Any real Plenty

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The History Issue is now shipping. Fiction — Nov 6, In the not-so-distant future, food is a source of memory, survival, and human connection in this speculative fiction short story. By Stef Ferrari. Get your copy. Eve had one job. And it was the only one on Earth that she intended to do. Eve was fortunate; not everyone had a skill that could translate in this new world. Field work used to mean tending to the animals and tilling the soil.

Now it was about finding elemental analogues, to try to recreate food the way it once was.

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As far as tasks on the station went, hers was satisfying enough. Mars was habitable and satisfactory from a biological perspective. That warmth, that shine, it all stuck with her—a sense memory buried so deep that no amount of time in space could relieve her of it. But she told no one of her nostalgia, of course.

Everyone carried vestiges of their past lives, fermented into their personalities, but in this place if she let on, she could be considered dangerous—even contagious. When word came in of the discovery, Eve was the natural choice. Not just because of her experience and expertise, but because of her focus and dedication, and her willingness to take on any job. After a while though, most had given up. It had been so long; the program deteriorated, the personnel atrophied, and the tools deed to assist in the search decayed. Those at the helm started to forget they wanted these resources. To survive, hope must be inoculated against complacency, and given that the feeling is so closely tied to remembrance it simply faded with time.

Now there was more speculation than fact about what was still down on Earth. Wild conjecture. Conspiracy theories. About how the human body would react on its surface. Myths and legends were created to explain away questions and ease grief, until time could neutralize curiosity and longing. The human brain, powerful and obstinate, was a wild card. Eve had heard about early missions—sometimes rumors spread about researchers who disappeared, their time back on Earth had driven them to madness.

The resurfacing of memories were too compelling, too traumatic, and it emotionally corrupted them like an overexposed negative, inhibiting them from developing further. Grief was a plague as stubborn as a virus, and the antidote was extreme: to erase memory, prohibit recollection, forbid nostalgia.

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But Eve resisted; her natural curiosity made her cling to her memory desperately, even as it eroded with the passage of time. She craved a return to Earth, to see for herself. Delivered every weekend. Her expectations of the planet were a construct now—an amalgamation of reports and statistics, digital recreations or second-hand descriptions.

No one needed yet another thing to fear and repression techniques proliferated, positioned as self-preservation—preventative medicine. Eve was certain part of her resilience was the relationship with her mother, Olympia, who seemed impervious to the treatments. Olympia had always been resistant to authority, dissenting to common opinions. Olympia was the only reason Eve had to think twice about accepting the job. To take the mission meant leaving her mother alone on the cold, stark station, distantly orbiting a sun that once provided life to the planet they abandoned.

The one that was now her destination. In the end, Eve knew she had to go. On the day she was scheduled to leave, she readied in their shared pod. Eve secured her pack, tightened the elastic band around her ponytail, and strapped on the side compartment deed for her identification and emergency contact information, in case something went wrong.

Olympia had been staring intently at Eve, knowing the severity with which her daughter had approached every task in her life, ever since she was. As usual, she was unflappable, a trait that was both admirable and irksome to Eve over the years. Olympia received it humorlessly and without acknowledgement.

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Eve contained her exasperation. How must this all have seemed to someone with two dozen more years of life experience? Eve stepped off the ship. Based on reports, she expected a barren terrain, neglected, hostile. But this was a pastoral painting lifted from a museum wall. There was lush grass, feathery wheat fields in which each stalk looked like a giant paintbrush itself. And though it was dusk, there was evidence in the warm air that this land had seen the sun, and recently. Standing in that field, she was acutely aware of the proximity to the land on which she was raised.

Her mother, subverting all expectations of women in her day, not only launched a farm all on her own, but she named it after herself too. What comprised the fields of Olympia Farms were cuttings of grit grafted onto stalks of passion, grown in the fertile soil of necessity. Eve immediately switched on the nostalgia deflector shield, invented when it became obvious how dangerous memories could be. She was especially vulnerable here, given the exposure to familiar territory. After all, there was no certainty that the world would end, just rampant speculation and sensationalizing, uncertainty and confusion.

Looking around at the landscape now, she felt sick. It was evident that humans were still inhabiting this place. She wanted to be outraged; she was told to be at least frightened. Yet what stirred in her was respect and awe. The danger of allowing those emotional reactions had been conditioned out of them during the years since leaving Earth, so when her breath caught in her throat, when her eyes began to sting in a way she associated with a scraped knee, a bee sting, a broken heart, she concentrated on forcing them back.

Fortunately, she was interrupted before her thoughts could consume her. Eve turned to find the source of the voice: the woman was dressed in denim jeans and a jacket the color of cinnamon, wearing no protective gear whatsoever, unless you counted the work boots. Her mind raced. She had so many questions, but what paralyzed her was the casual delivery, the very normalcy of the scene in front of her. She returned a blank stare, her logical mind calling her back to the matter at hand, the sample that had been detected, the point of this entire mission and her presence on this planet.

She smirked. And now she faced this person who, entirely nonplussed and very much alive, was staring at her as if this protective suit was utter nonsense. In a moment, Eve went from feeling distressed at seeing this civilian risk her life, to utterly foolish. I welcome it. How is that possible? Well, in theory. What she did now was help sustain life—the purpose of growing food was to keep people alive. The difference between living and being alive?

The sky was threatening and electric with cloud activity; the weather made it all the more clear that this was a planet still experiencing its natural rhythms, healthy and active. I promise. She could return to the ship and wait out the storm, or she could follow Greta. The pull of one human being on another was surprisingly strong, something Eve could hardly recall and yet now could not deny. She followed Greta inside; the house was a museum, an homage to the old days. Photos lined the walls in both color and black and white. Eve struggled to wrap her mind around the idea of relinquishing the gear, but in the context of this organically cozy home, she was an unnatural element.

Or did they wipe the idea of comfort from your memory too? Greta put on a record player and stepped away. Disarmed, Eve watched the vinyl spin, and she listened to the voices rise from the small speakers, swirling around her. Music was banned on Mars—its ability to trigger memory made it too risky. Though I warn you, you might not want to leave. Suddenly, Eve was reminded of those who took similar journeys and never returned.

They were believed to have been lost—killed in the line of duty, driven mad with memory. But maybe there was another explanation.

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Eve was surprised at the rumble in her stomach, another human feeling that had been edited out of the experience with time-release bottled meals and mind-control strategies. But that aroma was a powerful override.

Any real Plenty

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