Here are our second place winners – Anomalous, by Carole Cummings, and the cover from Alicia Nordwell.:
He wakes starving. Starving. He shouldn’t be. He’d had his rations not… he checks his chrono. It’s only been three klicks of the planet’s sun, which translates roughly into less than one and a half Earth-hours. He shouldn’t be this hungry, but he can swear his envirosuit is looser than it was when they left the lander. He can also swear the sun’s moved a lot more than three klicks.
He shakes his head, jabs at Cam’s ribs. “Wake up.”
Cam comes around quick, a confused frown and then a jolt upright, thin dust like ash shimmying off him in rivers of yellow-red. “What the…?” He blinks at Harry through his visor with a grimace and a grab at his belly.
Habit, their gazes go to each other’s oxygen gauges. Cam’s eyes widen at the same time Harry says, “Well, shit.” Cam’s gone through a shitload more oxygen than he should’ve in the time they’ve been outside the lander, and by Cam’s expression, Harry guesses his own says the same.
Their eyes meet. No need for discussion. Procedure is if anything goes weird, they head back to the lander and call Matty up in orbit to come get them. Cam and Harry are the first married couple assigned long-term planetary exploration, and neither of them want to fuck it up for the rest.
Cam waves at the anomalous too-geometrical formation they’d discovered and come out here to investigate. “Let me get a quick sample and we’ll head back.”
Something about it…. Some weird déjà vu and a feeling like a headlong fall into… something. Something bad.
Harry reaches out just as Cam scrapes his knife along the side of the rock. “Wait, no, don’t—”
He wakes starving. Starving.