by Elinor Caiman Sands
Vlad and his people have been cut off from the rest of humanity for 150 years. Living in the cold and the dark under the ice of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, they’re changed beyond all recognition, altered by genetic mutation. Then a mysterious pod arrives crashing through the ice.
Europa Spring is a science fiction short story, a love story, and a tale of human resilience against the odds.
Down here in the black ocean of Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa, time is marked by the turning of tides and the subtle shifts in water temperature. Night and day are the same, and our isolation complete. Then the pod arrives and we’re no longer alone, no longer in the dark.
The pod arrives in the evening, when the taste of alien snorkel fish are in my gills. It arrives on a day just like any other–except that I’m having a rare night out.
The Margarita Sushi Bar is awash with seaweed beer. It always is on Tuesdays as it’s barrel refill day; I’m meeting my pals here for a drink and a hand of poker or two but they’re late and meanwhile guilt hangs heavy on me like a choking algae while Marie languishes at home, sick and in pain. My beautiful wife, slender like an ocean willow, I should be there with her.
But she signs for me to go, she says, Vlad, you’re not helping, moping. And I suppose she’s right. So here I am.
The Margarita Sushi Bar is expensive. It even has real lighting fixtures, not that you don’t still need visual augmentation. I hook my prosthetic fins over the mooring bar as I wait and order beer; the green stuff is delivered in a sachet.
The bar is busy tonight and I find myself sandwiched between acquaintances. One is an old drinking buddy with leg stumps and sixteen fingers that dance like a cockle picker’s; the other’s a former colleague, Mitzi I think her name is, blind and bi-gendered with major neurological damage who shakes incessantly like a demented jellyfish. We all have something, here on Europa, what with the radiation from the crash of our astronaut ancestors and maybe a little inbreeding but I’m lucky really, my physical impairments could be worse. Just a bit of deformity in my bone structure which makes me smaller than most, and more rotund, but generally I’m pretty functional.
We exchange a few words, the three of us, by sign and by text–nobody speaks, our gills make that impossible. Mitzi never could have spoken I’m sure, even without the gill implant surgery at birth. But down here little things like that don’t matter; we all swim in the same waters as the saying goes.
Mitzi snorts as she sucks up her beer through a straw. She swallows and splutters a bit. And then the pod comes crashing through the ice ceiling.
END OF SAMPLE
First published on Cosmos Online.