The Hungers of Refugees
by Michael Glyde
I. Generation One
Our grandparents always said, “Take care to remember the first generation.” They came from fresh, from sunlight, whirling winds, and butterfly fields. They came from Hunger.
Generation One came from six different nations. Six nations? How long ago was this that six nations could exist, all at once? That’s what we’d ask our grandparents. They never answered satisfactorily.
Ship 13c smelled iron like death. White LED lighting glared off the walls. And it was warm, but an uncomfortable, mechanical sort of warm.
When Generation One boarded the ship, their children spent days waving and crying as Earth receded from view. To those children, loss was an old trick—that’s what their parents wrote of them in the ship’s log. They cried because they remembered their tiny fishing villages, their college towns, their cities that counted among the oldest on Earth.
The parents celebrated leaving the Camps. Finally escaping foreign soldiers quick to kill, food rations too small for mice, and the oppressive, endless heat, they laughed at their pain.
“Good riddance,” they said, “to all that.”
And that first night, a tradition began: all of Ship 13c’s residents crowded around the glass globe that overlooked the reactor core. Like campers around a fire, they told stories of their homes. How strange, how awkward, trying to tell stories everyone would understand. Which of the four languages did the most people speak? What prohibitions differed between these six cultures?
But that night they silently agreed to become one people. A people hunting for a new home.
The storytellers became The Historians. On the walls they created a vast digital collage of Earth’s monuments and trees and constellations. It ended, as it still does, in a vast forest scene, tree roots littered with chestnuts and crawling with bloodhounds.
Ten years after departure, The Historians threw an enormous festival.
Generation One played games using little toys the ship could print. Stories were told around the reactor core, and they gorged themselves on water and the multicolored paste they’d been given as food. This food, which they described as oddly dense and bitter, is all we have known.
As our people also do at festivals, the children danced. Fast tempo music whirled and waned, lifting the hearts of Generation One, even as their stomachs filled with bitter mash. Bright dresses twirled and blurred, and the dancers grinned as they flew about the floor, as if they could not smell the iron, as if the air did not feel dead, as if they had never left Earth behind.
But the music crackled to a stop. (Continue Reading…)