Mission to Pluto

Alice swore she saw
The ice shimmer and move.
I checked the recording
And something had indeed
Glistened in the dark
Of Pluto's surface.

After five days of analysis,
We unanimously concluded
It was the recorder wobbling
As we landed that resulted
In the ice glistening.
Ice did not move on its own.

Houston approved our exploration
Of the surface. Graves was
The first one on the ground,
Holding a United Nations flag.
He made a proud declaration
And instantly turned into ice.

I saw it engulf his suit
Like locusts swarming a body.
His eyes widened, turning blue
With frost, hardening into quartz.
I whispered I was sorry
And slammed the airlock shut.

We watched as he lay encased in ice,
White tendrils curled lovingly
All over him like overgrown weeds
In an abandoned estate. I made
The decision to return to orbit,
Study this from the safety of space.

Ice snaked across our ship,
Cracking glass as it passed.
Our thrusters failed, frozen
From the inside. I quickly sent
All our data home, comforting
Myself with the knowledge that

I'd finally encountered alien life
Before I died. I met Alice’s eyes.
She held her daughter’s photograph
Tight. I thought of my little boy
And how he was right about
The Universe being full of life.

The ice smashed through the glass
And headed straight for our unique
Heat signature—our warm bodies
Pulsing with life. I felt icy
Tendrils invade my mouth and my eyes,
Probing and poking inside my body

As if to uncover
What a human being was made of.
I understood. We were the intruders.
They had to find out what we were,
Would we embrace them or destroy them?
We would have done the same.

Alice's eyes watched me, caked
In blue snow, unmoving. Her hand
Still grasping her daughter's photo.
I felt the chill grip my bones,
A sharp pain and then numb.
A lull, a lullaby and then night.