by Brenda Cooper
Sumot’s red coat flashed brightly in the artificial sun, a beacon that showed my trajectory down the zip chair from the observation cliff to the landing platform. A flock of parrots rose screeching in affront at the brightly colored humans penetrating their forest, a riotous dance of glittering color and noise. The audacity of the birds clawed an unseemly screech of pleasure from my throat. The tops of trees closed over me, hiding the parrots and displaying life in all of the greens and browns possible to imagine.
It looked as beautiful as the advertisements, like a perfect place for space eco-tourists. Maybe too perfect, since our bosses had sent us here.
I landed behind Sumot with a thump as the mag locks in my boots recognized the platform and stuck me to it. I freed myself with a short orgy of unclipping and tying and hanging and neatening my hair with my fingers. I pulled my uniform shirt tight through the strap of my waist-pack, trying to look professional in spite of the sticky air. I glanced at Sumot in hopes of an approving look, but she faced away from me, looking down. On her back, the words Resist, Remember, and Respect were embroidered in a neat line, a bright yellow against the red of her shirt. I whispered them to myself. Resist. Remember. Respect. READ MORE
by Sam J. Miller
My son’s eyes were broken. Emptied out. Frozen over. None of the joy or gladness was there. None of the tears. Normally I’d return from a job and his face would split down the middle with happiness, seeing me for the first time in three months. Now it stayed flat as ice. His eyes leapt away the instant they met mine. His shoulders were broader and his arms more sturdy, and lone hairs now stood on his upper lip, but his eyes were all I saw.
“Thede,” I said, grabbing him.
He let himself be hugged. His arms hung limply at his sides. My lungs could not fill. My chest tightened from the force of all the never-let-me-go bear hugs he had given me over the course of the past fifteen years, and might never give again.
“You know how he gets when you’re away,” his mother had said on the phone the night before, preparing me. “He’s a teenager now. Hating your parents is a normal part of it.”
I hadn’t listened. My hands and thighs still ached from months of straddling an ice saw; my hearing was worse with every trip; a slip had cost me five days’ work and five days’ pay and five days’ worth of infirmary bills; I had returned to a sweat-smelling bunk in an illegal room I shared with seven other iceboat workers—and none of it mattered because in the morning I would see my son. READ MORE