Beyond the Moon and Stars: Chapter 1

For all my lonely and late-blooming trans sisters out there, who had to grow up not reading books about people like themselves.

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The Purple Moon

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Zio marked the seconds with a stick in the sand. She had been sitting on the beach since the dawn, when she had risen restless from her bed and walked the cobblestone path from the burrows to the sea. The face of the gas giant Deucalion filled the portion of the sky to her left, orange and yellow with strands of green gas whirling through its storms. The blue and yellow suns were engaged in their slow dance up to her right, casting strange light and shadows across the planet.

She brushed her hair from her eyes and behind her ear, then rested her head in her hand. She stared without expression at Deucalion. It had only been a few years on this moon, and she still longed for the comforting sleek silver of the colony ship that had left her here. The quiet but omnipresent hum of its ion drives. The herbiculture chambers wet with steam and smelling of flowering plants.

I don’t miss the people, though, she thought. Oh, yes, she had been grown in the same Sanition tanks as they had, been raised by the same Alitorients as the other children, but there was one difference, almost elegant in its ability to divorce her from every aspect of the life of the ship. She simply wasn’t the person they had imagined her to be.

The ship had been hierarchical, strictly delineated on the basis of sex and role. It was only natural there that men would maintain the Sanition tanks, and take care of the maintenance of the dirtiest, most menials parts of the whole vast enterprise, while women were in charge of just about everything else. Zio had the misfortune of being an apparent man at birth.

But as soon as she had grown, she began to defy what was expected of her. She would wander onto the decks where the women monitored the security systems and held their leadership meetings. She was punished repeatedly with Hydrotic Conditioning (and developed a great ability to hold her breath underwater, as a result). But by the time she was fourteen, she was showing no sign of changing as puberty went on, and she was dumped here, on Deucalion V.

What is, shall be, Zio thought, quoting the mantra of her old home, then yawned and stood up. She figured she should walk back for breakfast by now. She walked back along the path, surrounded on both sides by the tall, purple-ish grass called Purpurea that grew thickly all over the moon.

She liked the breeze that blew over her body, could feel it all over because of the loose open garment they wore here, which was a sort of cloth tunic that went down to the elbow and knee. She suddenly remembered the time and through the fabric quickly pressed the patch on the back of her right thigh, which let out a soft sound like a sigh and began to release the medications into her body.

It had been given to her soon after being picked up and had stopped the changes in her body that had terrified her. I guess that’s one good thing about this crappy place. No more worrying about growing a mustache.

After awhile longer, in which she just walked on, watched the Purpurea wave, and thought about nothing at all (in fact embraced the void of thought that had finally opened up) she finally arrived at the gate to her burrow. It was a tall oval hole in the side of a hillock covered in the same grass as everything else. She went in. The path went sharply down for awhile, then began to curve gently. Eventually she stepped into an open chamber, illuminated with electric light and some sun that came in through holes cut in the earth above. It was oval and long, and the walls and ceiling were rammed earth. There were bunks at the far end, partially blocked off by wooden partition walls. Closer to her were the burnished steel cooking cauldrons against the wall, sitting on large electric burners, and the stoves. A few adults were cooking away.

In the middle of the room and to her right, there was a space with Purpurea-woven dolls, toys and mats for the youngest, and also room for low benches and tables for the older children and adolescents like Zio. On one of these benches a woman sat facing outwards, towards the entrance, and smiled gently at Zio as she came in. She was beautiful, dark skinned, tall, and plump, with very wavy hair that fell down to her shoulders.

“Up so early, Zio. You’re not supposed to go off like that by yourself, you know.”

Zio felt her face get hot and red. She went over to sit next to the woman, but didn’t meet her eyes with her own.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Qaisa,” she said.

“That’s your way, isn’t it? To apologize and try to insist there’s nothing wrong. Out with it, Zio, what’s the matter?”

Zio was counting the toes on her bare feet.

“I had a dream…” She paused, and sucked in her breath.

“Yes? Was it so bad? You can tell me, I won’t tell anyone else. You know that.”

Zio knew that was true. She had learned to trust Qaisa in the four years she had been here, if not anyone else. They were the same in a lot of ways.

She said quietly, “I know…”, and took a breath, and finally “…there were men covered in scales, claws where their fingernails should be. They spoke to one another in whispers and clicked their claws against the metal of a spaceship. I could hear the tapping, but not see it. I heard it echo, Aunt Qaisa, I heard the clicks and I felt that I was down the hallway from them…then I saw one of them holding a bundle of Purpurea, and lowering it real slow into a flame. It hissed and crackled, and I was there suddenly watching it burn away. One of them, the one who had dropped it, looked at me. Its eyes were black and shiny. I saw the flames reflected in its eyes. It burned all up, and I woke up crying and nearly fell out of bed…”

Now Zio looked back at Qaisa, some tears in her eyes, and her face scrunched up in agony.

“I don’t know why, but it reminded me of when my people burned Talus VI from orbit. I had to watch, since they were forcing me to learn to fight like the boys and wanted us to get used to the work…”

Qaisa put her arm around Zio and scooted over so that she could press the skinny girl against herself in a hug. Zio felt immediate comfort and leaned against Qaisa’s shoulder. She could tell that Qaisa was frowning slightly, and that she seemed troubled.

“I’d hoped you wouldn’t see such dreams ’till you were fully grown. It’s a burden women like us have to face on this planet, and it’s something awful for you to face it so young.”

She squeezed Zio tight against her, and leaned down to whisper into her ear.

“Don’t mention this to the other young ones. I have to talk with the Nomarch about this, and we don’t want other people getting scared.”

Zio nodded. Other children and adolescents were rising from the bunks and starting to settle at the benches to wait for the food to get done. Zio felt distraught when Qaisa suddenly pulled herself away and got up, but she knew it had to be important. Talk to the Nomarch… she thought, when she had thought it was just a bad dream that would take some time to fade away. Qaisa squeezed her shoulder, said goodbye, and turned and quickly walked out of the den.

Zio looked down at her feet, lost in thought, and waited for the adults to announce when breakfast was ready.

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