Fading Memories (Farmpunk Flash Fiction Contest)
Alden slowly pulled on his surface suit, his grumpy demeanour not going unnoticed by his co-workers, they decided to ignore him. He trudged down the murky hallway wishing he’d not drunkenly bet two surface shift weeks in the game he lost last night. The weekly maintenance trip to the surface was bad enough, but with the water pumps down, the twice a day routine was easily the least popular job for his crew. He muttered to himself as he climbed the unnervingly creaky ladder to the top.
“Morning Mr. Parker, how can I assist you this morning?” the damn auto advisor had picked up his mutterings again.
“Deactivate!” the waspish farmer shouted.
“She was only asking. There’s no need to be such an asshole!” a familiar voice came out of his helmet's speakers. His brother had been messing with his system again. Alden managed a rare smile as he pulled himself on to the surface and slammed shut the hatch shut.
“Cheeky little prick.”
The smile quickly faded as he surveyed the landscape, so much to do. His feet still ached from yesterday’s shift. "Only twelve more hours to go today." He thought to himself as he reached down and flipped open a panel on his left leg. The three hydropods built into his suit contained a mix of water and necessary vitamins, well two of them did anyway. He flicked the third switch and the slow release of his little brothers famous, borderline toxic, homebrew, trickled into his bloodstream.
As the warmth that always accompanied said mixture tingled through his body he set about his work. Manually drawing water to the surface was easily the most boring part of the day so he’d do it first.
Carefully opening up the old backup hatch and beginning the long, archaic procedure, he looked up and the sky. Particularly at what his Nan used to call, “That little pinprick in the heavens”, the tiny speck off in the distance, Earth.
As a child he loved the old tales she would tell him. A civilisation of plenty, centuries ago. Excess harvests, feasts and food festivals, what complete nonsense she used to believe. His Nan never went to school like he did, never got a proper education.
He had been fortunate enough to have been sponsored. A friend of his Mum’s had noticed a keen intellect in the shy, introverted youngster, so unlike most of his friends, he was sent to the Lower Central Academy, the highest up the social ladder anyone else in his family had ever travelled. He also read the daily updates from The Great People's Council of Mars, and even had the honour of once being selected to visit the Museum of Mars. The head of his district had selected him amongst all the newly graduated workers to represent them. He’d seen the true history of their people. The strength it had taken to evolve in the inhospitable Martian conditions, the resilience to survive and prosper to the point they had. He regularly whined about the daily grind that, that survival entailed, but he never forgot his roots. He was lucky to have what he had, and beneath the grumbling, was incredibly grateful.
His dearest Nan had died still insisting the old legends were actually true. As she had aged her senility had caused fact and fiction to blend in her mind. He had humoured her, listened to the stories for hours. Promised to pass them on as she wished.
“The human race will never truly lose its heritage if just one of us remembers.” She had always insisted, cursing the powers that be she thought were successfully erasing it.
But those stories had passed with her. Alden’s daughter was to be born just six short weeks from now. As he had graduated she would get into school automatically, assuming she did not violate any of the social codes. Maybe she too would be allowed the privilege of visiting the museum one day, see her planet, her peoples, great history. He would not be confusing her with old myths.
He knew better than that.
Thanks to @blockurator for giving me the idea to write this story.
It doesn't fully follow the rules of the competition. In fact it has almost nothing about farming in it, and it's 60-odd words too short, but I had fun writing it. Also happy to contribute something to the new genre of farmpunk!