by Russell Nichols
Don’t look down, you repeat to yourself, abseiling deeper into the mouth of Olympus Mons.
The static rope feels thin as spaghetti.
Which is exactly what you’ll look like if you take one wrong step.
The tour guide—included in the caving package—hollers: “See anything?”
Don’t look down. “You hear that?”
“That rumbling …” You freeze.
There is it again, coming from under you.
Don’t look down. The rope shivers. “Like the volcano’s about to erupt.”
“We’re not picking up any fumarolic activity.”
Then something yanks at your ankle.
(You looked down.)
Russell Nichols is a speculative fiction writer and endangered journalist. Raised in Richmond, California, he got rid of all his stuff in 2011 to live out of a backpack with his wife, vagabonding around the world ever since. Look for him at: