Escape Pod 680: A Barrow for the Living

A Barrow for the Living

by Alison Wilgus

​Sitting on cold deck plates which in turn sit on Mars, Desiree wonders why they bother to monitor the entry, descent and landing for these resupply missions at all, as only the outcome matters. Either the capsule will survive, and so will they. Or some part of the EDL will fail, and the cargo will be lost, and their splinter of a settlement will disappear into the dust.

“The aeroshell has entered the atmosphere,” says Vika. She is cross-legged on the floor and hunched over her laptop, the hood of her greasy sweatshirt drawn up around her face. The benches became shelves when they closed off the other modules; there is nowhere else to sit. “We’re in communications blackout.”

​Desiree’s legs are stretched out in front of her, her back against a crate filled with a dead woman’s belongings, her feet pressed to the door of the toilet. She takes another bite of the protein bar that she’s been nursing since yesterday. She doesn’t care about this and would leave the room to do something else — absolutely anything else — if she could. But there are no other rooms.

​Zoh is wrapped in a once-yellow blanket, red dust cemented with sweat and tears into stains that look like old blood. She and Vika are touching at the knee and at the elbow. Zoh is looking at the laptop screen, its light casting a blue shadow across her face, but Vika continues to read the EDL progress aloud. Not for Desiree, certainly. Maybe for Marisha, who would have cared if she were still alive.

​”Comm is back,” says Vika. “Parachute successfully deployed.”

​Desiree tries to remember who even launched this resupply. Not the CNSA, China sent the last one and they never exceed the minimum. NASA EDL doesn’t use parachutes anymore. Roskosmos, then? Vika would know, but she doesn’t like to ask Vika questions.

​”Retro-propulsion has fired,” says Vika. “Ten seconds until end of burn.”

​Zoh leans closer to the screen. She reaches out for Vika’s arm and her fingers close on a fold of sweatshirt fabric.

​”Engines cut,” says Vika. “Five seconds.”

​Desiree scrapes rusty sludge from under her nails and smears it on her thigh. They never let her go outside anymore, but Mars is everywhere. Her snot has been brown for years.

​”Impact,” says Vika. “Everything looks nominal. The capsule’s fine.”

​Zoh relaxes her grip. “How far?”

​Vika frowns. “They hit the landing ellipse.”

​Zoh peers at the screen, impatient. “All the way on the northern edge.”

​”One hundred forty-three kilometers.”

​Desiree pushes herself up, palms on the floor and then the top of a storage crate. Her joints ache as they compress under her weight, but she’s more worried about the way the floor lurches beneath her, the jump in her pulse and sudden quickness of her breath. They ran out of CO2 filters weeks ago. The air is a stale, slow poison.

​Desiree waits for the dizziness to pass, then reaches for her shoes. “I’ll take the golf cart,” she says.

​Vika closes the laptop with a sharp plastic snap and tucks it under her arm as she stands. “We’ll use the rover,” she says. She reaches down to Zoh, who takes the offered hand and is pulled to her feet, still clutching the blanket around her shoulders.

​Desiree snorts. “It’s a waste to pressurize that thing. Not for a supply pickup. I’ll throw the cargo in the cart’s flatbed, we can sort it out here in the hab.”

​They are all standing, now, all much too close together, their heads inches from the ceiling. Desiree has kept her hair chopped short since the launch from Baikonur, but she can feel it brush against the hatch to the flight-deck-turned-closet above them. She can smell the other women whenever they move, reeking puffs of anxiety and urine which rise above the background stink of the barrel they’re all living in.

​Desiree strips down to her underwear, her sweat-stuck pants and shirt peeling away from her skin. It’s difficult to do this without elbowing Zoh in the back of her head.

​The furniture and fixtures bolted to the walls enclose a circle of open space less than three meters across, and much of that space is now packed with crates of things that aren’t food or water but are nevertheless too important to be abandoned. The other modules — three of them — are filled with bags of garbage and Martian air under pressure, just enough to keep their inflatable hulls from collapsing. They’ll be part of the colonial architecture, when the next crewed mission arrives.

​If it arrives. If it ever launches at all. Desiree no longer reads the updates from Earth, but is forced to listen when Vika and Zoh discuss them. The next fast-transit window is less than three years away, but momentum at the agencies — government and private alike — sputtered when Marisha died. No one wants to spend billions of dollars on a settlement so badly blighted.

Vika and Zoh make a list of housekeeping priorities — it’s easier to clean the hab with only one body inside of it. Desiree pulls her tattered surface suit and its yellowing undergarment from her locker.

​”Are you sure about bringing her with you?” Zoh asks of Vika, as if Desiree isn’t standing two feet away.

​Vika frowns. “No.”

​”I could go…”

​”You’re the engineer,” says Vika. “The colony will need you.”

​”They’ll need us.”

​”Compromise,” says Vika.

​Now wearing the suit, its helmet dangling from her hand, Desiree taps her fingers on the airlock door. The other women are leaned in close, their foreheads nearly touching. ​

​”We’re losing daylight,” she says to them.

​Vika rests a hand on Zoh’s shoulder and meets her eyes. “We’ll be back within a day,” she says.

Desiree shifts her weight between her feet. This close to leaving the hab, each moment of delay is a physical pain behind her eyes. They shut off the last of the other modules a year ago. Over a year? The windows are blocked. The airlocks are forbidden to her, except for errands like this one.

​This was supposed to be a node. They weren’t supposed to live in here.

​The hatch closes behind her, and she takes a deep breath. Within an hour the rover’s cabin will stink, too, but for now it smells of dusty oxygen and electricity. She enjoys the relief while she can.

​There’s so much room. She wishes she could lie on the metal floor and feel its smooth clean coolness through her clothes, or against her skin. But she isn’t allowed to take off her suit. The dust has degraded the seal around the rover’s airlock, and Vika refuses to treat the cabin like a normal shirtsleeve compartment, and Desiree doesn’t feel like arguing about it all the way to the supply capsule.

​Desiree wants to drive and so she sits at the driver’s controls, the plastic chair creaking under her weight and her suit’s weight combined. She has left her gloves in her helmet, and she tosses them both into an empty sample storage bin. The molded plastic of the joystick and throttle under her fingers is exciting because of its novelty.

​Vika, perhaps distracted or perhaps strategically conciliatory, sits at the navigator’s position and pulls up their route on its screen.

​The rover crawls forward, away from the hab. There’s a monitor that shows her a reverse view, and she watches as the hatch to the airlock recedes, until it’s a dust-red rectangle of mechanism set in the gently-sloping jumble of rocks stacked around the hab: cairn as radiation shielding, each stone selected and placed with gloved hands. The month they spent building it is a singular bright spot in Desiree’s memories of this place, she and Marisha together under the dim distant sun, leaving bootprints in the dust of Mars, alive and purposeful.

​It’s standard procedure to do a perimeter check of the hab whenever they have an opportunity. There isn’t much to look at. Eroded tire tracks criss-cross the regolith, the oldest of them barely discernible. As she nears the midway point of her circuit, the “golf cart” comes into view — an open-air buggy, meant for quick excursions. It’s parked forlornly beside the EVA airlock, buried under a quarter inch of dust from the last storm.

​Desiree loved the golf cart. Driving it felt like she imagined it would; like she’d hoped, when she’d first volunteered for this mission. In it, she was an adventurer, an explorer on the frontier; a woman on another planet, out in the air with only a suit between her and a wholly alien place.

​Vika and Zoh don’t let her use it anymore. They say she has too many rads on her dosimeter. She doesn’t see what business that is of theirs, but on Mars they feel that everything is their business. Her urine, her sweat, her tears, her shit. They’d collect her menstrual blood if they weren’t all sterile.

​She wanted to bury Marisha on the surface, but they refused without even asking Ground. It would contaminate the regolith, they said. It would be a waste of water. A corpse was their business, too.

​Further along the borders of their dying compound is the ISRU plant — a small inflatable building, close to the ground. She can see the dented metal hopper into which robotic excavators dump loads of regolith, which is ground up and baked and condensed into liquid water. The water they use to drink, to hydrate meals, to electrolyze into oxygen.

​A pump failed in the plant over a year ago. They have been using their emergency supplies ever since, and those supplies are almost gone.

​She finishes the check and turns the rover northward. Her grip on the joystick is light. She could set the autopilot, but why? She can’t remember the last time she had something this interesting to do.

​By Earth standards, Mars is a planet of extremes, with volcanoes that punch through the atmosphere into space and canyons as large as countries. But their landing site was selected to be easy and safe; the landscape here is nearly featureless.

​Vika glowers at the flat red desert. “Stay under twenty kilometers per hour,” she says.

​”At thirty, we might actually be back here before it gets dark,” says Desiree. Her tone is also flat.

​”The procedures say twenty,” says Vika. “A few hours aren’t going to make any difference.”

​A bubble of maliciousness swells in Desiree’s chest. “She hasn’t been drinking her water ration. You know that. We left her there all by herself.”

​Vika doesn’t look up from her screen.

​”She could pass out. Hit her head. She could bleed to death before we got back.”

​Vika makes a small noise of irritation. “If we flip the rover, the entire mission architecture will be compromised.”

​Desiree barks out a laugh. “Architecture” strikes her as a lofty word for three women waiting to die in a can.

​They bounce across the rocks at twenty-one kilometers per hour. On Mars, the horizon is three and a half kilometers away, just different enough from Earth to tickle an instinctive sense of something being Wrong.

​The mound of the hab quickly disappears from the rear-view screens, and then there is nothing. Nothing but dry rock and yellow sky and a sun that is much too small and far away.

​Desiree stands waist-deep in a converted Soyuz capsule, her feet planted at awkward angles against the inside of its hull. Dust has worked its way into the joints of her suit, making it difficult to lift her arms, to turn her waist, to walk. The compartment is jammed with dozens of shrink-wrapped parcels, and the effort of wrenching them free of the flight-shifted pile and handing them out to Vika has left her winded and sore. The protein bar was finished hours ago, and the day’s water ration is gone. Her temples throb with a dehydration headache that never really fades.

​She hefts a package that’s larger than the others, heavy even in one-third G, and glances at the text beneath its bar code. “It’s the new pump assembly,” she says. Vika takes it from her reverently; cradles it in her arms like an infant. It occurs to her that Vika holds their future in a very literal sense.

​”The last delivery wasn’t that long ago,” says Desiree. “Surprised this one came so quick. Good timing, I guess. With the pump.”

​”They launched it outside the low-energy window,” says Vika, her voice in Desiree’s ear. Her steps toward the rover are slow and meticulous. “An Angara A7.”

​”Those are for crew launches.”

​”Crew and emergency resupply. With this and with the CO2 filters… we couldn’t wait two years.”
​Desiree yanks the next bundle out of its restraints. “Expensive fucking bandaid,” she mutters. “What is that, a couple hundred million for each of us?”

​”It’s not just for us.”

“You know that’s bullshit.”

Vika doesn’t reply.

For an intense, red moment, she wants to leap out of the capsule, grab the package from Vika’s hands and smash it against the rocks.

They finish their work in silence.

​The penny sun has almost set, and Desiree is still outside in the capsule, enjoying the open sky overhead. Vika has stacked their meager bounty in the rover’s sample cache, save for one bundle that Desiree set aside, wedged into a pocket on her shin while she double-checks that nothing has been missed.

​Vika is at the navigator’s station, keying in their return route, when Desiree steps out of the rover’s airlock. Vika frowns when she sees the package in Desiree’s hands, and the frown deepens as Desiree removes her gloves.

​”You shouldn’t touch that before you’ve wiped it down,” says Vika.

​Desiree ignores her. She drops the gloves and her helmet to the floor and reaches for the toolkit on the wall.

​Vika types with fierce, irritable pecks. “I thought you were in a hurry.”

​”I thought you weren’t.” Desiree finds a utility knife, extends the blade, and slits open the plastic.

​There are four smaller parcels inside.

​”I told Zoh to go ahead and light another oxygen candle,” says Vika. “The resupply manifest was designed for a full crew, so we’ll have plenty to spare for once.”

​Desiree is only half-listening. She drops three of the parcels into a sample bin. The last has her name printed in red on its label. Her fingers are clumsy as she breaks the seal and dumps the contents out into her palm: a four terabyte flash drive, a miniature Snickers bar, a note written on paper so thin that she can see her fingers through it.

I know Marisha’s bugging you to read more, so I thought I’d make it easy. Couple hundred audiobooks on here. Nonfiction. Histories of the African continent, diaspora stories. The kind of thing you like. And Harry Potter, sorry. Cultural Literacy! That’s all I can fit on this card they gave me, the rest will wait for email. Love you, miss you – Sheena

​She reads it over several times.

​The unopened parcels, the candy, and the flash drive are tucked into her helmet. When she sits in the driver’s chair again, the note is folded up and pressed into her palm, held in place by sweat.

​The sun is low over the desert as they rumble south again. Vika wraps a greasy lock of hair around her finger and pores over the manifest. “We’re not going through the CO2 filters as quickly anymore,” she says. “If we can stretch half this shipment until the next resupply, we’ll be able to build up our emergency stock.”

​Desiree’s grip on the joystick tightens.

“We’re lucky,” says Vika. “Even with the expedited launch, we might not have held out.”

​”If you want to say you’re glad Marisha died, just say it. Don’t fucking mince around.”

​Vika draws a sharp, shocked breath.

​”And don’t give me that noble sacrifice crap either. She didn’t sacrifice anything.”

​”Des. That’s not-”

​”She died. For no reason.”

​”She would have wanted it this way,” says Vika. Her voice is quiet and low. “If she’d been able to choose. She would have chosen the mission.”

​Desiree knows that Vika is right, but that only makes her more angry. “Don’t turn it into part of your fucking ‘narrative.’ Don’t you fucking dare.”

​”I’m not-”

​A sharp crackle from the radio interrupts them. A moment later, a tinny ghost of Zoh’s voice bursts through the static. “-To rover, hab to rover, do you copy.” It’s difficult to hear her. Something roars over the channel, swallowing her voice.

​Vika leans forward in her seat and reaches for the comm. “Hab, this is rover. We copy.”

​”-activate the candle. I don’t know what happened, but it’s-” She drowns in crackling static.

Vika punches the button again. “Zoh, please repeat. You’re not coming through.”

The growl of the channel grows louder, harsher; Vika scrambles to correct for it, but the audio doesn’t improve. “Maybe there’s a storm ahead,” she mutters. The sky outside is buttery and clear.

​A single word emerges from the roiling soup of sound: “Fire.”

​The roar abruptly shifts to peaceful white noise.

​Desiree accelerates to 30 kilometers an hour. Vika does not argue.

​Twilight is brief on Mars. The sky grays and darkens, and the Milky Way blooms above them.

​Desiree would drive by starlight if she could, but Vika reaches over to flip on the headlamps, and twin beams of LED blue spill across the ground.

​The world narrows to this road of light, the procession of rock, the sharp jolts to the cabin. They are going too fast for the rover’s suspension to compensate.

​They have not heard from Zoh in two hours; they won’t reach the hab for three.

​Vika crouches over the chemical toilet and vomits up water and bile.

​Desiree holds the controls so tightly her hands begin to cramp.

​Even with her helmet on, Desiree can hear the master alarm through the hatch. The controls beside it are dark and lifeless. She wrenches an access panel away from the wall, grabs the manual override, and pulls as hard as she can.

​Black smoke pours into the airlock and swirls up around their heads. They each press a button on their forearm. Twin trembling beams of light slice into the dark.

​”I’ll switch the hab over to backup power,” says Vika. “Find her. Get her into the rover.”

​They step inside the lander. Their single room feels even smaller, now, lit only by their helmet lamps and the faint glow of emergency strips. Clumsy and oversized in their suits, they collide with every movement. The power plant is outside of the hab, but there are batteries in the floor as well. Vika squats down next to the lockers with a pistol-grip tool and begins unscrewing a panel. Her hip is up against the backs of Desiree’s calves.

​Desiree cannot see Zoh. Her beam finds finds the metal canister of the oxygen candle, one end blackened and distorted. Everything within a foot of the deck is charred, melted in places and ash in others. She crouches and runs her hands over the floor, reaches into small empty spaces between the crates, gropes for something that feels like a body.

​The master alarm warbles and falls silent. A few moments later, the overhead lights flicker on behind the gloom. The floor begins to vibrate under her boots.

​The smoke thins. Zoh is not there.

​”I can’t get her on the radio,” Vika says. Her voice is hoarse. “She didn’t take her suit. She didn’t take it, I don’t understand.”

​The EVA airlock is still completely blocked, but Desiree shoves her way toward it. She pushes bags of dehydrated feces out of the way, tears off her helmet and presses her face to the small glass window. The lock is empty.

​The air in the hab hasn’t cleared completely, and her eyes start to burn. She puts her helmet back on.

​The two of them search the same places again and again, moving in circles as their elbows knock together, their breath loud over the radio. The oxygen candle rattles as they kick it with their boots. Zoh has not crammed herself on top of a stack of crates, or into an empty suit locker. Zoh is not here. The other modules are sealed. There is no where else to go except the surface.

Desiree’s heart is beating very fast. She backed the rover up to the airlock in the dark. She was distracted. Worried. Could there have been a body out in the dust? Is it underneath the rover, crushed and frozen?

​She is breathing too hard and it’s making her lightheaded. “Fuck.” She pulls off her helmet again and drops it to the floor, runs a hand over the tight coils of her hair. “Fuck. Fuck, fuck where is she.” Desiree feels like her suit is crushing her. She claws her way out of it, careless in her panic. Her sleeve catches on something above her head and rips with a sharp bite of pain. “Fuck!”

​She glances at her forearm. Beads of red bloom from a cut on her wrist.

​She looks up.

​Above them is the flight deck — the tiny compartment where they rode out their own EDL, tucked into foam couches as the computer dropped them from orbit. The space is awkward in gravity and useless for anything but storage. The lever for the hatch gearbox was at head-height, so they removed it.

​There are fresh marks on the bolt where the lever attached, gleaming in the smokey light. Threads hang from the place where torn metal caught her shirt. Desiree looks around the room again. She sees, now, that a wrench sits on top of a crate beside her. It was not there when she left.

​She grabs the wrench, fumbles it into place with shaking hands and pulls the bolt through a clockwise turn. The hatch has not been resealed very tightly and it bangs her head as it swings down into the hab.

​Vika knits her fingers together into a step. She grunts into her mic and pushes Desiree’s shoulders through the hatch.

​Zoh is crammed between the major constituent analyzer and Marisha’s bagged-up suit. The fabric on one of her shins has burnt away, and the skin is red and blistering. She doesn’t reply to her name, shouted over and over again, or to a hand reaching out to shake her other leg.

​There isn’t time for gentleness. Desiree takes hold of Zoh’s hips, wide and boney, and yanks as hard as she can. Objects shift, clattering against each other, filling the space that Zoh leaves behind as Desiree wrenches her loose. She wraps her arms around Zoh’s body, pulls her close and tight so they can pass through the hatch together, slithers backward into the hab and lands in a bruising heap on the floor.

​Vika presses an oxygen mask to Zoh’s face. They tumble into the airlock with Zoh held between them, wait for it to cycle, carry her into the rover and lay her gently on the floor. Her chest moves in a slow, steady rhythm.

​Desiree stares at Zoh’s pale sharp face until it blurs. There is movement in her peripheral vision, and an arm slips across her back. She feels hot breath against her hair. Tears drip onto her hands, twisted together in her lap.

​They repair the ISRU plant shortly after dawn, Zoh reading aloud from the checklist in the rover while Vika and Desiree work. Desiree imagines she can feel the sunlight on her back, casting shadows of her bulky silhouette against the plant’s silver walls.

​The malfunction in the oxygen candle was caused by damage sustained in transit, which they missed during their equipment checks. Mir suffered a similar fire in 1997, a fact which Zoh mentions more than once. While they wait for new procedures and checklists from Ground, Zoh devours the history of the old Russian space station. She sees it as a cousin mission — another troubled stepping stone in space, leading those who follow toward solid ground.

​”They deorbited Mir,” says Desiree. She is sitting in the driver’s seat, looking out at the surface. The others are finishing their breakfast, curled up in the nest of sleeping bags on the rover’s floor behind her. “They crashed it into the ocean.”

​”They can’t deorbit us,” says Zoh. Her voice has mostly recovered.

​”The cosmonauts of Mir helped to build the ISS,” says Vika. “Krikalev. Usachev. Malenchenko. Gidzenko. A dozen or more.”

​Desiree turns the chair around. “No one asked them to die in space.”

​Zoh sighs. “No.”

​”They asked you,” says Vika.

​Desiree laughs. “I’m an idiot.”

​”Here here,” said Zoh, and raises her plastic mug of coffee.

​The damage to the hab is extensive and difficult to repair. Several storage containers have melted and fused into each other. The fire was hot enough to warp part of the deck plating, which in turn pulled the cables and connections underneath out of alignment – this is what caused main power to shut itself off.

​They pull up most of the floor and check the whole length of every system. Zoh spends her recovery hunched over checklists and diagrams and manuals. Vika and Desiree take turns cleaning the hab, and return from their work with aching backs and soot-blackened hands.

​Two weeks after the fire, Ground agrees it’s safe to move back into it again.

​Their last night in the rover, they sit on the floor with their legs in a triangle, foot to foot. Zoh’s cough is better. Burns and cuts have begun to heal. None of them are wearing suits, not even Vika.

​A feast is laid out in the triangle’s center: beef jerky from Zoh’s parents, two ounces of vodka from Vika’s brother, the Snickers bar cut into three equal pieces. Beside them is Marisha’s package, which her family has told them to open. Desiree agrees this is what Marisha would have wanted. Marisha was always generous.

​Vika and Zoh are watching her, expectant. She picks up the package and slits it open with her fingernail.

​A tiny jar, labeled in cheerful handwriting as “strawberry.” Another flash drive. A letter, which Desiree carefully unfolds.

Marishaaaaa! Hey hey I’m so excited for you! Been watching the crew selection, it’s all happening so fast! You’ll have neighbors any day now! I wanted to send you a housewarming gift, but they don’t give us a lot of room so this is the best I could do. Some jam! Some JAMZ! Love love love xoxox Sophie

​Below this, at the bottom of the small paper, Sophie has drawn a rectangle about an inch wide and half as tall. In the middle she’s written the word “WELCOME.”

​They pass the letter around. They weep. They eat their food and make small noises of pleasure with each bite. When they finish, they sit for some time in companionable silence. The sun set hours ago. They can see Phobos, the little potato moon, shining through the forward windows as it trundles across the sky.

​Desiree picks up Marisha’s letter again. “How far behind are they in the crew launch timeline?”

​”About six months,” says Zoh. “Maybe more.”

“Can they make the fast-transit window?”

Zoh considers this. “Yes.”

“How many candidates have backed out?”


​Desiree chuckles in honest disbelief. “Why would anyone want this?”

​”Why did you?” Vika asks, sharp but not unkind.

​Desiree looks down at the letter.

​The next morning, Zoh and Vika cram into the hab and begin to move small things around, making it home again. Desiree finds a pen knife and cuts the “WELCOME” matt from Marisha’s letter. She steps up to the rover airlock, now closed again, and presses the little rectangle to the upper rim of the hatch, held fast with a looped sliver of duct tape.

​”It’s too crowded in here,” she says, still looking at the paper.

​Zoh and Vika laugh very loudly.

​Desiree crosses the hab in one stride and begins to shift crates around. The EVA airlock emerges from behind them. Neither Zoh nor Vika ask what she’s doing, but they watch her from the corners of their eyes.

​She gets her suit from her locker and pulls it on. She notes the number on her dosimeter, checks her radio, checks her gloves and her boots and all the seals. She’ll have twelve hours of oxygen and half a liter of water. Enough for what she’s got in mind.

​”I’m going to go prep the golf cart,” she says. “It’ll take…an hour? Two? Fill the lock up with garbage while I’m gone.”

​”You can’t put it on the surface,” says Vika.

​”I know. I won’t.”

​Their camp has been resupplied six times, via six capsules of three different designs. The capsules have an average interior volume of seven cubic meters. Each of the three inflatable modules attached to the hab contain twelve cubic meters of usable space. For once, the math is promising.

​An hour and a half later, when she’s finished her checks and refueling and opened the outer door of the airlock once again, she finds several cubes of compressed trash sitting just inside. They are vacuum-sealed in plastic and relatively light in the Martian gravity. She stacks them in the cart’s flatbed and lashes them in place, enjoying the exercise and the light and the feel of dust shifting under her boots.

​She has programmed the coordinates of the nearest capsule into the cart’s computer. “King Leopold’s Ghost” is playing on her suit’s internal speaker. The day is clear and breezy, little swirls of dust skipping along the tops of dunes.

​She is alive on Mars. She is living on Mars. She will live.

About the Author

Alison Wilgus

Alison Wilgus

Alison Wilgus is a Brooklyn-based bestselling writer, editor and cartoonist who’s been working in comics for over a decade. Most of her professional work has been writing for comics, including “Flying Machines” and “The Mars Challenge” with First Second Books, and “Chronin,” her solo debut from Tor Books. Her short prose fiction has been published by Interzone, Analog and Strange Horizons. In her spare time, she co-hosts a podcast about comics publishing called “Graphic Novel TK” with Gina Gagliano. She Tweets and Instagrams as @AliWilgus and you can find many of her comics and stories at

Find more by Alison Wilgus

Alison Wilgus

About the Narrator

Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

narrator Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali lives and works in Houston as an oncology nurse. She is married and the mother to three brilliant artistic children. She writes because she loves to and also because she has a story (or two, or three…) to tell.

Find more by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

narrator Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali