MARS1, by Ashleigh Whittle


“And on the left, you can see a female resting on her bed. Females are generally smaller than males. If you look closely, you can see her breasts are larger than that of her male counterpart. On Earth, the female’s breasts are heavily sexualised in the media, leading to some females engaging in surgery to enlarge their breasts.” The Keeper continued his speech for the small Martian group who gaped at the enclosed woman. There was a tall thick pane of glass separating the woman from the crowd. She was huddled on a thin mattress with her back pressed against the wall. Her face was sullen and lined with sadness. Two braids entwined her limp hair, drawing it back from her face. She had lived in the compound her whole life. Bred in captivity.

“Does she know she comes from Earth?” A young Martian man raised his voice over the murmuring crowd.

“She has no memories or knowledge of her heritage. She is one of the last remaining descendants of the war party that came to our planet in 2025 Earth years. They crashed not far from this site in a space vehicle containing four men and three women.” The Keeper looked sadly towards the cordoned off woman. The Martian group began chatting excitedly. One small Martian child stepped towards the Keeper.

“What’s her name?” The child asked, resting a tiny palm on the glass shield.

“She is called Eve, after the first Earth Woman. She may be the last Earth Woman on Mars” the Keeper’s voice trailed off, his eyes locked on the trapped woman’s gaze. The chattering group moved down the viewing compound. The Keeper prepared to step away from the glass.

“Help.” The Earth Woman whispered. Her gaze sought out her Keeper’s eyes, begging him to look at her.

“Please, stop this. You know I cannot help you.” His reply was small and quiet. Inside he was fighting down his desires. She provoked him in ways that were uncouth, ways he should not allow himself to feel.

Seeing the group had moved away, she let go of her knees, slowly lowering her feet to the floor. The Keeper gasped. Above her thighs rested a large mound, round and protruding. She stood, moved to the glass and pressed her palm against the pane. Stood straight, there was no mistaking it.

“But…” Words failed the Keeper. How could he not have realised this would happen? His thoughts wrestled with one another, making his gut wrench with guilt and fear.

“What is going to happen to me?” Her voice shook in trepidation. Her eyes filled with tears.

“Nothing.” The word escaped the Keeper’s lips before he knew what he was saying. Eve’s eyes widened and she stepped back from the glass.

“Nothing is going to happen. No one is going to hurt you. I will help you —” and with a quick glance at the evacuating group, he strode towards the locked door leading to her enclosure. Quickly thumbing the security lock, he jerked the door open and marched into the brightly lit room. Eve gasped as he grabbed her forearm and tugged her after him. He looked again towards the exit, checking the group had left the compound. He couldn’t see anybody. His breath coming quick and shallow, he fled from the compound with a frightened and pregnant Eve in tow.


Whispers cut the air. Cloaked figures twittered noisily up and down upon their seats. An electric smoke coiled around their hoods. Drops of spit fell from their shadowed faces, as lips quivered with excitement.


Unanimously, all heads twisted to the speaker. It was as if the air had sucked in its own breath in anticipation. Everything was still.

“I see you have heard the news.”

One Plutonian Councillor exploded in excitement.

“Yes, my lord, it’s true! Oh, it’s true, I could not wait—” Pluto lifted his hand and clicked his fingers. The onslaught of chatter was abruptly halted. A scream pierced a needle through the darkness. A rush of wind bellowed through the chamber. The Councillor’s hooded figure lay still where he had landed upon the ground.

“Do not interrupt me. I do not require a commentary. Now…” Pluto lay down his hand upon the stone table again. Some of the hooded faces flickered towards the splayed body on the floor, before returning to their leader.

“It has been confirmed. There is a child born of Earth hidden somewhere on our brother planet.” He paused. The words oozed around the room. His audience was completely immersed. Some leaned forward, scuttling in their seats to get closer to his presence.

“I have also been informed of the price on its head. This child, at this moment, is the most hunted body in the universe. And I will have him.” With both hands he gripped the hem of his own hood and pulled it down. Gasps ensued around the table.

His black, curling mane shook loose. The flesh upon his face bulged and stretched over his cutting bone structure. The muscles in his cheeks flushed a deep purple. On the descent from his hood, the skin on the back of his fingers brushed lightly against his thick, dark beard. Electrical sparks flashed at each connection. They spluttered and burned, until a foreboding smoke hazed across his face. His glistening eyebrows relaxed upon their temple. Each line etched into his brow was firm and strong. He waited for the smoke to pass.

“My brother and sister have designed a sequence to pursue and exterminate it. As of yet, they have been unsuccessful. What they are not aware of however, is of my involvement.” He paused again. He wanted them to yearn for his information, to beg for it. The corners of his lips twisted into a wry smile.

“I have already plotted its location. I require a team for its collection. I desire only the most loyal subjects to be of service.”

An uproar of shrieks erupted around the table; hands were thrust into the air and clawed others down. Feet stamped, chests were beaten, voices screamed of their devotion to their leader.

Pluto raised his hand and clicked his fingers.

Twenty hooded bodies dropped to the floor. The dark material of their cloaks sheathed their crumpled figures, broken.

Four remained standing. They slowly turned to their leader. Pluto’s mouth once more straightened to a line. His eyes narrowed.

“I will have that child.”

MARS commentary

MARS is an excerpt from a novel I am in the process of writing that blends science with Roman mythology. I was fascinated by NASA’s upcoming plans to go to Mars, so this novel is an imagining of what they may find there. In this instance, they find that the Roman Gods and Goddesses actually reside and control the planets of their name. This gave me plenty of scope for character development, particularly with Pluto. As Pluto is God of the Underworld, it seemed fitting to construct a sinister character. This aspect was constructed through specific linguistic choices such as: “I require a team for its collection. I desire only the most loyal subjects to be of service”. Here, I created a voice that was direct and clinical, whilst also showing Pluto to be a megalomaniac. His language made it easy for the reader to categorise him as the villain, as he problematizes an already dire situation. Somehow, my writing always seems to include some kind of religious reference. In this novel, there is a child born from parents of Mars and Earth. Pluto plans to hunt down this child, as part of his grand scheme to gain rule over his rival planets (Mars and Venus). This hunt emulates the legendary story of Herod and Jesus, and the length he was willing to go to kill one child. The effect is one where the people of Earth are shown to be weak against the other planets, and we will not survive.


TerraTwophoto.jpg Ashleigh Whittle

Ashleigh Whittle is a recent graduate of English Literature and Creative Writing at York St John University. She is currently undertaking the MA Creative Writing course whilst working as a Graduate Intern in the Careers department. Her favourite authors are J.K. Rowling, Karin Slaughter and Margaret Atwood. Her passion lies within volunteering, where she is presently planning a writing project including the students of YSJ and KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porter Assistance Project).