Starlings in a Distant Garden

By Emily Calvin


    I, Natalia Sumbi DeCant of the Capricorn Plutonians, am about to become the first female to fly, and potentially destroy, my planet.   Astronomists might know my land by the name of Pluto, but Jillian, my Elder, raised me as a native of The Traveling Star.  My ancestors, the Plutonians, instilled in us the importance of passing down oral creation myths through the generations.

            Founded upon fire and water, our nation’s land started in two, and the fire people fought the water people for control.  Walking flames devoured the land and wanted more than their fair share of the planet. Icicles large enough to pierce someone’s heart demanded enough space to freeze since the fire people always wandered their heat onto an ice person and melted them. A huge war ensued where fire melted ice and ice froze flames.  Thousands died in the name of their side, but in the end, fire won.  Burial grounds covered the land of water, and ice froze over the graves. 

            Finally, when the fire people took over and the land began to heat up, they turned these gravesites into star gardens.  They found stardust falling through the sky and planted them throughout the graveyard.  Little did they know the spirits of the dead mingled with the starlings to create a star garden worth more than anyone’s life.  Everyone cultivated gardens of stars and planets, and we still keep star gardens on our ship today.  Unbeknownst to us, our gods call out from beneath the ground while we dance to the chimes and rhythms their cries create in our atmosphere.

            As children, all Travelers learn about the history of Pluto and how our homeland came to be The Traveling Star.  Many moons ago, a globe my ancestors called Earth turned my planet into a dwarf star.  Earthlings first called Pluto a dwarf, and then the United Planets (UP) ousted our planet from the UP because we no longer counted “in the grand scheme of things” (said the Earthling representative of the UP). 

            Instead of swallowing their fate and adopting a new identity as residents of a star in the Milky Way galaxy, the Plutonians traveled around the universe.  The president at the time, President Wilson, employed scientists and pilots to turn the planet into a space ship and to teach him how to fly it.  Within a year, Pluto had become The Traveling Star, and President Wilson had become Captain Wilson:  the first pilot to fly the first generation of Travelers around the universe.

            On my fifth rotation of the moon, we entered the Frozen Age, a time when Captain Perseus, unaccustomed to the volatile atmospheres in the universe, accidentally steered the planet into a galaxy of ice storms.  At the time, the ship’s exterior consisted of scrap metal and could not withstand the pressure change.  The ship has improved since then, with a genetically modified, bio-plastic exterior, and white, steel interior.  Within the plastic casing, The Traveling Star has hotel-style homes, ten swimming pools, and myriad palm trees.  The interior designer must have lived on Earth in what Earthlings call the Caribbean at some point, because The Traveling Star now resembles a space-age island.  However, since the Frozen Age, we’ve been running out of people willing to risk their lives flying through the uncharted universe for the sake of the planet.

            My Elder, or what Earthlings call a mother, Jillian DeCant of the Leo Plutonians, a dazzling entertainer, suffered greatly from this house arrest, but I, at age six, did not mind all the extra time I got to spend with my Second Elder, or what Earthlings call a grandmother, Sophia Denal Menson of the Libra Plutonians.  Before the Frozen Age, Jillian performed ceremonial Plutonian dances in front of crowds.  The dances originated from the ancestors and were performed in order to keep the planet in harmony with the universe.  Every night, she combed her hair into a frizzy poof, rested an orange top hat above it, and attached blue and green feathers to the hat.  She looked like one of those tropical birds the Earthlings have in the Caribbean.  

            She wore more gold jewelry than I’ve ever seen and jingled when she walked.  The traditional moves resembled Earthlings’ belly dancing, and when she swung her hips, she mesmerized the crowd with the intricate symphony of her jewelry’s chimes and bells. The gold and orange decor made her bronze skin glow brighter than our sun.  I always envied my Elder’s skin—so dark and luscious.  My Second Elder looked the palest between the three of us, with her cotton soft elephant skin bleached by the sun.  My skin tone fell in the middle, and my Elder always compared my skin to “the glow of the ghost of Cepheus Flare.”  When I got older, I began painting my lips with amethyst and lining them with plum skin.

            The Frozen Age kept everyone inside, and the entertainment industry suffered greatly.  My Elder never stopped wearing her costumes, but instead of dancing on stage, she swung her hips to the rhythm of the robot vacuum.  Jillian the entertainer became Jillian the entertaining stay-at-home Elder…without the domestic partner.

            “You’re not a bastard, sweet Sumbi; your father is,” she told me when I complained about my friends in grade school calling me a bastard child.  Then she told me to go do my homework and forget about the kids at school.





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