Updated: May 7
New Indigenous Futurisms fiction by Weyodi.
Beginning this month, Wordcraft Circle will seek to bring you new fiction (which will eventually make its way to Native Realities Digital). To kick us off, we bring you some excellent science fiction by award-winning writer Weyodi. The story is serialized, so we will have the next sections available every week. Thanks for tuning in! If you are interested in being featured with Wordcraft Circle, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
I sat halfway up the number four radial ladder at the map room end of the ship watching two of my mothers corner a porcupine. Just a dozen more rungs up and gravity would be loosened enough that I could let go of the ladder and move on my own through the loose-g to the map room if I felt like it. But not yet. A dozen more rungs would also make the difference between being able to see what my mothers were doing well enough to be entertained by them and Primes-The-Thrusters and Strips-Wires-With-Her-Teeth turning into two tiny moving dots. Below, on the central drum of the ship, Strips-Wires-With-Her-Teeth charged the porcupine and Primes-The-Thrusters threw the blanket in her hands but from the movement of their bodies I could tell the porky had escaped, run through the berry thicket on the other side of the old Pecan tree. But I knew my mothers. Neither of them were the kind to give up. Eventually they would get the blanket over the porcupine and walk away with my old baby blanket full of quills. These they would clip the barbed ends off of, dye, soak, flatten, and sooner or later use to embroider my name, Relativistic-Jet, or at least the meaning of it, a flare of particles escaping from the event horizon of a black hole, onto something I owned. It was kind of a mania with all six of my mothers lately. They were all constantly making me new clothes, jewelry, tools, weapons all emblazoned with my symbol. Even my new atomizer gun had the symbol, which looked like a ray piercing a flattened disc, inlaid in precious stones on the butt. It was a very nice brand new atomizer and the symbol looked very striking but it was also a little bit embarrassing. When was too much too much?
It was both exciting and terrifying to think about why they were doing this. Soon, in less than a standard measure, the length of time it took a human being baby to grow inside the body and emerge alive, we would rendezvous with another ship of human beings and if I met a woman I liked, a woman who also liked me, I could tell my mothers and they would arrange a match. My first-mother, boss-wife Extinguishes-The-Fire, gave me her word none of them would make a match without my consent. I thought about the upcoming meet-up with another ship. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to some pangs at the knowledge that once a match was made I would be leaving my family behind and never return to my home-ship except as a visitor. But that was the way of things. Oh, from time to time, if a ship was getting too crowded or there was some kind of long-running insurmountable conflict within a ship, a group of sisters might build their own ship, but most of the time women stayed on the ship where they were born. Which was why girls were taught to tend to business inside the ship from the time they were little. It would be their responsibility to keep the ship running, make sure there was air to breathe and water to drink, make sure the plants and animals were thriving and the gravity kept them affixed to the central drum. Make sure the thrusters were firing so the ship could be maneuvered. Keep the puuku, the four man ships used for setting down on a planet, in good shape.
It was Men’s Work to make the maps and use those maps along with the Deer-Star-Plant to move the ship through space. It was Men’s Work to sing and drum at the mark of every sleeping and waking, to remind the heart of the ship to beat, and to keep the hearts of the people and the heart of the ship synchronized with each other. It was Men’s Work, along side the Women Warriors, to defend the ship. It was Men’s Work to protect the landing party, so that women could decide what, if anything, a planet might have that the Human Beings might need. Then it was the job of the men to get it for them. Whether by charm, or by negotiation, or trade, or, as a last resort for obvious practical reasons, by simply taking what they wanted and running as fast and as far as they could. The Women’s job was to run things inside the ship while Men were expected to handle things outside the ship. My fathers and grandfathers had put time and effort into preparing me to be a man, and needless to say to attract the attention of women. I knew how to let my looks speak for themselves. I had already proven I knew how to keep calm in a fight, I was a good shot with my atomizer, but my real strong suit were my powers of persuasion. I was also very naturally good looking, but I wasn’t going to say that out loud. I shouldn’t have to. It was obvious. Not that plain, or even ugly boys, couldn’t marry well but...every little bit makes a difference. Doesn’t it?
I figured I ought to be able to make a good match, though I went back and forth in my mind over whether it would be better to have an older, more established well-experienced wife with several husbands and co-wives or whether I would prefer to begin a new family branch in a first-husband/first-wife type situation. I had turned the thought over and over, and approached it from every angle I could find but I wasn’t sure. My revery was broken by my sister, Walks-In-The-Vacuum, below me on the ladder, dressed in her space suit, shouting at me through the suit’s speaker. Four more of my sisters, each in their own space suits, with their names and the ship’s name, The Star Shield, painted on the chests, stood lined up behind her. “Relativistic-Jet, I know you’re too pretty to work but could you at least get out of the way so other people can get their chores done?” Walks-In-The-Vacuum said her voice undistorted through the speaker. Walks-In-The-Vacuum was stubborn but I could be stubborn, too, when I felt like it. Something about Walks-In-The-Vacuum always made me feel like it. “Go back down. Use another ladder,” I said “I’m sitting here.” “We’re half-way up. We’re not going to turn around, go back down, then go all the way up another ladder just because you decided to get in the way,” Walks-In-The-Vacuum said.
I really had intended to go talk to Great Grandpa Whisper in the map room but Walks-In-The-Vacuum spent so much time telling me, and everyone else, not only what to do but also how to do it, when to start, and when to stop that I looked Walks-In-The-Vacuum rudely in the eye, folded my arms against my chest, and said “I think I’ll stay right here,” hooking my feet on the rung below me. “We’re doing this for you and you won’t even get out of our way,” Forward-Momentum, at the rear of the line of sisters, but a head taller than the rest of them, said with disgust. “How are you doing this for me? Did they tell you to paint my name on the side of the ship?” I asked, almost serious. It was Walks-In-The-Vacuum who answered “You probably think we ought to, you vain thing, but no, we’re touching up the paint on the hull so your future inlaws don’t talk bad about the shape your home ship is in. Otherwise they’ll bring up that raggedy paint job every time you do something dumb,” she gestured for me to go up the ladder, because she was tired of waiting. In response I leaned back and settled in.
The next thing I knew Walks-In-The-Vacuum jerked her head just so and the rest of my sisters; Reinforces-The-Hull, Avoids-Work, Counts-The-People, and Forward-Momentum, shimmied up the sides of the ladder. Grabbing me by my arms and legs, they heaved me, one...two...three...four out of their way. I was tossed with all their considerable communal strength... not down, no, they wouldn’t do that...but up where the gravity was light and after a split second of surprise I bounded away slowly, laughing. Oh well, I meant to visit Great Grandpa Whisper in the map room anyway. “Thanks for the boost,” I shouted at Walks-In-The-Vacuum shaking my buttocks in her general direction. Then I took one, two, three leaps forward and propelled myself in the direction of the very tip of the ship’s mapside cone. Landing feet first at the door flap to the map room, I met the inner hull plating with a soft thud, my bare toes gripping the plating as I righted myself and knocked at the wall beside the flap. “Great Grandpa Whisper?” I called “It’s me, Relativistic-Jet, can I visit? Are you busy?” Instead of Great Grandpa Whisper, his best friend, Heights, answered the door. “Not busy at all my boy, come on in, come on in. Make your report,” Great Grandpa Whisper called behind Heights’ shoulder. Great Grandpa Whisper was a very small very round Human Being but his voice was extremely deep and commanding. It turned out he hadn’t been as close as I had thought but on the other side of the map room and he had the Mother Deer-Star-Plant floating beside him . “You tell it. What do you have the Big Mother for?” I asked, because it was strange and the mothers and grandmothers didn’t like you to take plants into micro-gravity. “Oh I’m just having a talk with my friend here,” Great Grandpa Whisper said conspiratorially “I’ll have her back before your Great Grandmothers find out.” Great Grandpa Whisper made friends out of everyone. It was what made him such an excellent trader. He cared what you needed, whether he knew you or not, and it was not an affectation. And if it was in his power to get it for you, even if you had nothing to offer him in return, he would make it happen. It seemed like everyone in the galaxy knew Great Grandpa Whisper and owed him ...something. That was how Hytes had joined the ship. It happened before I was born but everyone, even on other ships, knew the story. It had started on the planet Igcks. The people of Igcks considered dance the highest of all art forms and once a solar cycle they held a contest and the prize was 300 weight of high quality ship metal.
Now it was a fact that Human Beings did not evolve in space and in order to keep their bodies fit for landing parties every day every Human Being danced as soon as they could stand, in addition there were daily games, foot races, women’s ball game-played with a large leather ball and no hands, men’s ball game- played with sticks and a small ball, but every Human Being was at least a good dancer. Not bragging, just telling the truth. It was also a fact that while Great Grandpa Whisper had always been a short round man he was well known to be the greatest dancer in all the ships of the Human Beings. Again, it was a simple fact. And so it was that Great Grandpa Whisper danced on Igcks and won the grand prize of 300 weight of valuable ship metal. However, amid the festive atmosphere of being awarded Igcks’s highest honor Great Grandpa Whisper crossed paths with a wretched creature chained to a rock in front of the home of a prominent citizen. Great Grandpa Whisper asked, as anyone would, what this person had done, what crime they had committed. The Igcks explained, very amused with the great dancer, that this was no person, but a wild Beast, a lower animal who had been captured in the countryside as an infant when the rest of its band had been killed for thieving fruit from orchards on the outskirts of the city. The prominent citizen looked on it as if it were one of his own children, The Igcks told The Human Beings, and supplied the Beast with mildly narcotic herbs, which the wild Beast rolled into a tight cylinder of leaves, put to its mouth and inhaled. The herbs kept the Beast complacent and happy, the chain kept the Igcks safe from the Beast’s barbaric nature. Great Grandpa Whisper observed the Being chained to the rock. The Igcks indulged the honored dancer’s eccentricity and carefully prevented him from coming within reach of the Beast on his tether. He could simply go on and leave the Beast as he was, chained to the rock, but the longer Great Grandpa Whisper stood there the less that option sat comfortably on him. Great Grandpa Whisper could have decided to simply take the Beast and race, as quickly as possible, back to the four-person lander. The trouble was Great Grandpa Whisper wanted to maintain good relations with the Igcks. It was in the best interest of the ship and any other Human Beings that came to Igcks. Besides, Great Grandpa Whisper liked dancing on Igcks. In the end Great Grandpa Whisper did the only thing he felt he could do, under the circumstances, he traded 300 weight of ship building metal, enough to replate half the ship if you rolled it thin enough, for the freedom of the chained Beast who had no name. Great Grandma Fills-Her-Collection-Bag laughed and shook her head when Great Grandpa Whisper tried to set The Beast loose but The Beast refused freedom to follow their party back to the lander. Great Grandpa Whisper rode back to the ship with The Beast on his lap, even though it was almost twice Great Grandpa Whisper’s size. Great Grandma Scans-The-Planet was so mad about what her husband Whisper had done she moved her private cone away from his other wives, facing the opening in the opposite direction and denying Great Grandpa Whisper entry. The ship quickly grew accustomed to the Beast’s ways, referring to him as “Whisper’s Male Friend” and then simply “Male Friend”, a name he was still called by, or “Heights” in the language of Human Beings. Heights was good to have at your side in a battle, whether the fighting was ship-to-ship or hand-to-hand, even though I had never seen him use the impressive fangs that hung past his jaw. Heights never learned to speak, after scans it was discovered he did not have the anatomy for more than panting or growls. He did learn to use the map room to navigate, and eventually to make use of the thrusters to pilot the ship in regular space. Despite repeated attempts he never learned to use the Deer-Star-Plant to fold space. It was as if the Deer-Star-Plant simply refused him communion with the minds of the ship’s other elders. Heights never had forsaken the habit of his youth and continued rolling any leaves he could find into cylinders so he could breathe in the smoke, which he was doing now, floating in the almost complete weightlessness of the map room with Great Grandpa Whisper, the tip of the cylinder glowing as he floated, rings of smoke coming from his snout. “Did you come to talk about getting married, my boy?”Great Grandpa Whisper asked. A shiver raced across my skin. How did Great Grandpa Whisper know? He always knew.
“Don’t look so surprised, I been alive 147 gestations, my boy. I got the whole universe at my fingertips and I still spend most of my time thinking about women,” Great Grandpa Whisper laughed “Besides, your time is coming, everything’s about to change for you, becoming a full grown man, going to another ship, if I was you it’s all I would be able to think about.” “But how do I choose? I mean what if I pick the wrong one? What if I marry one girl but then I meet someone better on a different ship? If I leave won’t her whole ship be mad at me? And will my new wife ever really be able to trust me?” I said. A strange tickling sensation on my back, I looked over my shoulder at Heights, who shrugged. Maybe the topic was making me sweat. “You never really know until you’ve been with ‘em for ...five...maybe six gestations minimum,” Great Grandpa Whisper said searching the star maps that covered the wall of the round room. “But what about the rendezvous?” I asked the odd feeling had moved down the back of my breech-cloth and I squirmed. “Them girls sneaking into your mothers’ cone to sleep with you is a damn good time and all but tryin’ each other out isn’t the same as being married. Not at all,” Great Grandpa Whisper said as he floated gently around the room. The Deer-Star-Mother floated beside him.
“How do I pick the right one? How do I know?” I asked as Great Grandpa Whisper slowly rotated his finger tracing a trail of stars on the wall of the little round room. “Well that depends…” Great Grandpa Whisper started saying but I lost the rest with the realization that the burning end of Heights’s leaves had floated into the back of my breech-cloth. Against my will I yowled and flailed against the micro-gravity, fighting to put out the burning embers trapped between my buttocks and testicles. My arms flailed. My legs paddled in different directions at the same time. Without meaning to at all I smacked Great Grandpa Whisper in the back and sent him spinning headfirst into the Deer-Star-Mother. I was stabbed by a pang of shame that was cut off by the continued burning in my breech-cloth. The ties. I needed to release the ties on my breech-cloth. Burning and spinning I fumbled to untie my breech-cloth and get the embers away from my most precious and consequently most tender parts. Panicked fingers caught the tie just as the walls began to pulsate, glowing green and purple, blue and orange. Space began to contract, I myself folding helplessly and down into my own
center, smaller and smaller, until space and the ship and everyone on it were concentrated down to single point of pink black light.
Either an eternity or an instant passed by and all things, myself included, began to blossom outwards.
To Be Continued...
An enrolled citizen of the Comanche Nation Weyodi reckons her lifelong allegiance to speculative fiction is the result of a childhood surrounded by elderly Comanches with a lively interest in both the past and the future as well as a distinctly non-mainstream world view.Today Weyodi lives in Albuquerque, on the traditional nomadic route of her band, where she tries to make sure the neighbors don’t suspect a thing.