Behinders

Author: Scott Porter

Life on a Civilization Ship is so easy. So simple, so complete. The authorities have thought of everything. Everybody has their part.
The Marie Curie had left earth four hundred years earlier, looking for any Earth-like planet to deposit her 2,500-odd souls. Other ships left with her, all moving away from each other. Eventually, communication ceased. The Marie was alone in the universe.
But life was fine here. All humanity’s vices from those barbaric “grounded” days were addressed in the most scientific way. Here, humanity was almost cured.
No one had thought it would take so long to find a suitable planet. They found dozens of prospects along the way. The Council rejected them all. “It’s brutal down there! People aren’t made for life like that!” They had the figures. People need an average annual temperature between 11 and 17°C. Precipitation between 960 and 1020 mm. And so much oxygen, and so on.
Who could argue with science? The Marie sailed on.
The correct number of inhabitants for the ship was 2,517. Pregnancies were strictly regulated, but The Council was not prepared to regulate deaths. Excess population always accumulated. The only humane solution: leave the extras behind.
No one wanted to be a Behinder.
Garlock Nash didn’t think about it when another planet was reported. He was young and cheerful. Not very useful. He spent his four hours of daily work cleaning air scrubbers. Mindless work. No wonder he kept getting into trouble.
The Council called a meeting. The population stood at 2,560. 43 too many. They started on the names of the undesirables, the troublemakers. The last name was “Garlock.”
Planet ICNA143327 was cold and wind-lashed and mostly uninhabitable. The unlucky 43 were shuttled down to a spot near the equator and given some tools, and six month’s supplies.
The argument about how to put up the tent had been going on for two hours, with the wind throwing rain in everybody’s faces. Garlock started crying.
“Stop sniveling! Get out of here!” somebody said.
“Yeah, go find some wood. Maybe somebody can figure out how to make a fire.”
Wood? Doesn’t that come from trees? Those tall, branchy-looking things in the canyon might be trees. Garlock shambled away, shivering.
He found flood-piled wood by the river. He was picking up sticks when he stumbled and fell backward onto a pile of brush. Something growled.
A beast reared up. It had a long body and strangely jointed legs, each ending in three wickedly curved claws. Was this its house? Or . . . nest, or whatever? The beast leaped.
Garlock still had a stick in his hand. He swung it without thinking, clipping the monster on its ear. It tumbled to one side and gathered itself to leap again. Garlock jumped to his feet and attacked. He swung the stick again, with all his might. The stick broke and he used his fists.
Garlock stopped screaming once the beast stopped moving. Silence. Only rain and wind.
He was alive! Garlock had never felt terror before. He had never fought, never been hungry, or cold, or soaked through like this.
He probably should have felt miserable. But he was alive. He had fought for his life and won. And it felt . . . good!
“People aren’t made for life like that.” Well, there are other things people aren’t made for.
The beast had thick fur. Could be a useful thing on a cold planet. He slung the beast over his shoulder. It was heavy. The climb out of the canyon would be hard. Maybe too hard.
He laughed.

4 Comments

  1. SimonJM

    Some people thrive in adversity, and some people even stay decent, hopefully Garlock will be one.

    • scottporter

      I hadn’t thought of the fact that this was left hanging. Guess the last line could have been: ‘He laughed, creepily,” or “He laughed, nicely.” No, it’s better just left open.

  2. Jae

    A good retrace of one of the seminal themes. Well done.

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