First Light by Nigel Howe (Creative Commons)

Their mission was a failure, dashing humanity’s hopes once again. This planet was too much like Earth — a bleak, frozen wasteland where nothing could survive.

Inside the suit, he was sweating.

He’d fallen several strides behind the others. But the faster he lumbered through the icy, knee-deep snow, the more his breath fogged the glass visor. The tracks in the snow were growing fainter, and he was soon left with only the sky to guide him.

He stared up with longing at the stars, at the clear, black expanse of space. Soon, he would go home.

His leg began to throb.

Keep moving.

He’d managed to crudely patch his suit, saving him from suffocation, but had been unable to suture his skin, and all he could think about now was the slush of the blood that had pooled in his boot.

His vision was getting hazy.

Stay focused.

He struggled up the side of a steep, snowy hill, stumbling the last several steps, until he finally fell to his knees, gasping for breath. It was so hard to breathe, so hard to see.

I’ll only sit down for a minute.

Soon, the dark aura surrounding his vision was replaced with the glow of a brilliant, bright light.


They’d left him behind.

He watched the trail of the ship disappear into the darkness, just as their footprints had faded swiftly in the freshly fallen snow.

He yanked at the patch on his leg, a loud hiss escaping as his suit depressurized. He pulled off his helmet, choking as the cold air bit into his lungs.

Soon, the throbbing in his leg would subside, and his life would be but a part of someone else’s memory.

But first, he would see the stars, see the sky clearly. Just one more…

“Home” previously appeared in the October 2015 issue of Reader’s Carnival.

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