Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

I’m thinking of my daughter LaHayne and the upcoming marriage. It’ll be her third.

Her other two husbands have met the new fiancee and they like him. They’ll all live together in a series of connected apartments in the cave wall. Modest, but it was all I could afford.

My daughter is beautiful, though, and intelligent in conversation. That afforded me some generous dowries from the suitors. As always, I let her pick but I crossed my fingers and hoped that she would be practical as well as young. She surprised me with her choices but in the end, she showed me that she is already much smarter than her father.

I am Ethan. I am a ferryman. This planet named Orin-ra is a solid ball of cold dense rock. Valleys of mile-deep clefts vein the surface of Orin-ra like a shattered billiard ball that’s been glued back together. The bottoms of these cracks have rivers and cloud systems and heat. The tops of these cracks touch the sky where the air becomes too thin to breathe.

We humans live in these cracks. We live on the vertical. We carved tunnels into the sides of the chasms and moved in. The colony ship had a vast array of things that struggling colonies might need including hunting and fishing implements and scouting vehicles.

We pulled flying animals out of the air to ride and for food and clothing. We ate and harvested the flowering lichen that carpeted the walls. And we pulled up the giant aquatic animals from the depths.

After eating the meat from the inside of these chasm-whales, we filled their skins with air. They became giant dirigibles. They became ferries.

I pilot one of them. I am a ferryman. There are lots of these slow moving taxis that traverse the world. We are the system of transit for getting from one clifftown to another.

The younger folk like to capture the smaller flying animals and ride them. They’re faster but they’re more dangerous and can only take a few passengers depending on their size. Pterries, they’re called.

Our ferries are larger, safer and can take freight.

Like Hindenberg airships from Old Earth but with fins and wide dead eyes. It has a fire in its hollow belly that I can control by letting more air in through the gills or letting some air out from the back. I can wave its giant rear tails to slowly push us forward through the humid night air.

Miles of air below us and cliffs on either side. Our entire culture is caught between a rock and a hard place.

I get to go home every few weeks and see my lovely daughter and her husbands. I’ll be going back soon to see her third wedding. There are more men than women here since some sections of the colony ship were damaged on landing. The numbers are starting to even out and the scientists say that in another few generations we’ll have a more stable genetic base for this society.

The rules are going to change when that happens. My daughter is valued, protected and special right now. All our daughters are. Women are in the minority here. They need to be treated with reverence. They hold the key to the future. They are treated like goddesses that walk among us. There will be a day when women are common here and valued less.

I’m glad I’ll be dead by then.

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