The light breeze woke her up with a start. The whole world slowly came to life. She lay flat on her back staring up at the sky. A night sky; a new night sky filled with new stars. Despite some of the classes she took to learn about the night sky of the old Earth, nothing except the dusty, warped streak of the galaxy across the sky seemed familiar. It was quite a beautiful sight, really, she had to admit. She could have lain beneath this sky forever and not get bored at gazing up at it. But she was awoken to reality when she remembered the jagged crack that had existed on her helmet and saw that it was no longer there, along with all the glass that had belonged in the circular frame around her face. Atlas gasped, now realizing where she was and what was going on. Her first thought was that she was going to die from the lack of oxygen, but after laying tensed up for a long moment, she felt quite fine. She freed up her air way and took a sip of air as a test. It felt good. Amazing. It was clean, untouched air.
With the helmet now being useless, without moving from her spot on the ground, she twisted it off her head. She let it fall to the soil beside her head. She stared at it for a moment, mesmerized, taking a moment to rethink through what had just happened. Though the memories previous to her black out seemed so vivid, she couldn't quite grasp them. She didn't know whether it was because she had gotten a bump to the head, (Probably during the event that caused all the glass in her helmet to shatter) or that none of it really happened; maybe just a dream while she was out.
While she was hard in thought, staring at the helmet as if expecting it to give her an answer, something so gentle lifted her from the chamber of thoughts. The trickle of running water.
She nearly sat up in a flash, but the intense gravity made her have to lay herself back down as it abused her soar muscles. Though her heart leaped with a certain joy and gave off an almost irresistible curiosity, she had to struggle to contain herself. Instead, she rolled herself over to her front, with great effort, so she could push herself up with her hands. It wasn't a beautiful sight but she managed to get to her feet, having to splay her legs to keep balance. The additional weight of her space suit wasn't helping her cope with the gravity.
Atlas turned several times, trying to see what her ears had hinted towards, and it was true. Her heart skipped a beat as her face grew into a huge smile at the sight. Regardless of the fact that so far this planet only seemed to have dry, dusty plains; in between the jagged, orange tinted rocks in the ground was a small stream washing by.
This was it! This was perfect! The planet contained life supporting features! It was habitable- her joyous thoughts were interrupted by a rustle from right behind her. As she slowly turned, her glee turned to terror as she saw what stood, staring at her. She was correct. The planet was habitable. And was already inhabited...
There was a very odd, tall, dry tree standing through the soil, and behind it, was a dark figure nearly as tall as the tree. It stood on four muscular legs and atop its broad shoulders sat a head with two, huge, dark eyes staring right at her. Though this beast stood twice as high as Atlas's standing height, it dipped its head low to her eye level as it stepped out from behind the tree, eyes unblinking, seeming to study her. She had never heard of a creature like this before, yet some of its features looked familiar. Dr Tarik had a passion for them old mammals of Earth, therefore had many photographs of the taped to his wall. This animal seemed most like- what were they called?- Wolves. It had a slender body and long legs with padded feet, except its head. She said it would look like a bears, except for its unusually large eyes.
Atlas felt her heart rate quicken as it slowly edged towards her. All she wanted to do was run, but she nailed herself to the ground. She would have a snowballs chance in hell of outrunning this beast. But still, she couldn't quite see many other bright sides to staying put. This thing was getting so close to her she could feel the puffs of air from its nostrils as it exhaled. But it didn't seem to have any intentions to do harm. For all she knew. What was it doing? Was it going to kill her?
Atlas let out a choked sob that had been uncomfortably sitting in the back of her throat, and at this movement, the beast shrunk back; its small tufts of ears sinking back and its eyes giving a flash of fright. Quickly, it turned and gave a magnificent leap that flung it back behind the tree, watching her now like a frightened puppy. Now Atlas noticed the most unusual feature to this alien. Protruding from its rump was a tail. A long, slender tail that seemed maybe twenty feet long; halfway up it splayed into two. These two splayed ends reached up into the tree and gripped around the branches nervously.
They sat for a long moment, staring at each other, not knowing who was more scared. Atlas had no idea what to do. This was an alien! How was she supposed to know if this was normal behavior? If it was a sign of friendliness or a pre- killing ritual.
Finally she couldn't take it anymore and dared herself to take a small step in its direction. As she planted her right boot into new soil, the creature made a soft growl in the back of its throat. Atlas clenched her eyes shut, preparing herself to have the creature lunge at her, but it didn't. Instead she opened her eyes when she heard the sound of snapping sticks as it leaped into the cluster of twiggy bushes behind the tree. The rustling and cracking noises faded quickly as it pranced away.
Atlas looked around nervously, not quite knowing what to do next. She took a glance back at the stream as its ripples glistened in the moonlight. Beyond it lay miles of dusty plain until it was interrupted by a range of high, jagged mountains in the distance. This sight seemed to exist on every horizon around her except the bushes behind her. Beyond the tree, the white branches of the bushes stood tall and eerily in the night. Thought it didn't seem promising, it was more than the dead land that stretched out behind her.
Taking a deep breath, fighting the painful fear in her chest, Atlas stepped forward towards the tree and pushed herself through the stiff twigs of the bushes, following the path of the beast.
She was deep within this strange forest, the branches standing around her like an evil army as she entered a small clearing. She had been walking for hours, her long, dark hair that was falling out of its pony-tail was slicked with sweat. Though her space suit added a substantial amount of weight to her, she didn't take it off; it was really the only thing protecting her from the elements. The absence of the suns gave the air an icy touch against her cheeks.
She stopped in the middle of the clearing and looked up. The stars were still twinkling; and although the moon seemed to be setting, another one (of slightly smaller size) was drifting into view. Although she was terribly lost, having no clue how to get back to the tree and stream, it was the only light that guided her. It gave off her faint shadow against the bumpy, dirt ground; which was were she decided to sit. She lent up against a large boulder that stuck out of the soil and let out a great sigh of relief as she relaxed her muscles. The gravity had worn her down so quickly. She gazed up at the sky as her eyes became heavy. Maybe this would be a good place to take a break, she thought. Maybe just sit for a while, her eyes became heavier. Or maybe... catch a couple of winks...
The crack of thunder woke her from her dreamless sleep. Her eyes snapped open and she felt the cold taps as raindrops fit her face. Immediately she looked up to see that all the stars and moons had left her and dark clouds had taken their place. She was left in complete darkness, except for the sudden flash of a lightening bolt as it struck across the sky right above her. She let out a scream and threw herself down, landing face first into the mud. The mighty clap of thunder shook around her.
She lifted her head from the sludge in a attempt to take a look around her, but it didn't matter if she had mud covering her eyes, it was still too dark to see. So while she waited for the next strike of lightening, she swept the mud away from her eyes with the cleanest part of her glove she could find.
A brief moment later, another flash of lightening quickly revealed itself. It provided her a moment to take in her surroundings. Though there wasn't much to see except the tall bushes that she knew were already there, she noticed something in the mud right next to her head. Thunder rumbled into the distance when she realized what it was: a giant four toed footprint.
Atlas's heart began to pump faster. She didn't know whether to feel relieved or scared. She knew this was the footprint of the beast she had met earlier. Yes, the thing seemed deadly, and if it wanted, could kill her with one swipe of its huge, clawed paw; But this thing might know the way. Maybe if she managed to follow it a little better this time she could find some shelter.
She placed her hand in the print in the mud to study its features. It was so large that her whole hand could fit in one toe mark. She began to feel around for others, but it seemed hopeless. Without any light it was almost impossible. The rain had probably washed away any other prints.
Lightening had not struck for several minutes and Atlas was beginning to become annoyed. She abandoned her hunt for more tracks and just sat on her knees, tilting her head up towards the open sky above her and feeling the downpour of rain hit her face; desperate for anything that could guide her, silently praying to a god that she knew was not there.
The sound of the raindrops as they hit the bushes around her was the only sound that filled her ears. Though the sound, that she had not heard in what seemed to be forever, at first seemed to be the most soothing sound she had ever heard, it now began to make her feel angry. The repetitive pitter-patter was the sound that reminded her of her failure and vulnerability. She couldn't do anything except sit alone in the dark.
But a sudden change in the sounds around her broke her away from her grief. A huff. Right next to her too. She turned her face away from the sky and quickly looked in the direction to where she had heard it. Right in those bushes, she was certain.
Her heart seemed to stop, along with all time. She stared into the unknown shadows for a brief moment that felt like eternity until a bolt of lightening vanquished the shadows for a moment. She saw it. Sitting between the branches in the bushes was the immense face of the beast. The rain had soaked its dark coat of fur, but its wide eyes remained on her. She only saw it for a second, and now knew it was there.
The sound of its deep breaths now seemed to over power the sound of the rain all around her. She stared into the shadows of where she last seen it for a long moment, listening to the rhythmic breaths as it inhaled and exhaled through its nostrils. When this went on for a little while, she worked up the courage to speak.
"H-hello?" She called. She heard the breathing abruptly stop as she finished. She waited- terrified of what was going to come next. Suddenly she heard the slight rustle of branches being pushed next to her as the beast began to move. Atlas held her breath as she waited to find out what it was doing. The next strike of lightening revealed. It now stood right in front of her in the clearing, its face only a foot away from hers. She held in a cry of fright at the sight and felt the puff of the beasts breath hit her face.
Atlas clenched her eyes shut as tight as she could, hoping that maybe she might just fall unconscious so she didn't have to go through what the beast was about to do to her. She knew she wouldn't be that lucky. Suddenly she felt something touch her waist area and a squeak of terror escaped her lips. She was about to push herself away from the beast and begin flinging her arms and legs in any bit of defense she could, but didn't. Whatever it was that was touching her torso began to wrap around her ever so lightly. She opened her eyes, looked down and grasped her gloved hands around whatever it was. Though it was dark, she somehow knew that it was its tail.
It lifted her up off the ground smoothly and carried her into air. Something within Atlas told her not to resist. It placed her down ever so gently again and Atlas gripped her fingers through the soaked fur of the back of the beast. The tail slipped away from around her and she lay her head against the body of the beast, listening to its thundering heart beat. She felt its muscles begin to move as it started to walk gently through the forest of eerie bushes. Atlas closed her eyes and let the beast take her wherever it was it wanted. She listened to the next clap of thunder and realized that she did not care nor was she concerned. She wasn't quite sure what it was, but for the first time in a long time, she felt truly safe...