Archive for June 11th, 2011

11th June
written by amber

Paid in Dirt

A quiet Chinese girl gathered our plates after the meal. It was unusual for a top ethnic to be serving in a menial position, but we politely nodded our heads and left the prescribed tip. We then joined the crowd pressing against a massive viewing window to witness the dawn of another slow and lovely Earthrise.

Two hours of patient observation revealed the barest sliver of blue and white, a distant jewel hiding the devastation we’d left upon our departure two days earlier.

“I can’t stay awake any longer,” Maureen said, so I followed her to our traveller’s cubicle.

“It won’t have changed much when we get up. The entire rising takes nearly forty-eight hours.”

“Let’s be sure to leave ourselves some time to watch before the tour starts.”

“Are you homesick already?”

“Homesick for what’s gone forever,” she murmured near to my ear, afraid to give our hosts cause to suspect us of ingratitude.

Cool air flowing through the ventilators and various mechanical hums soothed her to sleep, but oblivion seemed inattainable for me, so I returned to the corridor. I headed back to the viewing deck and watched the earth a while longer, recalling the viewing deck on the other side of the city, a deck we’d stood on shortly after our ship arrived.

“This is your gift to mankind’s new home,” an official had declaimed.  The dome was vast, and fogged with moisture and young air above the agricultural commune built with soil and genetic ‘gifts’ from our state. As governor, I’d been chosen to attend a dedication ceremony, a trip Maureen and I could never have afforded. Hell, we can’t afford to travel a hundred miles anymore.

Earth inched higher, but remained a dream of cloud and clear blue water, our denuded country not visible from this distance. But if I wanted to see the sweet soil of Kentucky, all I had to do was cross the city and see the debt our country paid to our debtor, paid in dirt.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

This is the first of a series of stories that are inspired by the first lines of stories in the September 2010 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. This story uses a variation of the first line of Nancy Fulda’s story Backlash.