April 2023 Feature Writer

Lisa Baldwin

Lisa Baldwin is an BFA writing student with a minor in creative writing at SCAD Atlanta. She has a love for horror and disturbing fiction, and an eye for editing all types of writing. She hopes to become an editor after graduating next year.  


Friendly Warnings: Death, blood, and use of gore imagery.

Before the universe exploded from the weight of its immense loneliness, the darkness consumed it. Never had it heard the chirping of birds, seen the beauty of wind over a field of tall grass, or smelled the delicious scents of a well-cared for garden. The loneliness crushed it, time did not exist yet, and did not know for how long it would be just nothing.

Now, I exist, and you exist. I sincerely wish you would have stayed in that far place I’ve yet to see. Memories of a little blue place haunt you, it consumes your thoughts. A place you’ll never return to, but I’ll remember for you. Images of people dance in your consciousness, people that will never receive an apology from you. To apologize for your own demise.

Now you lay here, your skin is beginning to melt away. Slipping away in blistered sheets as they loosen and slide over your muscles. Soon enough I will rid myself of your toxins. Filtering them out through the many layers of myself. Picking them apart down to the molecular level, cleaning them away and letting the leftovers fall into my core. You pollute me, taint me with your man-made fuels and metals. I wonder if humans will ever understand the same phrase they coined: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. What a wonderful thing, to have the gift of words, and yet you cannot seem to communicate well with each other. How ironic.

I don’t believe you would ever care for my ways, as a human you were only ever concerned with yourself. Your mission, your research on me. What did you expect to find? Lush alien beauty? Something to resemble your own home, to find a planet B? You’ve never been concerned before about if something non-human has a conscious, an ability to be sentient.

I’ll never admit to hating humans. You, however, make such an argument with merely existing that I could almost convince myself that it’s the only truth. A gospel if you will. You never would though. Humans are proud, and the loud ones never have anything good to say. I can see the lines of muscles and the tendons that desperately wish to move your dissolving body away. I can’t wait to see the ligaments that strap your bones together. Is every human this lusciously red?

You came here in an attempt to research, with your bright and shiny spacecraft. Expertly cared for along your journey here: you aged much more than you had expected to. Somehow your target just moved a little bit differently than you expected. How could the coordinates possibly change? Adjusting the trajectory was exhausting, always having to check and recheck and then check once more, can’t forget to check again. Always off by just a hair, but it didn’t stop you. The stubbornness was ingrained in you since birth, hereditary even. A common trait in the human gene pool, you’re not much different than the rest.

What did you think of the terrain? Unsuspecting? Never able to imagine that the sizzle upon your first step did not mean you needed stronger shoes. No, it meant you should have left while your spaceship still had feet. It reminds me of an image I saw in you. A little tablet dropped in water that fizzed violently, only to fully dissolve and then be drunk and digested. When your ship fell over, a hole was bored into it. The acid hissed and frothed the rigid metal into boiling liquid; the blurring heat rising off it. Your precious oxygen escaping as the ship’s dissolves seeped into thirsty red soil. I heard you say “I’ve survived worse”, maybe that’s true and you found the way out before. Except, this time the solution was to never come here at all.

When you looked out your ship’s window and saw the red terrain, and when you landed and looked at the yellow, red, and blue aurora sky, or saw the nearby planets eclipsing the sun, you never stopped to wonder. You took notes, but you did not admire, and you took pictures that you’d never look at again. It was someone else’s job. Someone else’s problem to study, to scrutinize, to admire. Now those same pictures and notes are being eaten by the acid soil, your words forever rendered meaningless. Not that you’d ever be able to truly describe–relying on still images only ever tells half the truth, void of context.

The blood is seeping out between the fibers of your muscles, veins coaxed open and eaten away. Your heart unaware that it’s slowly giving away the very thing it needs to have a job. When you slipped and fell onto the embracing soil outside your ship from running back after realizing your reinforced shoes stood no chance, I wished I could smile. You dragged yourself back inside the ship, wiping away the soil stuck to your clothes only to rub it closer to your skin.

So many lost drones that humans sent here, every one of them dissolved and consumed; they never learned I suppose. They just had to send someone here, to really solve the mystery. I wonder if one day something would sprout from the red soil. What could survive the acid? Would I ever find life for myself, to self-sustain, like your earth? Something entirely new, something you would surely love to study, or rather pawn to someone else to study.

Every time they sent a new one, I wondered about the years it took to travel here. Human years, that is, they are much shorter, pitiful even. How long did it float in the dead cold of empty space? Unfeeling, impossible to personify. It will never be able to feel or understand that the cold of space would rip you apart and grow ice crystals in your blood. Shredding you with its sharpness from the inside out, one touch on your brittle cold body and you’d shatter like thin glass. Only ever beautiful in the fragility of your life, and the power of many things to make you gorgeous.

Your muscles are nearly gone, falling away to reveal your red stained bones. Your heart has stopped and is melding with the liquid leaking out of your chest cavity; your cage of ribs failing to protect you. Soon your bones will begin to crack open from the marrow boiling inside. Your skull sinks into the acid soil, running over your face and filling in your eye sockets. Leaking into the nose, burning away any trace of lips while your teeth fall into your throat, the roots and gums chewed away.

The planets around us were of no interest to you, could you not see their potential? In the black vacuum of space there persists the need to exist. You desperately wanted to exist, I won’t fault you for that. I will fault you for what you did with what little time you did exist. To spend it attempting to gain the recognition of your peers, and to harm the very planet that gave you life, what a waste of time the universe spent on you. Why did you lead that life, your memories only tell me of fear.

Your bones dissolve more slowly, still stained an immaculate shade of red. The blood that had oozed out of you was gone before it even had a chance to turn black from the lack of oxygen. You’ll never know the pain it would be to be consumed feet first, slowly being swallowed. You only felt the burning of your skin, the scent of your burning flesh filling your lungs. I was glad to see it took you longer to suffocate, it was only more time for you to feel my power. You looked around desperately, but I would never let you go, you would never rise again. I held you down, but you saw nothing, no one, nothing that you thought could do something like this. To pull you in, it was just you and me.

But you didn’t know I was carnivorous did you? The idea of a carnivorous planet seemed impossible, how could that be the answer to the unending mystery of disappearing drones. Now your peers must add you to the list, they’ll never find the evidence. Even if they came here to try I would consume them too. Perhaps I could revel in the pollution, become something entirely new, a different dream.

How could any human know? I never wanted them to. That I might come for them next, no, not anymore. Maybe if I had gotten there a million or so years earlier. I would devour it all, every droplet of water, every mountain, and the delicious hot core. Crashing myself onto its cold oceans, salted water rushing over me as I pushed close to the molten center. I would have savored it, that luscious heat would spread through me, and I would be able to feel, to bathe in the magma.

Maybe then I could have life of my own. Growing or walking on my surface, something uniquely my own. I have yet to find a life that can withstand the acid, every living planet I’ve found, they all sink into me, and I grow larger. Every planet I consume results in the disappointment of nothing new, nothing to be of evidence that I am beautiful. The consumption and death of you is what fuels me now.

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