Mom and I were watching Jeopardy — as we do — and the question was What is parthenogenesis, Alex!
Mom said, “How on Earth did you know that?”
I said — as I do — “I know many things.”
Truth is, I researched parthenogenesis for a science fiction story I wrote, and which will be published in my upcoming collection of science fiction short stories.
I’m calling the collection OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS. The short story is “Leaving the Turtle”, although I might change that story title. Haven’t decided.
“Leaving the Turtle”
by Marian Allen
I was winning, as usual, at unarmed combat practice–the women of our bloodline against the women of Tam’s–when the hut from Home appeared from the sky. The shuttle, I mean. I’m told the word is shuttle, although a shuttle is something you use to weave, not something you use to hold people. But I stand on my talents as a trader, a fighter and a linguist, so I’ll use the proper word, silly as it is.
The sunlight flashing from it caught our attention first, before we felt the wind it pushed aside as it neared the ground. By the time it eased to a landing in the center of our settlement, we were all clustered at the meeting house, watching.
The Babas–our ten oldest, drapes hanging slackly across their sagging breasts, leg-drapes covering their skinny shanks–ranged themselves in a line between us and the shuttle. The Babas are spiteful old hags, stuck somewhere between the golden past and the “decadent” present. They’re also my own personal nemesis individually and as a whole, but they don’t lack courage.
“It’s from Earth,” said SharShar na Bal, oldest of the Babas. “They’ve come at last.” Her smile was not a sweet one as she cut her eyes toward the north gate and the native village that lay beyond it.
She dispatched people to bar all five gates, others to prepare food and to freshen up an empty family hut for our visitors. There were certainly plenty of empty huts available–and more, every generation, at the rate we were going. She kept me by her in case I was needed to communicate with the newcomers. Besides, it was convenient having me at her elbow instead of sending for me when she wanted to make me miserable. I adjusted my loincloth and untied my drape from its binding of my breasts for combat.
The shuttle was about the size of a family hut, and about the same height, with stilts shorter and thicker than we used. It gleamed like metal, though not even the Babas were old enough to have ever seen anything that big made entirely out of metal.
The shuttle landed, made some settling noises, and sat silent. We stood and watched it.
“Should we speak first?” I asked at last.
SharShar na Bal twitched and said, “BranDal na Cam is always so impatient.” She meant me–I come from First Mother Bran, my mother was Dal, and my name is Cam. “Very well, then, go speak.”
Hypocrite. She would have waited until she grew roots before she spoke first, but I’d given her an opening and she’d taken it.
I walked closer to the shuttle and said, in the language of Earth our First Mothers had brought with them and passed down to us, “Welcome to Peace. We remember Earth. Welcome, Sisters.”
I looked back at Bal, who gave me a grudging nod.
A hatch opened in the side of the shuttle, and a ramp unfolded. A figure came down. A figure with thick facial hair on…his…chin and upper lip. A figure with no breasts. A male. A human male.
Behind me, there was a soft wave of nervous laughter and murmurs.
A wave of relief followed, as two people came after him. The three were dressed alike in trousers and shirts, as our First Mothers dressed, according to the stories. Naturally, they would send the male out first, to make sure it was safe for people.
She doesn’t know any better. She learns and grows.
I think I won eleventy billion dollars on Jeopardy that day. Pretty sure I did.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about a culture clash, and a clash within a culture.