Vikings

 

A thousand years after Norse hordes first invaded England,

Swords flashing, bashing down church doors

And setting villages aflame, a second Viking invasion took place

On a world 200 million miles away.

No armada this time; no lines of longboats

Bringing hairy, helmeted warriors to rape, pillage and slaughter

Infants in their beds. Instead, a pair of snow-white robots

Fell like stones from the salmon pink sky,

Slowed at first by parachutes before firing rockets

To break their fall and land with a grand entrance WHUMPF.

They took only photographs; their treasure, priceless measurements

Of wind speed, temperature and dust;

Their battle cries the whirring and whining of motors and gears

As their arms scooped up dirt to test for signs of life.

They gave humanity its first view of the surface

Of Barsoom: a landscape covered with millions of rocks and stones

Encrusted with cinnamon-hued fines; boulders, like Big Joe,

Half-buried beneath drifts of wind-blown dust the colour of powdered rust;

The Sun reduced to a blurred bronze coin,

Dropping through a twilight as purple as a bruise.

 

These Vikings came not to snuff out life

But to hunt for it, tasting the bitter grit with the tips

Of their electronic tongues; feeding the dust a Terran chef’s

Special broth to see if anything with an appetite slurped it down;

Raking up the ground to see if any Sun-shy bugs

Or germs lurked beneath the hoarfrost-painted crust…

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2018

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