#BlogBattle Week 7 Theme: Cosmic
By Marnie Schroer
Mote was the smallest speck in the dust devil, but that didn’t keep her from being the most enthusiastic. The moment she felt the first ruffle of warm air rising from the ground, she’d throw herself into the current and ride it upwards, delightedly spinning in circles, bumping giddily against the other specks until they almost sparked with electricity, floating as high as she could before the cool upper temperatures calmed the air and sent her back to earth again.
Some of Mote’s fellow dirt particles grew restless over time and left to lead different lives. Clay was beguiled by pansies in a garden and ultimately settled in a potted plant on the back porch; Terra felt her fertility was wasted in the air and she dropped out over a field of newly planted wheat; Soot plastered herself against the farmhouse window so she could watch what went on inside.
The flowers and fields were beautiful, but you couldn’t see them nearly as well from the ground. Mote couldn’t imagine settling there. She loved the endless clear blue sky and the warm sunbeams that stirred the air. How could anyone ever be satisfied staying still? Mote chafed at the boredom of winters spent trapped by the ice and snow. The minute spring temperatures rose, her every sense was attuned to the slightest stirring of the air. What Mote wanted wasn’t to settle down but to fly higher and higher.
One August day as Mote danced in a dust devil spinning across a fallow field, she saw a strange object rolling across the furrows. It was unlike any farm equipment Mote had ever seen. It had six jointed legs with wheels on the end. Its body had dark, shiny panels which spread out to either side like wings. As she watched it turned and then rolled backward and forward again, almost as if it was performing its own dance. Then it stopped and a metal arm reached out, scooped up a small amount of dirt, and then retracted again.
Mote let herself drift down the dust devil currents to get a better look. She was almost even with one of the wings when a sudden gust of wind blew her right out of the dust devil and into the side of the rolling contraption. She found herself caught on a rolled edge of thin metal deep under the wing. As she struggled to get loose, Mote felt the machine jerk and then bump up and down as it rolled back across the fields. She could see the farmer and his daughter, Janie, standing at the edge of the field. Janie had taken a job in another state and usually returned only at Christmas. Mote was surprised to see her. Once the vehicle rolled to a stop, she could hear them talking.
“Well, what do you think, Dad?”
“Pretty cool, honey. Can’t believe you graduated from those darned Lincoln logs you were always leaving around the house to a robot dune buggy.”
“Technically it’s a scientific sample and analysis station,” Janie laughed. “I don’t think they’ll let me race it, but it is still pretty cool.” Mote could hear the pride in Janie’s voice. “Thanks for letting me drive it around. I just needed to see it maneuver in the real world one more time. Better load it back up though. So far as the brass at Acme Space Exploration know, this was just a rest stop. We should reach the launch facility tomorrow. Then I’ve got two weeks of testing and last minute tweaks before our launch window opens.”
“We’ll be right here, watching. Going to be pretty nifty to see this thing drop out of a rocket and land on Mars.”
“That’s the hope.”
Mote’s mind was racing. Did he say “Mars?” Was this “dune buggy” really going into outer space? Mote couldn’t decide if she should fling herself to safety or try to stay right where she was. Two weeks were a long time. Anything could happen. What if she ended up as a smudge on the floor of some warehouse or trapped in a vacuum bag in the closet? She looked down at the ground passing beneath her but couldn’t bring herself to let go. Pretty soon, the wheels rolled onto a ramp and up into the back of a truck. Mote’s choice was made.
The next two weeks passed slowly for Mote. She was racked with doubt. The Rover, as she’d learned the vehicle was called, spent most of its time in the lab undergoing various tests on its circuitry. There were no breezes. Not even a view from a window. The air smelled of microwaved snack food and stale coffee. Mote was sure she’d made a terrible mistake.
Then she heard Janie tell one her co-workers, “So far weather looks perfect for tomorrow. Give the Rover a thorough air wash so it’s pristine and we’ll load it this afternoon.”
The air wash nearly sent Mote flying across the room but she squished herself as far back into the crevice and held on with all her might. She held on again when the rumble and shake of liftoff nearly threw her from her spot. And she held on and on and on for through nearly nine months of weightlessness as the rocket traveled from Earth to Mars. Several times boredom nearly got the best of her. The temptation to let go and at least float about was tremendous, but Mote clung determinedly to the Rover.
Then, one day, Mote heard a mechanism within the rocket and then felt a tremendous jerk. A short while later, the walls around her ejected and could see the planet below rushing up at her. She was falling from space! After another jerk, she could feel the heat of thruster rockets firing and the rover began to descend more slowly, ultimately landing with jarring thud and a bounce—but landing all the same.
After a few minutes, the Rover began rolling forward. Mote could feel warm sunshine reflecting up from the ground below her. She went to jump off the rover but she’d squeezed herself so firmly into the lip of metal that she was now stuck. Desperate, she pushed and wriggled and pushed some more. The rover stopped moving forward and reached out to take a sample. Just then a swirl of air flowed over the Rover, sweeping Mote along with it. Mote was disoriented for a moment but then with joy she recognized the familiar journey upward. Even though her fellow riders were strange and new, they bumped and danced with the same delight.
Back at the farm, Soot couldn’t believe what she was seeing on the living room TV. “Hey guys, GUYS,” she shouted. “Mote’s dancing in a dust devil on Mars.”
Copyright 2015 Marnie Schroer All Rights Reserved
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