My mother discovered that she was pregnant with me just two days before the liftoff.
She hid the news from the space administration which would have most certainly withdrawn her from the nearly nine-month-long, one way trip to Mars.
My mother and I landed on Mars on January 4, 2030. She was part of the first peopled mission to this planet. I was born two days later inside a special enclosure set up not too far from the site where the Curiosity rover first landed in August, 2012.
I have no memory of her since she died moments after giving me birth. Both her fellow astronauts have also died since, one in 2035 and the other in 2038. They shared many stories and memories of my mother before they died. That means I have been on my own, presumably entirely alone on Mars, for close to ten Earth years.
It was a recklessly ambitious and selfish decision which I approve now that I am 18 in Earth years, albeit just 10 in Martian years. Although on Mars I am just 10, my brain is that of an 18-year-old earthling as it would have been back on my mother’s planet. Of course, I consider myself a Martian. I cannot quite explain how but I have evolved to live on carbon dioxide. It is an acquired taste.
I lived the first eight years of my life confined inside the enclosure, the first five with both the astronauts and the other three with one of them. They never took me out because they feared for my life. Then one day in June 2038, which I remember rather vividly, the lone surviving astronaut, who knew he was dying, took me to the Curiosity rover.
The rover was still functional, over a quarter century after it arrived, but not of much scientific value since there was already a human settlement in the form of our enclosure.
I remember the astronaut and I stood in front of Curiosity with our backs facing it. He shot a short video and transmitted it back to the space administration. He later told me that Earth was agog with the news of the presence of a child, me, on Mars.
That my mother was pregnant when she traveled came to be known only then.
Three months later, the second astronaut died while on an exploration. The first one had died inside the enclosure and I think the second astronaut managed to perform some sort of a burial. I do occasionally see the second astronaut’s skeletal face inside his still largely intact spacesuit sticking out of the rover hatch.
There are times when I feel I should bury the second astronaut but then keeping him the way he died gives me the illusion of some presence on Mars other than me.
The space administration does communicate with me regularly. They cannot believe that I roam around the enclosure with no spacesuit and breathing aid. They also cannot believe that I neither eat food nor drink water. As far as I can tell, I have never eaten or drunk anything since I was born.
One of the space administration’s main concerns is to find out if there is life on Mars which is ironic because they are asking me, a Martian who breathes carbon dioxide but eats and drinks nothing. How much more bizarre life are they really looking for?
In one of my video calls with the mission control I had asked them that very question. One of the scientists replied, “Yeah but you were conceived on Earth. So strictly speaking you are not a Martian.”
I tried reasoning with him that I may have been conceived on Earth but spent my entire in vivo formative period on a flight to Mars buffeted by radiation, then landed on the Red Planet violently shaking inside my mother’s amniotic sac and was born two days later even as she died. That had no impact on the scientists looking for a truly indigenous Martian life.
Lately, I have started to ignore calls from Earth as well as disregard their urgent video messages. Once in a while, I do visit Curiosity and stand in front of its billion megapixel camera and give the space administration the finger or, at any rate, what would have been the finger had I developed like normal a human being.
Curiosity is my only friend because like me it came to Mars without its consent and was made to stay on without its content. I would very much like to bring it back near the enclosure but I do not know how to navigate it. Even if I did, I do not have the driver’s license yet. Mars has no DMV as of now unless I set it up and give myself a license.
Mayank Chhaya’s note: Some day I plan to make this into a full-fledged novel. Consider this post its own copyright.