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It is all fake. It looks real. It looks like Earth but of course it isn’t. On close inspection, there’s no substance to it. It’s all facade. I know what it is, It’s me. This planet is trying to give me what I want, trying to make me feel at home. It’s kind of sweet in a twisted way.

I remember when my lifeboat first landed here. Everything was so strange, so alien. The plants were orange and looked more like coral than anything I’d ever seen. After a few sleep cycles the sky was blue and the grass was green. It was as if the planet read my mind and was trying to make me feel at home. I know that sounds crazy but how else to explain this place? It’s like a movie set. It’s the landscape of my boyhood home in New Hampshire. There are the White Mountains, Wilmer’s Pond, the apple orchard, the woods behind my house where I used to play. I expect to hear my long dead mother calling me to wash up for dinner. It’s all here, but not really; it’s an illusion. Try and climb the apple tree and you’ll see what I mean. The tree’s trunk looks round and smooth but it’s bony and rough to the touch; the branches look leafy but there are no leaves, not really; and the apples, I dare you to try and pick one. Go on, reach your hand and pick one, you’ll see it’s just a dream.

I’ve been living off the local biota since the crash, weird tasting creatures that sometimes look like squirrels, sometimes hares except they aren’t either. Once the veil of illusion is pierced and the reality is revealed, the creature reverts back to what it really is—more a multi-legged slime mold than a squirrel. I have my sidearm and I use it to bring down some of the larger animals. The planet makes them look like the familiar animals of my youth. The other day I shot a deer, but it wasn’t anything like a deer, really. A real deer would have fed me for a month, but this hallucination dressed out to hardly more than a rabbit’s worth of meat. You can’t trust anything on this world.

Several times now I’ve dreamed about rescue only to see the fantasy projection of a ship landing off in the distance. The first time I got so excited I ran off waving my arms in the air, shouting for joy. There was, of course, nothing there. The second time I walked to the ship which looked substantial enough from a distance but, close up, proved to be just a mirage. The third time I didn’t even bother to go. After that there were no more rescue fantasies.

I get the feeling this world is trying very hard to make me happy. I don’t know why but that seems to be the case. I’ll give you an example: the other night I had an erotic dream. I’m a young man and those things happen naturally to men my age. Anyway, a day or two later this woman appears at my camp. Of course it’s a phantom but this time it was one I wanted. She looked vaguely like a girl I used to know, I forget her name, but I called the hallucination Kyra after my old sweetheart. Kyra didn’t speak but her presence was a comfort and I spoke to her endlessly. She’d smile and appeared to listen but, like everything else on this world, she was fake. One day, for no reason, I poured boiling water on her. She didn’t scream, she just disappeared. I felt bad about killing Kyra but not so bad that I didn’t kill her a few more times over the years.

When we abandoned ship, I shared a lifeboat with four crew mates. The Calamity. That was my ship, the SS Calamity— not the most propitious name for a space ship as it turned out. When she hit that rock, I didn’t see many life boats get away. I guess we were five of the lucky ones. Our good luck soon turned into a nightmare. We drifted for weeks, slowly dying. Rations were gone, air was scarce, lots were drawn. I’m not proud of what I did, but survival makes a man do desperate things and, if nothing else, I learned some things about myself I hadn’t known.

Several times the planet has sent those ghostly images to me. My four buddies come and sit with me around the fire. I apologize to them for what I did. They sit there mute, half eaten and forgiving until I can’t bear the guilt any longer and kill them all over again. I think this world has come to understand that not all my dreams are pleasant and not every memory begs to be revisited. At least I haven’t see my old ship mates for quite some time.
The only possible explanation I can think of for this world’s behavior is that somehow this planet is conscious. Not only conscious but lonely, possibly female and doing it’s best to seduce me into loving it. Of course, I don’t know any of this for certain and I may very well be out of my mind, but this is what I believe. I miss Earth, so she re-creates the Earth for me or her best approximation of a place she’s never seen, scraped together from bits and pieces of my memory. I long for familiar things, so she does her best to supply them. I want companions, she makes Kyra and my old shipmates for my amusement. I can’t say she’s won my heart, but you have to admit it is touching in a bizarre sort of way.

I know now that I’ll never be allowed to leave this world. Even if a rescue ship lands, I will not be permitted to leave with them. I know this because of what happened several weeks ago. I was at my camp in the New Hampshire woods. The sun, as always, was shining. Kyra was there looking delicious in a short skirt and translucent blouse. I could just make out the outline of her breasts. I was telling her some lame old story I’d probably told her a dozen times before. She was smiling like always, when I noticed a flash of light and the streak of a descending space craft over her left shoulder. Having been hoodwinked before, I wasn’t about to drop everything and go off expecting anything real. I remember telling Kyra, “I thought you’d given up on that tired old trick.” This time, however, she looked perplexed and her pretty face scowled back at me.

Not more than a half an hour later, a dark cloud blotted out the sun and the air grew cold. It was the first time I had experienced anything other than perfect weather in all my time on the planet. It was startling. A wind came up and a brief thunderstorm complete with thunder, lightening and pouring rain drove me into my shelter. This was something new and unexpected. I wondered if I’d done something wrong and that maybe the world was annoyed at me.

As the storm raged, I looked out and saw Kyra still sitting where she was when the storm began. She appeared to be thinking. Then just as suddenly, the sky cleared and the sun shone down on my perfect world. Kyra was standing and signaling me to follow her. She often guided me on hunting trips and I had come to rely on her especially for the bigger game.

We made our way through the familiar forest for a mile or two. At the top of a rise, Kyra motioned for me to hide. I gladly complied. I knew that whatever game it was, it was not going to be what it appeared, but I couldn’t help but feel excited by the thrill of the hunt. I was a kid again in the woods with my uncle and my dad. I lay still and waited.

I wasn’t prepared for the small herd of elk that crested the hill before me, but Kyra urged me to shoot them all. I knew I wasn’t going to be eating elk steaks for the next year, but I didn’t care. I shot to kill and with four quick shots I left four dead elk. No not elk, of course they weren’t, What lay dead on the ground were human beings, four of them, two men and two women. When the mirage was dispelled and the reality of what I had done was revealed, naturally I was stunned. I expected to be tricked but not into murder. I had slaughtered my rescuers. I was angry and disappointed. I railed at Kyra before shooting her too. She, of course, just vanished. I knew she’d be back. As for the rescue team, well, they weren’t elk but they weren’t bad eating either. After a while, I forgave Kyra and we’ve had many a pleasant meal together since.


Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of The Greer Agency, A Felony of Birds and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, FriedFiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and several other obscure publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at:

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