The Dark Side of the Moon
“We are survivors. We began many generations ago as the human refuse our fellow Humans longed to be rid of. No criminals, though. Those the Earth-dwellers kept in cages and pits on the home planet. Nope. We were the desitiute. The single-parents, orphans, elderly, widows and widowers, or simply those families whose credit was deemed ‘irretrievable’ or who spent more than ten years below the povertyline. No more homeless choking the streets of Earth. Instead we were shipped to the Moon.
The Earth-dwellers had a work-settlement there called The Warren or The Moon-Warren. That’s where all the ‘misfits’ ended up. Whole families of misfits, sometimes. We helped with the study, analysis, and excavation of lunar resources for NASAA and the like. Mostly, though the Retainers did the study and analysis. We did the excavation.
Once you left for the Warren, you weren’t ever going back. They ‘sold’ your identity. That is, you didn’t belong to Earth anymore. When you landed at the Warren gates, the Retainers gave you a number and asked how old you were. That was the only thing you kept: your birthday. That much Humankind couldn’t yet change. Your number and birthdate became your whole identity. As for money, you’d never have any agian. You received food, clothing, and housing. There was no leaving the Warren. If you traveled, a Retainer escorted you.
The only ‘luxuries’ allowed were tablets for each family memeber capable of reading, and raw fiber or wood with the appropriate tools to craft your chosen material. However, fiber and wood were the luxuries of luxuries as they had to be gotten from Earth. Pets were not allowed in the Warren.”PoPo stopped her story, a little short of breath.
Her grandchildren waited expectantly for her to go on. Alice-Ming Cho smiled weakly at her grandchildren. Soon, she knew she would rejoin her departed husband. She leaned forward and rested a hand on each grandchild’s cheeck. It would be strange not to be able to touch them anymore. How she would miss that!
Her granddaughter’s face clouded with concern as if divining her thoughts.
“PoPo,” the girl said, “Are you well? Shall I bring you more cider or is it time for tea now?”
Alice-Ming smiled more broadly at the girl, “No, granddaughter. No cider. No tea. Your PoPo needs to have your here now. It is not long until PoPo will leave for the Kingdom of Heaven. She must be with you as much as possible so her soul will not forget her grandbabies.”
The squeal of the bus’s brakes fractured the memory Ana’d retreated into. Slowly, she and the other passengers disembarked. With not a cent to her name (her last $50.00 had gone to busfare) and everything she owned in the world in the daypack she carried, she stepped out of the bus terminal and into downtown Nuevos Santos.
As she began to wander down the sidewalk, Eastward, her mind returned to her grandmother’s last conversation with them.
“We struggled through each day’s toil by holding the promise of Worksend in our hearts. Each day, after the tenth hour had chimed, we were released to attend to our personal Worksend rituals.” Alice-Ming’s voice floated out of her granddaughter’s past and into the ears of the young woman’s memory, “Worksend were the three hours of community time we were alotted each day. Normally, Worksend was spent with family and we shared a communal meal. Worksend meal was the only time an entire family sat down to table together. It was by necessity our smallest meal of the day, as we would soon be sleeping; but it was also the one meal during the day that always consisted of sweet-things: cookies, cakes, tarts, cup cakes, doughnuts, homemade candies, ice-creams, and all manner of other frozen desserts.”
“What was your favorite Worksend food, PoPo?” her little brother, Gavey queried and cut short PoPo’s most beloved story.
PoPo beamed at her grandson. “Your PoPo liked many desserts that we ate at Worksend. Most of all, I loved the red bean cakes my own PoPo made by hand for us.”
Gavey grinned, “Were they like the ones you make for us? If they were, then they were delicious.” He jumped to his feet and began pulling PoPo to hers, “Will you make me some now? It’s well past the start of Worksend now.”
PoPo chuckled, and struggled to her feet, “Grandson, your PoPo is very weary; but she will make you chocolate milk instead. She hasn’t the strength to roll rice flour and make bean paste tonight.”
Gavey halted his charge towards the kitchen, turned and studied his PoPo with genuine alarm. “PoPo, we can go back to the living room and you can sit by the fire again. I want you to be well. I don’t want you to get sicker.”
PoPo bent down and hugged Gavey close. “You are a good boy, Gavin. I will always be proud of you.”
Gavey. Her memory strayed to her little brother. His breathtaking, impishly charming smile. That defining sparkle that lit up a room when he entered. And the god-like balance begining to be hinted at between power and grace in his body that so enthralled the girls at his school.
How he had adored PoPo. They had not had many more days with their PoPo after the Winter Holidays. Ironically, when the Earth stirred with the first tremblings of Spring the following year, PoPo was on the last downward spiral into the World Beyond. But, throughout her final months, Gavey had done his best to keep up her spirits; to ensure she laughed…and piled her with all the sweet red bean cakes she could swallow. In the end, though, it was she, Ana, who sat with PoPo in her final moments on Earth.
“Annchi-an.” Alice-Ming’s voice whispered as though she still stood at her grandmother’s bedside. “Listen, Chi-an. I want to tell you what I see.”
“Ana” as Shelby (whose middle name was Annchi) was called by friends and family leaned forward, and taking her PoPo’s frail hand, gave it a gentle, reassuring squeeze. “I’m listening PoPo. I’m here. I won’t leave until you’re sleeping.”
Alice-Ming breathed more easily then, and spoke in a voice that felt to her granddaughter like a breeze on the cusp of autumn and winter: with the faintest hint of frost, yet somehow warm for the affection it inspires. “A star smiles down from a sullen sky. I am alone. Trees stretch forward along two banks, and I am alone. Night blooms black over my beached boat, and but for you there on the shore I’ve just forsaken, I am alone.”
She still didn’t know why she’d said it. It seemed appropriate at the time, and more than that true. “You are only alone there at the shore, PoPo. You must leave your boat and the shore and your isolation. Death, like Life, is an adventure. And like all journeys, it begins with a single step, one you must decide to take. It’s okay, PoPo. Step into your next adventure. When the time comes, I will follow your trail. And then we can venture together through the Kingdom of Heaven wreaking mayham and causing chaos and having the best time ever.”
Alice-Ming never opened her eyes again, but as she stepped out of her boat a smile brightened her face.