Night Driving on Mars: Horses

Night Driving on Mars: Horses

There will never be horses on Mars. Well, at least no time soon. I certainly won't see it and if I ever have kids, they won't, either. I will never wake up early one morning and walk into the dim sunshine to brush and feed and saddle a stallion in the presence of these impossible mountains. I will never mount up and trot into the dust with him, or feel his apprehension when negotiating rocky hills. I will only ever ride this car or a car like this car. I will only ever feel its metallic indifference to terrain or my own comfort, its profound lack of personality, its never-changing hum. I will only ever know my machines.

I will never see a skyscraper in this blasted landscape. There will be no glass elevator climbing into the air to take me someplace important. There will never be an office to hate, never a cafe where a beautiful stranger works and feeds my fantasies of warmer beds or happier weekends. Before I die I won't see a traffic jam here or a garden party. I won't drink wine from grapes grown in the red hills or taste a steak from an open-air ranch below them.

I may one day learn what Nan said the night before she left, that Chinese phrase I couldn't translate if I wanted to. I want to. If I ever find her again, if I bump into her at a stim party or if she doesn't see my car coming from seven clicks away on a repair run to whatever station she's hiding in. If something like that could happen and I could manage the courage, or the spite, or the carelessness to ask.

I'll never have an almond-eyed child with Felicia Nan Jin. This I know and probably knew when she'd still see me. I'll never take the kid to a park and push her on a swing. I'll never read with her when she's still sounding out each syllable of each word, or teach her to be polite to strangers, or name her something pretty. I'll never talk about air system repair at an elementary school. At least not for her.

The MW-1 is nothing if not a great desert highway full of things that will never be. They sprout like dream trees all along the road and drop fruit called cities no one will build, fake lakes no one will dig and grain no one will ever plant. The plains are pock-marked with yesterday's craters while the smooth spots look like they just haven't been hit yet. The MW-1 is a big circle surrounding a lot of nothing. At the equator it branches off into a road that leads to the quadrant launch pad.

I always told myself I'd save up my wages and buy a ticket to the Radio Orbit station. I also secretly believed I'd never go ahead with it. I'll never push the ignition of a commuter rocket, but tonight when the weather gets clear I'll at least find out what the pre-atmo-break compression feels like.