Planet Femme fragment: Laila Sunrider

(Note: Planet Femme is a somatic speculative fiction novel that I am writing. Here is an excerpt.)

Laila crested the hill and started the long descent down to the foothills of Vegoia, the wooded, mountainous region that covered much of Aurora’s greater mound. Of all the earthships, Aurora was the most dynamically shaped; potato-like, or even hourglass-shaped, like one of Mars’s moons, with two distinct sections (colloquially referred to as “mounds”) and a very cinched throughway in the middle. A lot of the terrain of this former asteroid was named after the Etruscan pantheon; it was agreed when the earthships were terraformed that all geographical references should be related to deities that were no longer worshipped, and only from cultures that predate the war paradigm that caused the Mother’s eventual demise.

Laila was on her way to visit Maayana Sunrider, her copilot and sometimes lover. Maaya had been disconnected, and was housed in one of Feronia’s dens to recover. Feronia was the relatively flat woodland that intertwined with Vegoia at the foothills of those great mountains. Where Vegoia’s terrain was more alpine, Feronia’s was lush and temperate. All of earth’s interlocking ecosystems were included on most of the asteroids in a highly compact fashion, housing as much of earth’s life as could fit before the Demise. Gaia’s Ark, as the elders would say. That said, only Maya, Aurora’s older sister earthship, hosted a desert, populated by desert life, occasional oases, and nomadic tribes, its presence hotly debated among Maya’s more temperate-dwelling denizens.

Aurora was pregnant, and heavily so. As such, she was moody. Piloting her was a lot more difficult than usual. Additionally, the number of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes on her west side had increased considerably as she had expanded; the villages on her east side were overflowing with temporarily displaced citizens, following the protocol from Aurora’s first pregnancy. She had been pregnant once before, very early on in the program, and it had been a miscarriage. It had rained for weeks, if not months, afterward, drastically affecting the nascent landscape and throwing the harvest season for a loop for several earth-years to come, though the volcanic ash and heavy rain and microclimate of the west had ended up creating a hyper-fertile wedge of earth, where citizens were able to finally successfully grow tropical fruit and vegetables from seeds in the alpine Vegoia seed vault. The irony of the lateral abortive fecundity was not lost on the population, or Aurora herself, who felt ever the more determined to have direct progeny of her own. Thus, when the new finally came to pass that a shipseed had taken, Aurora was both overjoyed and distressed. She was sensitive and emotional about being pregnant again, euphoric with relief and desperate with concern, wanting more than anything to carry this pregnancy to term. There was a chance, some said, that she could birth a new earth, if the Sunriders were able to locate a viable solar system in time and bring her into orbit before she went into labor. If not, then another earthship: a less exciting outcome, though nonetheless cause for celebration. The earthship populations regulated their birthrate for the benefit of the entire system, and more real estate meant larger families for all species involved, human and nonhuman alike, as well as more possibilities for evolution.

Laila knocked softly on the door to Maaya’s den, the den reserved for Sunriders in recovery from disconnection, and when she heard a resigned grunt of permission from within, she entered. Since Maaya was by far the Sunrider who was disconnected the most, she had taken it upon herself to more or less nest and decorate the spitefully named “Disconnection Den” as she saw fit. The dens were a kind of baita; stone houses built into the sides of hills in the former Italian Alps, but with some earthship variations. The walls and floor of the house were stone, and the interior was paneled in wood. The roof was made from the same materials as the bubble that encased the earthship herself; a highly flexible, partly organic, highly durable solar panel, able to absorb light and become bioluminescent from within, giving the interior and exterior of the house a soft glow. Moving through space within a translucent bubble more or less meant travelling through a permanent night; to counteract this, the bubble would absorb and stockpile solar energy, using it to become opaque and luminescent for half the day. When there was enough solar energy stored, Aurora could even trace the orbit of a fictitious sun in the “sky.” As daytime became nighttime, the bubble would perform its best imitation of a decentralized sunset, rippling with warm, sometimes Aurora Borealis-worthy colors, before becoming transparent to reveal the naked vacuum of space.

The dens were designed as hermitages, places for recovery and contemplation, and therefore very modest in construction. The central table of the one-roomed dwelling was adorned with a handwoven cloth that Maaya had learned to make as a child, in the colors adopted by the Sunriders of her family: red and green. On the wall was a framed poster that had been passed down in her family for generations, of a woman dressed in white, with baby’s-breath woven into her afro, smiling softly. Maaya called her “Grandma.” She didn’t know whom the person in the poster was; she felt like it might have been a relative, or perhaps a celebrity, but she’d never know. Nevertheless, during times of disconnection, she would harvest baby’s breath (that she had planted) from the den’s garden, pick out her afro, and adorn it with the tiny white flowers, moping around in her long white gown reserved for such occasions.

Chloé Rossetti