A lot of this I only know because my mother told me. I have memories, but at the time I didn’t understand any of it.
I remember very little of my early life. There’s a sense of being loved and protected; the sound of Mother’s voice singing to me; her scent and the scent of someone I came to understand was my father. Arms holding me, sometimes hers, sometimes his. Their laughter, and my own. Happiness.
But they were poor, I learned later, living in subsidized housing. He had a job he didn’t like that didn’t pay well; she wasn’t able to go to work because of the cost of child care.
So when recruiters came with promises of good jobs, good housing, a healthy environment for children on a world that was still being settled; with pictures of forested land and pleasant apartment blocks, with lists of jobs where promotion was possible, it’s no wonder that my parents – and many others on our world – signed up. I remember excitement, and I got all excited, too, even though I didn’t understand why.
I never learned the name of the planet I was born on. But I learned the name of the planet we went to very well – Brykkè.
Colony ships aren’t supposed to be luxury liners, so my parents didn’t complain about cramped quarters and the smells. After all, everything was going to be wonderful at journey’s end.
But Brykkè was called elsewhere, in later days, the Hell Planet.
From orbit around our new world we were crowded into shuttles and sent down in large groups. Hot, dry air blasted us the moment the doors opened. Instead of a colony world, in front of us was an expanse of desert. The men waiting for us carried weapons. I didn’t know what they were, but that’s my first really clear memory – the blinding desert and the men shouting at us.
There were tables with standard issue clothing on them. We were told to strip and put those clothes on. Most of our group were numb with fear and did so. The few that refused were used as examples for the rest – shot down.
They lined us up and we were sorted. We were close to the beginning of the line, just three men in front of us. They – and Father – were all called “grunts” and told to go “over there.” Then a man looked down at me and said, “too plain, maybe she’ll get better.” Then he looked at mother and said, “This one’s too plain, too. Whore. Take the brat with you. Over there.”
Father hadn’t gone with the other grunts. Maybe he couldn’t believe until that minute that we’d be separated. But when he heard this, he tried to grab a guard’s weapon, shouting something.
Another guard hit Father in the head and there was a crackling noise. Father went down in the sand with a big burn on his temple. Another guard looked down the line. “Fighting will get you nowhere.” He leaned down and cut Father’s arms off at the shoulder. I don’t know what he used. Father didn’t bleed. “Power mills,” said the first man, then he grabbed mother and pushed her “over there,” leaving me to run behind her.
I never saw my father again.
Image by Kathleen Cavalaro / Flickr
Modified with permission