Martian Bluff

Zai Lockheart felt slightly claustrophobic on her mother’s porch despite the open, rolling wilderness of the Martian countryside that surrounded her. The house was a pre-fab job—“my aluminum box” her mother called it—and it felt cheap and flimsy compared to the monument of stone and wood Zai had grown up in back on Earth. Zai was sitting on the lacquered-metal porch because she couldn’t sleep inside the house; the image of the house tumbling down the mountainside sprang to life every time Zai closed her eyes.

“They have a legend up here, you know.” Zai was startled by her mother’s voice behind her. “They say, before you can live up here on the mountains, you have to go to the highest bluff you can find, and shout, loud as you can, ‘I am a Martian!’ And if God believes you, you’ll live in these mountains in happiness and peace, until the end of your days.”

“And? If God doesn’t believe you?”

“Smiting. Lightning. Fire from heaven. That sort of thing.”

“Well, it is a beautiful country-side. I can see why God’d be so picky about who’d get it.” Zai stood up and stretched. She had her father’s height, and as such towered over her mother, despite them both being in bare feet. “I miss the old house, Mama.”

“Didn’t seem to miss it when you moved out,” Zai’s mother gave her a sly grin. “It was too big. Too big for an old woman without a family. I could have kept it, and you still would have only visited on holidays.”

“I just have trouble picturing you living anywhere but home.”

“And I have trouble picturing you without a scabbed knee and pigtails. But look at you now.” Zai’s mother turned away from her, and placed her hands on her hips. “Watch that sun come up. Paints the whole world red. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that.”

“Mom, why did you move here?”

“Because,” her mother said, not looking back. “I am a Martain.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“That’s nice, dear,” Zai’s mother said patting Zai’s hand as she shuffled back in the house. “But you’re not the one I have to convince.”

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