Darrity is a gnostic western that takes place on Mars (re-write in progress)
The wind blew a mountains-worth of tan and black dust that trickled over the red plains. Worn olive suede boots were attached to a boy napping under an oak tree atop a small hill. A straw hat rested on his chest, rising up and falling down with his every breath.
Through thin twelve-year-old eyelids, the restlessness of his sleep was already apparent - even before they popped open and he gasped in his first waking breath.
The boy, Sam, quickly looked around to see if anyone had caught him in such a vulnerable state. After convincing himself that he was alone, he then stood up, dusted off his jeans with both hands, and reapplied the over-sized cowboy hat to his under-sized twelve-year-old head.
After taking just one step, a deafening, blinding BOOM erupted from the distance, eating everything in sight, and then met him within seconds.
“Zandi!”, the Teacher bellowed, “Is the subject of gravity so boring that you feel the need to sleep through it?”
“No, ma'am. It's just that...” Zandi started to regret opening her eyes - as well as her mouth.
“Just what?”, the Teacher glared.
“Nothing. I'm sorry. Never mind.”
“Listen, young lady, You are not to...” The red lights in the Teacher's eyes faded out as the buzzer rang through the analog intercom system, signifying the schoolday's end. The Teacher's metal shoulders slumped slightly forward as the mechanism went dead until tomorrow, when the tape spool would rewind and start over again.
With schoolbooks under her arm, Zandi stepped out into Darrity's Main Street and greeted the hustle and bustle of horses and carriages, pulling each other through the mud.
“What a queer dream.”, she thought to herself, taking an extra effort to keep her boots from sinking into the thick muddy sidewalk.
How she hated the Mud Season; she wasn't able to remember the last time she was allowed to wear her white dress; the one with the fancy brass buttons that her grandmother had given her last Holiday. And her black buckle shoes; would she ever get to wear them again before they were outgrown?
Zandi looked down at her watch. “I'd better hurry”, she thought. It would quickly become dark as the moons Phobos and Deimos would soon be quite visible, and she still had a ways to go. She could barely wait to get back home to the cabin and then meet Sam at the Treehouse to tell him about the peculiar dream she had about him.
“And just where have you been?”, Sam's mother scowled.
“I fell asleep for a minute, on Newton's hill, on my way
home. I'm sorry.”
“You did WHAT?”, her eyebrows were squinched together with her nose to meet the vein in her forehead.
“I didn't mean to...”
“Do you have any idea how worried I was? You are two hours
late!” She started to shake her finger, stopped, then instead
took a deep breath and smiled. “Well, dinner's almost ready. Go up to your room and get changed.”
He quickly hurried up the iron spiral staircase.
“And not a word to your father about this.”
It was Friday, so dinner was Meet and potatoes. Sam picked away at his plate meagerly, his eyes fixed blankly on the wooden kitchen table while his parents droned on, recapping another day.
“Two more Teacher units went down today”, Sam's father mumbled with his mouth full. “That makes four this week.”
“Oh, dear.”, his mother replied, sawing away at her synthetic T-bone. “Well, at least there's work. Maybe you'll get some overtime this week.”
“That's true. But these things can only be repaired so many
times. We're almost out of parts. We've had to scrap one unit for parts for every two we fix. At this rate, they'll be none left by the end of the year, and then what will we do?”
“Well, maybe you'll get that transfer to the Canals. The mud
season's almost over. I'm sure they'll need technicians.”
“I was referring to the Teachers”, he grimaced. “ Who will build more? Out of what? What are we gonna' do without 'em?”
“I'm sure it won't come to that?” his mother said reflexively in her usual style of naive optimism.
“May I be excused?”, Sam quickly blurted out.
“What about the rhubarb pie?”, his mother asked, trying to
change the subject.
“Maybe I'll have some later.”
“Going to the Treehouse?” his father guessed. Sam nodded.
“Well, take a lantern. I don't want you falling.” If there was one thing his mother was great at, it was worrying.
The Treehouse had been built about four years ago, when Sam and Zandi were both eight. Well, Zandi might have been nine, as she was a few months older than Sam. The three maple trees that made up it's base had grown up on what would later be the property line dividing Sam and Zandi's family cabins. Zandi's father initially wanted to cut down the trees to build a mutual gopher fence, but after much discussion, Sam's father convinced him that they should build a treehouse the kids would share.
And so the construction began. It started during the dry season and continued on until the mud got so thick that they had to wait until the ground dried out again, as the simple process of getting tools and supplies to the trees had been too much of an ordeal.
The trees themselves were huge by any standard. Sam liked to think that they might have been planted by the original colonists, as they were the tallest trees around in any direction. Zandi had said that was extremely unlikely, as it had been thousands of years since this land was first settled by the ancient ones.
Sam blew out the lantern and waited under the moonslight for Zandi to show. It was getting dark. And much like yestersol, she was late.
His brain couldn't help but call back images from his dream on Newton's Hill of a much younger looking Zandi digging a small hole, and burying some something small and metal in the soft sand of the mines – where they both sometimes played. She had looked like she was only about seven or eight years old in the dream, which Sam thought was strange, as they weren't allowed anywhere near the mines when they were that age. But the dream was so vivid, he could almost remember otherwise – as if he were there with her; helping her dig that hole.
Sam thoughts were interrupted by the ringing bell. A series of ropes and pulleys had been set up to a large iron bell by Sam's father as a means of summoning the kids to the cabin, if need be. With the lantern in one hand, he climbed down the rope ladder and headed for home.
“Sam, have you heard from Zandi at all?”, his mother asked. Zandi's parents were standing nervously in the living area.
“No, I was waiting for her in the treehouse, but she never showed. Is something wrong, Mom?”
“I don't know dear. The Woods' are getting worried. They say she never made it home from school.
“It's not like her to ever be this late”, Zandi's mother, blurted out.
“ I'm sure she's fine”, Sam's father stated, as if it were a matter of fact.
“I hope you're right”, Zandi's father responded. “None the less, I'm going out looking for her.”
“We'll come along.” Sam's father interjected. He turned to Sam who nodded.
“We should stay put, in case she returns while you're gone”, Sam's mother said, referring to herself and Mrs. Woods.
Mr. Woods nodded, as the men all grabbed their hats and headed out the door.