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Saturn Storm - M Willene Johnson

Saturn Storm - M Willene Johnson

gallery wrap canvas, fluid acrylic



Strawberry Chiming
by David DeKay

I lay dying upon an unnamed mountain on the fourth planet from the Sun. Oxygen bled from my suit, pierced by the compound fracture of my leg. The blush-drenched landscape reminded me of my grandmother's strawberry milk on our special Sundays. Church, then brunch. Bowling or cards with her knitting circle always concluded with a cold glass of milk on her porch. I could hear the first few revolutions of Nana's antique sterling silver spoon clinking off the Waterford crystal. I closed my eyes. The nostalgic ringing sounded like the environmental warning chiming in my helmet, subdued but urgent. The blood-red syrup would seep slowly into the milk and sink to the bottom until insistent pinging slowly integrated it in layers. Nana would hum to herself and stir until the sugary concoction became a uniform Amaranth pink. She served it to me on a wicker tray with a cloth napkin and a smile.


I felt a violent crimson snap as I contorted beneath the loosened rocks to reach my emergency repair kit. I wasted valuable oxygen to allow myself a muffled moan of agony as I forced my broken body into another unnatural position to spray self-healing nano-foam rubber into the jagged tear in my suit. A tear born of pain and frustration and, yes, finally fear, rolled down my cheek. I slumped my gaze back to the horizon, back to the hill in the distance, and wrestled my respiration back under control. The cheery voice in my helmet told me that my excruciating heroics had extended my viability window by three minutes and nineteen seconds. I’d also punctured my left lung. Nana had warned me about going into space. "No air out there," she told me with an austere look. I gasped out another white-hot sob that started life as a chortle—time to die, one hundred and forty million miles from home.


My onboard computer started a two-minute countdown to end my life as our rover crested the far-off hill. I could see the backward American flag next to where Beatrice painted a cartoon Martian wearing a green helmet with a ruby red horsehair crest and brandishing a 1950's raygun. The dirty white buggy tore across the crimson wasteland sending up vast plumes of gritty dust into the dull yellow sky. Yellow like Nana's porch on an autumnal Kansas afternoon with the Sun cool and low. My approaching salvation became little more than an off-white blotch as my vision faded and blurred before washing out entirely into a milky-red haze. I could only hear my shallow, ragged breathing and my Nana's spoon. My rescue tasted like blood from my lacerated lung, but it smelled like strawberry milk.

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