Chapter 13: Tomorrow's Dreams
Quaid had forgotten how cold Mars could be. But the shock of the artic temperatures was instantly overwhelmed by the realization that he couldn't breathe. The planet's ultra-low air pressure had immediately sucked all the air out of his lungs. His throat squealed and rasped as he tried to inhale air that didn't exist.
He was swelling up. Everywhere. His face, his hands; he could even feel his neck swelling. His eyes were being slowly extruded out of their sockets. His skin felt as if it were about to explode. Blood was in his mouth and was dribbling from his nose and ears. Quaid writhed in agony.
A cloud of swirling steam rolled over him. That helped some. It gave a breath of warmth, and his eyes stopped their outward migration.
Quaid struggled up onto one elbow. His deformed eyeballs could make out Melina not too far away, writhing and struggling. Beyond her was another human form which must have been Lori. It was splattered and soaked with blood and lay quite still.
Another swirl of steam brought him even more relief. Quaid prayed that this wasn't just wishful thinking, but it felt as if his eyes were slipping back into his head. He split blood away. The swelling was going down; he was sure of it.
He craned his head around and saw more swirling clouds of stream rolling down the slope of Pyramid Mountain towards them. The steam swept over him, and he found he could breathe again. But trying made him cough up blood, which he spat out.
The top of the mountain had been ripped off, and a massive column of steam was roaring skywards and then spreading out. It looked up there like an ever-growing nimbus cloud – a nimbus cloud here on cloudless Mars! Lighting flashed within the dark cloud. It must have been thundering too, but the shriek of the winds drowned out all out sounds.
Quaid tried to stand but could only push himself up into a sitting position. He wiped away the blood from his ears, nose and mouth. He blinked his eyes, surprised at how dry and rough they felt. He inhaled. It felt wondrous to breathe again!
Melina was now up on one elbow. Lori hadn't moved.
Another swirling cloud of steam brought more relief. As more and more steam belched out of the mountain, the air began to quiet. The howl of the winds became more of a whistle.
Quaid tried again to stand up and made it this time. He swayed unsteadily. He wiped the last of the blood from his face and, like a drunk coming home from an all-night bender, stumbled and staggered over to Melina. He extended a hand, she placed her tiny hand in his large one, and he pulled her up.
She tried to talk, at first with no success. Then she managed to croak out, "Hauser, don't anyone ever tell you that you don't know how to show a girl a good time." She gave him a bloody smile.
He acknowledged her joke with a feeble nod and then made his way over to Lori.
She had been the first person ejected from the mines, back when there was almost no atmosphere out here. Whatever Quaid had experienced when he was ejected, Lori had had it ten times worse. She had eventually burst open like an overripe melon. Her ruptured organs were scattered all over the landscape.
Melina's voice asked, "Did you know her?"
"Are you sorry she's dead?"
Quaid turned and looked into Melina's dark eyes, eyes which sometimes could be hard as flint but were now soft and gentle as a doe's. "I'm sorry that she had to be killed. Towards the end, she was like a mad dog."
They held hands then, like a couple of school kids. They strolled up onto a promontory and gazed down on the shattered dome which, until a few moments ago, had kept the people of Mars safe from the planet's killer environment.
People were gazing out in wonder at the blue sky and also at the rain clouds that were gathering. It hadn't rained on Mars for a million years.
The mutants from Venusville were walking over the shards of glass, coming out onto a rocky shelf, looking up in wonder at Quaid and Melina as they stood erect without spacesuits on the red soil of Mars.
Quaid nodded. "They have a future now."
"What about us?" asked Melina. "Do we have a future?"
He recalled some of Lori's last words: "You never loved me. You love her. You love Melina."
Quaid gathered Melina into his arms and kissed her, kissed her with such hot passion that it could have melted the ice way out on Pluto.
Sometimes, he thought, sometimes dreams really do come true.