This was our last homework for the creative writing class, with a theme to relate it to Thanksgiving, since that was when we were. It’s strongly reminiscent of a lot of science fiction short stories I read in my teens. NOT for pre-teen readers.
Alexander shook the dust off his boots and climbed the steps into the pod. He stood looking at his meagre rations, wondering what he could eat tonight. He sipped some water and sat on his bench. The millions of tabs of emergency meals salvaged from the last ‘ship were nearly exhausted. Ten years of dirt farming on this desolate waste had yielded good corn at first, but the saved seed had a poor germination rate. Quadricale was not the answer to the colonists’ needs that Monsankey Inc. had said it was, but it was still the only thing they’d managed to grow for more than one harvest.
Yet, there was that patch down in the lee of the red cliff that looked different. He wondered what his father would have made of it. He had done his best to impart all his knowledge to his eight year old son before he died, and Alexander had worked out the rest over the last 6 years. Grow one league, rest the second, spread waste on the third, sow on the fourth. Round and round till night fell. Hope you had enough put by for that. Keep the dirt firm and try to shelter it from the wind.
He decided that he would save his flour for Thanksgiving and indulge himself in half a meal tablet. He carefully unwrapped the half he’d saved from two days earlier, closed his eyes and let it dissolve on his tongue. Flavours he could not name spread through his mouth. He let them linger a while, then washed them down with half his evening’s ration of water.
He checked the comms unit for messages and found one from Elena suggesting they pool their meals for Thanksgiving. His six neighbours, all living alone and farming the same terrain as he did, formed a strangely silent community, exchanging messages every Deimos-rise just to check up on each other. It was good to know they were there.
He took off his grav boots, dimmed the glows, lay down on his bed in AT position and let his bones stretch out after the weight of the day’s exertions had scrunched them together. He slept.
The unaccustomed sound of the alarm pinging woke him. He rolled off the bed, fumbling for his boots, and stretched out for the comms. The alarm was an intruder in the silo. Strange. Intruders were unknown. The corn silo was all he had till the next harvest though. Best to check.
Outside the wind tore at his coveralls and flattened the silo door against the wall, giving it no chance to rattle or bang. Alexander checked the catch, but it was undamaged. What sort of intruder could be there? He stepped in, alert for danger, picking up a pitchfork just in case. A figure was silhouetted by the light from the clear roof high above. It was no-one Alexander knew, and it was filling a bag slung from its shoulder with Alexander’s corn.
Having spoken to no-one in six months, Alexander was not about to start now. He charged at the intruder, who sidestepped, but not so fast that the pitchfork didn’t catch him. He staggered away from the corn, towards the door. Alexander wheeled round and charged again. The intruder knocked the pitchfork to one side but it bounced off the side of the silo and hit him hard on the head. He fell to the ground, half in, half out of the doorway. Alexander stood over him, his head reeling with anger, seeing the stranger only as a thief, and brought the pitchfork down into his chest. The intruder twitched and collapsed. Red liquid seeped through the coveralls. Alexander watched, fascinated. He hadn’t seen blood since his father died.
He took stock of the stranger. Standard build for a survivor. Thin, almost emaciated, wiry body and upper half, strong thigh muscles and glutes. He turned away and sent a message on the comms unit to his friends.
“Thanksgiving dinner will be steak this year.”