Amy shoveled another spade of martian dirt into the pile. It felt strange to have traveled so far to Mars to shovel dirt. She and Bill were building the greenhouse, and these holes would be its foundation. She peered at his pile, a foot shorter than her own. He had spent most of the hour humming, and it seemed to have slowed him down.
“Bill, could you dig a little faster?” she said.
“Hmmm, hmmm, remember me to the one who lives there, she was once a true love of mine,” he sang.
“I just sang the first song to ever be sung on Mars. It was Bob Dylan. Y’know they put that album in Voyager 4. ‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.’ Freewheelin through the cosmos, Ha!”
She couldn’t help the smile. His enthusiasm was corny, but contagious.
“We’ll spin that record when we find it,” she said.
Voyager 4 carried bits of Earth’s culture, and it had crashed on Mars.
“Y’know, I wonder if they put any fightin’ songs in there, to warn invaders to stay away, like, ‘We’ll kick your asses!'” he said and punched his palm.
“Good idea, but they might take it the wrong way. Don’t wanna start a war off a misunderstanding.”
She headed to the shuttle for a break and froze at the entrance. A horsefly the size of her fist stared at her from the ramp. Her childhood instincts kicked in.
Hello. We come in–
Before she could stop herself, she crunched the bug under her foot. She lifted her boot and trembled as the blood oozed down the treads.
Life. She had found life on Mars and greeted it with a boot heel.
“Something wrong?” said Bill.
A piercing screech filled her head, a violent, stabbing screech that knifed into her brain and chainsawed along her skull. She clutched her helmet and doubled over on her knees. The pain sliced through her body with a serrated edge and sprawled her onto her back.
“What is this!? Bill?”
He twisted on the ground, kicked up small clouds of dust until he became a shadow of jerking limbs.
The crew flashed into her head and for a second she wondered if they were safe, but the pain escalated and smothered her worry.
And then it stopped.
Amy stared into the sky. It was calm and reminded her of butterscotch. She wanted to sit up, to assert control over her numb limbs, but she feared waking the pain. In the silence of the peace, she heard a thousand tiny voices singing in her head.
I am not saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
A dark cloud filled the sky. It was sizzling with tiny movements, and it was coming closer.
You just kind of wasted my precious time
“Bill, I know this one,” she said.
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.
The swarm devoured her.
Lyrics by Bob Dylan
Prompt: The first men/women to set foot on Mars return to their ship only to find a large, strange insect on the door of the ship.