Zai Lockheart felt slightly claustrophobic on her motherâ€™s porch despite the open, rolling wilderness of the Martian countryside that surrounded her. The house was a pre-fab jobâ€”â€œmy aluminum boxâ€ her mother called itâ€”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 couldnâ€™t sleep inside the house; the image of the house tumbling down the mountainside sprang to life every time Zai closed her eyes.
â€œThey have a legend up here, you know.â€ Zai was startled by her motherâ€™s voice behind her. â€œThey 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, â€˜I am a Martian!â€™ And if God believes you, youâ€™ll live in these mountains in happiness and peace, until the end of your days.â€
â€œAnd? If God doesnâ€™t believe you?â€
â€œSmiting. Lightning. Fire from heaven. That sort of thing.â€
â€œWell, it is a beautiful country-side. I can see why Godâ€™d be so picky about whoâ€™d get it.â€ Zai stood up and stretched. She had her fatherâ€™s height, and as such towered over her mother, despite them both being in bare feet. â€œI miss the old house, Mama.â€
â€œDidnâ€™t seem to miss it when you moved out,â€ Zaiâ€™s mother gave her a sly grin. â€œIt 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.â€
â€œI just have trouble picturing you living anywhere but home.â€
â€œAnd I have trouble picturing you without a scabbed knee and pigtails. But look at you now.â€ Zaiâ€™s mother turned away from her, and placed her hands on her hips. â€œWatch that sun come up. Paints the whole world red. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll ever get tired of that.â€
â€œMom, why did you move here?â€
â€œBecause,â€ her mother said, not looking back. â€œI am a Martain.â€
â€œI donâ€™t believe you.â€
â€œThatâ€™s nice, dear,â€ Zaiâ€™s mother said patting Zaiâ€™s hand as she shuffled back in the house. â€œBut youâ€™re not the one I have to convince.â€
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