had…and that’s where we are now.

Have you seen grass billow in the air? It’s beautiful but sad at the same time. Here in Mars, where it knew your true desires, the blue grass gliding in the air were like dreams lost to the wind and to time.

Robert smiles and reaches his hand towards mine. “Yes, it is beautiful. But sad? I don’t know.”

My hand fails to move away and a sense of longing, mixed with fear and happiness, fills me. Something in his eyes draw me closer and his lips touches my own faintly. His hands cup my face but before I could fall deep into the kiss, I break away.

“You better get going.” I say to him. The glint in his eye never fades; he sighs, picks up his things and goes back to working the field. I open my mouth to say something but nothing comes out and Robert, with shovel in hand, fades far into the horizon. I clutch the thing in my hand, empty air, where his hand was and I believe myself walking again – flying amidst the fields of grass and into the orange sky. When the wind blows, it chimes and sings its own eternal tune – and long after, I hear faint chanting that reminds me of strangely of a home I never knew. In these moments I am reminded of certain walkways where my feet should tread, great stone walls that I should touch and dream-memories of giant polished stones that I know glint like ebon glass.

I remember a dream..or a memory (the two never really have any difference to me) of myself walking through a crowd of cowled figures in Mars, each murmuring endlessly to themselves in esoteric prayer. They held in their hands a tome bound in stone and written with strange words that seemed so alien yet so familiar to me. We walked past strange vistas, cavernous doorways of ancient stone cities and glass towers that glinted softly in the orange sky. The smell of herbs and spiced wine filled the air as I walked the long-winding streets. Mars knew. I was lost in the rhythm..

And then I saw you.

In a sea of faces, yours stood out. Mars knew, in this place..with you, I truly belonged. In this dream-memory I can stand and dance with you proudly under the martian sky and run through the fields of blue grass dancing in the wind. And they’re singing a song, the grass is singing our song. Can you hear it Robert? Can you hear the grass singing our song?

<..come with me. we’ll play in the sky..>

I’m embarrassed every time I see him going to work the field. It’s even more embarrassing for me since I feel like he’s only staying ’cause of me. But I’m also scared that he might leave me. The fields of Mars stretch far, ever so far into the horizon. Mars knows – there are memories buried deep that I want to bury in its rolling fields, memories that I want to forget. And if he ever forgets me, I want to be buried here where I might rejoin those glass towers, stone archways and streets that smell like spiced wine. Maybe it’s sympathy on his part, that he refuses to leave me and this place. Maybe it’s pointless to try to think of what it might be. Maybe I’m just dreaming.

Maybe it’s love.