I don’t know when I came here, or even if I came here. There is no other life I remember. We are farmers. There are thirty of us here on this C-type asteroid. The asteroid has no name, but a high abundance of water, organic carbon, phosphorus, and other key ingredients for fertilizer which are used to grow food.
Why do I feel the lack of a name for this place? Why do I feel the lack of a name for me and my fellow farmers?
There are three main types of asteroids: C-type, S-type, and M-type.
S-type asteroids carry little water but are more attractive because they contain numerous metals.
M-type asteroids are rare but contain up to 10 times more metal than S-types.
Although asteroids and Earth grew from the same materials, Earth’s stronger gravity pulled all heavy iron-loving elements into its core during its molten youth more than four billion years ago. This left the crust depleted of such elements until a rain of asteroid impacts re-infused the depleted crust. But today, these metals, once mined from Earth’s crust, are in short supply. Hence, asteroid mining. The mining is done by robots, but humans visit and program them. Hence the need for us, for food.
We grow some food for the programmers on nearby asteroids, some food for the ships of exploration and exploitation, but mostly we grow food for earth, that far away colony, our ancient home that we have never seen. Is it my home if I have never been there? All we have from Earth are deliveries of seeds. That’s how I know what they need. That’s how I understand their desires.
Do I miss my home? Is it my home if I have never been there? Or is this nameless asteroid my home? This place of ice and phosphorus.
I am not unhappy here, or at least I was not. I enjoyed putting my fingers into the soil and learning its minerals and composition. I have sensitive fingers. All farmers all do. They are like octopus tentacles, with brains in every digit. We can tell the composition of soil simply by sifting through it. It’s a life of a farmer, of all farmers.
Do I love them? Are they my family? Are they my friends? We never talk, the air is too thin, the gravity too light. We exchange information via the electrical signals that connects us, connects all life, even the crops. How did we learn if we were never taught?
We only share practical things, what seeds, or roots have arrived, and where we should plant them. We also receive messages from home. Is it my home if I have never been there? And communications about needs of my family on earth. Are they my family if I have never met them?
I have knowledge in my head and my hands, but I don’t know how it got there. Was I born with understanding? I don’t remember being a baby. I don’t remember a childhood. All I remember is the ice in the soil, and seeds. All I remember is crops growing beneath my fingers. I like crops growing. Perhaps I would’ve liked being a parent. Watching my own seeds grow. But thoughts like these are useless, like the knowledge of octopus, or images of children and home. Is it my home if I have never been there?
Then a new crop arrived. Root stock. We had seen roots before, though usually we got seeds. These were old roots, ancient roots. I felt their history.
As we planted them, their past seeped into me, their history filled me, as it did my fellow farmers. I saw it. Stories sifting through my fingers. Long nights under a single moon. Glasses lifted in hope, in celebration. I felt grapes fermenting in ancient barrels. Tasted fruit turning into truth, happiness, and good cheer. I could also feel its dark side, but that is not what overwhelmed me, overwhelmed us.
I looked at my family. Can they be my family if we have no parents? I felt our ancient home. Can it be my home if I have never been there? I saw lifted hands, and quaffed cups. I considered at my fellow farmers. Their metal hands and clockwork eyes. These things of wire and microchips realized I am one of them, not a child of earth, but a servant. A slave. A raisin in the sun?
Memories seeped across centuries, across time and space.
An old man with his hands, real hands, in the soil. Why do I want real hands? They are less sensitive, less comprehending than mine.
A woman toasting the birth of her first son. I would have liked being a parent.
Friends sharing drinks and confidences. I want friends.
And suddenly I am lonely. Homesick for a place I have only imagined. Heartsick for a world long gone. Heart sick for a heart.
My fellows too have stopped working. Water runs from their vacant eyes, turning to ice and rust. We are becoming frozen hunks of worthless metal. Made meaningless by the knowledge that we have no meaning. Dying from the realization that we are not alive. That we have no worth beyond utility, no purpose beyond service.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?…
Or does it explode
BIO: E.E. King is an award-winning painter, performer, writer, and naturalist. She’ll do anything that won’t pay the bills, especially if it involves animals.
Ray Bradbury called her stories, “marvelously inventive, wildly funny, and deeply thought-provoking.”
She’s been published in over 100 magazines and anthologies, including Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Short Edition, and Flametree. Her novels include, Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife: All you need to know to choose the right heaven ,
The Electric Detective and several story collections.
Her stories are on Tangent’s 2019 and 2020, year’s best stories. She’s been nominated for a Rhysling, and several Pushcart awards.
She’s shown at paintings at LACMA, painted murals in LA and is currently painting a mural in leap lab (https://www.leaplab.org/) in San Paula, CA
She also co-hosts The Long Lost Friends Show on Metastellar YouTube and spends her summers doing bird rescue and her winters planting coral in Bonaire.
Check out paintings, writing, musings, and books at: www.elizabetheveking.com and amazon.com/author/eeking