God forbid they'd send you to the surface. Without second thought they'd shuffle you and a handful of unwilling companions out into the airlock. And no matter how much they've trained you-- how tightly those damned suits cover you or how dim the layers of contacts and goggles and visors collectively dull your vision-- nothing prepares you for the light. The sheer luminance, the heat, as soon as that door lifts it's all overwhelming and oppressive. Like someone stabbed every sensory organ at once until you felt the blades sinking into the folds of your brain. The baggage keeps you alive, sure, but you get the feeling you'd rather be dead. Every time the group would just idle there for several minutes, silent, staring down at their boots, allowing their retinas to adjust. Rifling through their memories to find whether or not they'd actually ever seen someone return from the same fate. With the wind whipping bellows of sand into the room, the faint echoes of instruction repeat themselves in everyone's minds: "Keep your eyes down. One glance at the sky and that's the last those eyes will ever see. Focus only on the step ahead of you." The leader treads out into the desert hellscape and starts walking, his head slumped towards the ground. How he knows which direction to walk who fucking knows. A minute passes, another person leaves. Then another, then eventually you, until a thin dotted line steadily carves its way across the scorching plane. Of course they all stay separate from each other; standard protocol, they tell us, to avoid a swift death. Sure, whatever the hell that means. So your only guide is the trail of heavy footprints etched in rusted sand. Each crosses into the narrow field of view that the visor grants you, and as it leaves just as swiftly, you can only pray the next one isn't too far off. It's lonely out there. Sometimes the comms flare up with interference, sure, but more often than not you're left alone with the howling winds. Locked in that shitty claustrophobic suit, focus forced down into the sand, trekking through hell. It's as if everyone else either rotted down below or withered away up here. And here you stand, the sole remaining heir to humanity, left to follow in the exact footsteps that lead to their demise. Billions of years of evolutionary progress, the passing of ages and eons woefully beyond our comprehension, yet it only takes an instant for this living behemoth we call Earth to just fizzle up like a fly in a zapper. ...quickly you come to realize that the only thing worse than the unending light might just be your own thoughts. The last thing you want to see when following is, out of nowhere, the trail of footprints cut short. As if the person ahead vanished into thin air. No body, no blood, no suit, no trace. Gone. The tracks just end. So would you, and every poor soul following cautiously behind. All you can do is swallow the lump in your throat and keep walking.