Thursday, June 18, 2015

6/18/15

Soil, Stone and Cinder
By E.S. Wynn


We change every world we carve our sprawling cities into.
Likewise, every world we claim and colonize changes us.
I was born on Manzan Prime. I grew up walking the perfectly curving marble streets, the pristine sidewalks as white as milk, as white as the fauxcrete and lunar sand that makes everything there shine. I remember the silver-white shimmer of the dust that would build up on the soft blue facades that hid roofs deemed too dark or too industrial to match the overall aesthetic of the cities and the smaller, more elegant settlements that supported them. I remember the people, emaciated and pasty, the drooping rolls of their heavy coats, their eyes the same cold and pale blue as the planet's perpetually cloudless skies.
Manzan prime. I grew up there, came of age there, married there, worked in a tiny white cubicle there until the day my wife died and I had no more reason to be there. Too many places reminded me of her. Too many things still shined with her smile, sang with her sweet laughter. I needed to try something new, something altogether different. I needed to start over in a place where things were cleaner, where I could scrub the pain from my psyche with the warm sand of fresh experiences and the fires of a world wreathed in unfamiliar laws and unintelligible languages.
That was how I ended up on the edge of Commonwealth space. That was how I ended up on a frontier world the locals had christened Aumakua'aina. That was how I ended up on a world as rich with shades of black and red as Manzan Prime was with shades of milk, moon and sky.
The funeral for my wife, the cremation and the paperwork that had to be filed in the wake of her passing left barely enough money to live on. A few thousand credits, most of which I pumped into a one way ticket to the most distant rim world I could find that was still part of the Commonwealth, still subject to the same laws as the worlds closer to the core. Aumakua'aina fit the bill. It was exactly what I was looking for. Utterly alien. Only recently proved and paved. A small population condensed into a single colonial township, aching to grow.
I don't know what I was expecting when I arrived. All of the pictures of Aumakua'aina were beaches and sea, or green with hybrid colonial groundcover that fruited heavy and constant, grew all over everything like ivy. What I wasn't expecting were the wrinkled waves of black basalt rolling through vacant fields of thick and thorny brush, the black and red cinder dust shaped and shaved and flattened here and there to make parking lots and landing pads and walls and houses and everything else the human mind could conceive of a need for. For days, I marveled at the way shades of cinder and glassy sand shined as flux and grit in every inch of everything, at the way the black dust and biting ash gathered at the edges of deeply ebon streets. For days, I found myself stopping just to watch the people, the colonists who had lived in the cinder and grit their whole lives, had become part of it, men and women of stone and fire, their skin rough and dark, their smiles wide and fiery.
Pohaku. The name of that singular township, that collection of dark, basaltic buildings, home of the settlers who had raised them from the native rock. Pohaku– but I didn't stay there long. Workers were needed in the unproven fields and twisted, spiny jungles of a second settlement, still only in the planning stages. There were tides and currents of solid rock to be shorn and ground into gravel, pulverized into flux and dust. There were new buildings to raise, farmlands to cut and furrow, miles and miles of native fungal jungle to clear away. Hale'hanau– that was the name of the town we built, the town we raised from the stone with our hands and hearts and days and days of gritty, dirty work. By the time I had my own home on a hillock of native rock, my own business based out of my own black-stone living room, I was as dark and rough as the soil I had shaped, the stone that had shaped me. Not a trace of Manzan Prime's glitter and white remained in me, except maybe in memory, in movements here and there, in the few char-darkened shirts and the heavy coat I brought with me to remind me of the world, the life, the way of being I'd left behind.
It's been almost twenty years now. Almost twenty years since my first wife passed on, since I first found myself standing at the terminal in Pohaku, standing on these alien shores and staring out into the endless sea of stars hanging in the skies beyond, almost wishing I hadn't stepped off the shuttle that seemed all too eager to leave me behind. Twenty years, and I haven't come to regret a single one of them. Twenty years, and each so packed with memories, with moments that led to other moments, sweeter moments, wholesome moments as solid, as heavy as the earth that blackens the feet of my children as they run between the hybrid trees in the fruit orchard beyond the veranda of our home.
Four of them now. Four children, and each so colored and shaped by the native soils, by the edges and waves of the native rock.
By the bit of Manzan Prime that still clings to me, lingers within me.
And by the dark and stony features of their fiery, smiling mother.


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E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. During the last decade, he has worked with hundreds of authors and edited thousands of manuscripts for nearly a dozen different magazines. His stories and articles have been published in dozens of journals, zines and anthologies. He has taught classes in literature, marketing, math, spirituality and guided meditation. Outside of writing, he has worked as a voice-over artist for several different horror and sci-fi podcasts, albums and ebooks.


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