There are no laws on Mars, just agreements. I say this because when the extraction ship comes in 126 sols, I want you to know this was an agreement. I myself have endured more than I could ever try to convey in words.
I am aware this is my first entry into the log. Whilst there have been opportunities to record in the log this is the first time I have felt it necessary to report on the situation. My reluctance to follow protocol is for reasons you will soon understand.
Our lander was way off its trajectory as you must now know. We crashed badly, striking a canyon wall which exploded the inflatables that would have cushioned our controlled descent. The supply pod was crushed and torn free, followed by half the living quarters. Thompson and Gill both died, Thompson was ripped out of the capsule and his body is somewhere out there in the sand, still strapped in its seat I suspect. Gill’s helmet was smashed so he was exposed to the Martian atmosphere – he didn’t last long, I would say two minutes. I had to watch him, it was not pleasant.
When we impacted into the surface, the lander rolled several times and when it came to a stop it was upright at least. I detached a retina and broke a rib but these were, considering everything, relatively minor injuries.
Captain Ross and I were determined to recover what we could when it was clear the mission objectives were impossible, and this had turned into a survival experiment. We managed to repair the remains of the living quarters to a standard that allowed us to move around without our space suits. Oxygen and water generators were also intact, otherwise I would not be writing this. We realised quickly we had no food. There were no rations, no algae cultures, nothing. It was all destroyed in the crash.
We did have the one body, Gill.
It may sound callous, we were of course horrified but also in some way, relieved. We carefully placed his remains in the freezer. We had no choice about what we did next. Gill would have understood. In the 19th Century they called what we did the ‘custom of the sea’. We discussed the eventuality in a training briefing. In the session they instructed us to read the story of the 1972 Andes plane crash, where the Uruguayan rugby team ate the frozen human remains of the dead on the plane, whilst stuck on a mountain. We have literally been trained for everything, so we knew how to dissect the body and what to keep for food. We stored the organs we could eat and the rest was useful in other ways for material resources. Still, eating Gill was obviously not something we had been expecting. It took a psychological adjustment.
This is not what I am attempting to prepare you for, I am afraid this was just the beginning, somewhere around sol 20. We did for the record, try water and vitamins. We knew that in 1965 a Scottish man, Angus Barbieri, fasted for 382 days on tea, coffee, soda, water and vitamins, so it was technically possible – but how he did that, it’s beyond me. Just two sols without real food and it’s a living hell, I can testify to that. When you know you are surrounded by nothing, your choices become clearer in some ways. Your body knows what it wants. It really does, even on a metaphysical level.
One thing we did was research, we had two hard drives of data on archives that we salvaged from the stream of wreckage in the red sands. We found some information about a man lost on a life raft at sea, he managed to fish with a line and he said, ‘his body knew what parts to eat and the soft parts, the eyes, were full of delicious juices’. That’s what he said. Nobody on Earth is allowed to study starvation for ethical reasons, but I can tell you now, that man, was right. Eyeballs taste juicy. I have never known such pleasure in my entire life. The pop, the resistance, the liquid that trickles down your throat. You feel like a plant in a desert receiving a rain drop on its leaf.
Captain Ross was captain for a reason. I know that now more than ever. In selection you know what they are looking for, but you can’t fake it. That man is hard as nails but understands what is needed to keep his crew safe, to keep them going. We rationed Gill fairly well but when he was gone, that was that. I ate most of his organs. I ate his liver, his heart, his kidneys, his thighs, his cheeks, his belly, but his eyes were the last thing I consumed – what’s that phrase, ‘save the best till last’. It had become normal surprisingly quickly. I no longer believe in God. I do believe however, in life. It is more important than a billion stars or a trillion dead rock planets. Life is sacred. I should also add I have been hallucinating and the visions are so incredible that I believe I am close to something that is almost impossible to communicate. You take away all distractions and things appear before you, solid, real and alive. I saw her you know, as if we were taking some time together, just taking in a slow day. I made a promise to her I’d come back you see. I think life is about listening to your needs, finding time to do that. I have lots of time now, and lots of needs. It is all coming together.
My captain, he sat me down. We had finished the rations and knew that the long haul was coming still. He asked me simply: “This is an idea, a mutual choice.”
I knew what he was proposing before he said it.
He broke me in with a joke. He said, “A man drives by a farm and sees a farmer with a pig next to him with three legs. The man says, ‘why does that pig only have three legs?’ Farmer replies, ‘that pig is special, my house was burning down so that beautiful pig trots in and drags me out and saves me from the flames’. ‘I see,’ says the man, ‘But that doesn’t answer my question?’ ‘Well,’ says the farmer, ‘With a pig that special you can’t eat him all in one go…”
We entered an agreement. We did not want to go on without real food. It was important.
We identified the less necessary flesh. There were parts of our thighs and muscles we could scrape for strips of sustenance. We had local anesthetics and first aid kits so it was possible to take parts without much pain, initially anyway.
We made meals into rituals, and we turned the taking of flesh into sacred moments. It became something special. It felt strangely religious giving in to the little mutilations of ourselves and already we have become frail ghosts, yet inside I can only report that I have never been stronger. I most recently gave my eye. I had lost sight in it anyway, so we both agreed it was a good decision to remove it and make a problem into a solution. I am convinced I will make it.
I have to report now, that the captain, he very recently became so weak that he fell asleep for two days. I put him in the freezer and he is now in a coma. It is difficult without a companion which is why I am writing to you now. I do intend to eat his body parts that are less vital, until the arrival of help.
I understand that on Earth this seems like an escalation into depravity but I can tell you now, we have shared ourselves in ways no one could possibly understand.
I am not certain if I will be writing another entry into the log before the extraction but I want you to know, I am alive and I look forward to my return trip to Earth, so I can embrace my daughter again. As the only woman and parent in the crew, I believe I have a unique perspective on what has occurred here on Mars. I can say with certainty that this experience has given me an intimate understanding of the meaning of flesh. One last thing, when the rescue team sees us, please prepare them for unusual sights. We have changed.