The balloon of a Phoenix-class airship is better than any view from its cabin windows; half a mile of silk pulled taut across three hundred metal ribs and a hundred gleaming spines is a beautiful thing. If your mask filter is dirty you get lightheaded and your sight goes reddish, so it looks as though the balloon is falling in love with you.
This morning, when you wake up and look at your rippled reflection in the basin of water near the concrete wall of your cell, you only have one true personal memory left. It can’t be that your entire life is based off this one event, so you suspect they’ve left it with you to piss you off. To “motivate” you. To make you one raging motherfucker. It’s a riff on the Countee Cullen poem. You’re six, standing on the street holding the anonymous arm of your mom, and the other kid staring back at you flips you off and calls you nigger. That’s all they really left you with.
A lot of new rich people have moved into the best houses in town—those big ones up on the hill that overlook the lake. What with the depression, some of those houses have been on the market for a long time. They’d gotten pretty run down, but the new people all seem to have plenty of money and fixed them up right away. Added docks and decks and tall fences. It was our fathers, mine included, who did all the work for them. I asked my dad what their houses were like and he said, “Just like ours only richer.”
I never knew my mother, and I never understood why she did what she did. I ought to be grateful that she was crazy enough to cut out her implant so she could get pregnant. But it also meant she was crazy enough to hide the pregnancy until termination wasn’t an option, knowing the whole time that she’d never get to keep the baby. That she’d lose everything. That her household would lose everything because of her.
Lynx awoke before dawn. He got out of bed, brushed his whiskers, and licked his fur clean. He dressed in boots and a tunic, then donned his rucksack and set out into the dusty streets. The sun was just beginning to peek up over the thatched rooftops. Most of the other catmen of the village were still asleep.
It’s an odd fact that the biggest science story of the twenty-first century—probably the biggest ever—broke in that tabloid of tabloids, The National Bedrock.
We have a history of missed connections, you and I. Years ago, when you called goodbye from the shuttle launch, my flight was landing in Zurich. I’d changed planes, been re-routed from Frankfurt. That’s why you got my voicemail. I’d have answered if I could, and would’ve wished you luck, even if you wanted a life without me. I never managed to see Europa, like you did—just Europe, where I met my first husband. The one I wished was you.
Lightspeed is an online science fiction and fantasy magazine. In its pages, you will find science fiction—from near-future, sociological soft SF, to far-future, star-spanning hard SF—and fantasy—from high fantasy, contemporary urban tales, and surrealism, to magical realism, science fantasy, and folktales. When you read Lightspeed, it is our hope that you’ll see where science fiction and fantasy comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.