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A white mist enveloped the mountains on the other side of the lake. The night of rain has left the lush greenery soaked in moisture and the emerald grass squelched under his feet. Adam smiled because the trees and bushes enveloping the observation post were innocuous. Paradise, as they called the newly discovered planet, posed no threat to humans.

The Space Patrol stumbled on Paradise almost by chance while investigating the nondescript system that was way down the list of possible Earth doubles. Adam, who accepted the Observer post just two weeks ago, couldn't blame his colleagues for being dumbfounded. He would not have believed it himself had he not seen the data, proving the atmosphere and water of Paradise to be identical to Earth. 

Going down to the lake, he turned around, accessing the prefabricated box of the post, delivered to Paradise together with Adam and his meager belongings. Observers often transferred from planet to planet, but he intended to send a report requesting a long posting. 

Paradise seemed a haven to take a breather from the frantic years of his early career.

Adam said to his only interlocutor, a recorder, “Eight zero-zero. Observing a sunrise.”

The day here went on for twenty-six Earth hours. The Patrol still had no idea what kind of lands lay beyond the mountain ridge, surrounding the clear turquoise lake with icy cold waters, unaffected by the humid jungle around it and unperturbed by nightly thunderstorms, when the platinum lightning tore the black velvet of the sky. 

The last one happened that night when the majestic column of fire, illuminating the jungle, woke Adam up. His video recorders could not capture the beauty of an eerie silvery light emerging from within the depths, just like they could not capture the golden shining of a sunrise on a quiet lake.

Crunching on gravel, he crouched at the edge, touching the pure water.  Scanners found nothing alive in its depth, just as it could not discover any animals or insects in the jungle or within the empty sky, which sometimes filled Adam with sweet sadness and unrequited longing for something he could not name by any human word.

“It’s as if I am speechless,” Adam drank the silence of the new world around him. 

Something fragile touched his fingers, and he jerked. A dark outline floated in the lake. Trying to reach it, Adam went further into the water, forgetting the numbness that immediately froze his legs.

“I was waiting for you,” her laughter was gay and careless. “I was born yesterday, my love, when the fire entered the water. Come to me and populate this world, where you and I will be gods…”.

Adam had run after her voice, plunging into the lake, flapping his hands, trying to grab the strands of her wet hair. The coldness entered him, and he tried to breathe but only coughed, attempting to free his throat from the morbid embrace of icy crystals suffocating him from inside.

His head went underwater, and the lake returned to its habitual calmness. The jungle around the post moved, crushing the light structure, devouring and evaporating the metal. 

“Good morning, Adam, and welcome to Paradise,” said the mechanical voice of the recorder left on the gravel. 

Crawling stones pushed it to the lake. Hissing in gratitude, the wave carried the recorder to oblivion, and everything stood still.

The End

  • Nelly Shulman is a writer based in Israel.Her short stories appeared on, in the Vine Leaves Press Anthology of the Best Flash Fiction, and the various literary magazines and anthologies

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