Moonstone Match

Submitted into Contest #134 in response to: Set your story beyond our own world.... view prompt


Coming of Age Science Fiction

In three days, Amy would be married to a young man two years younger than her in order to keep the population of the colony prospering. Amy didn’t want to marry him. She didn’t want to marry anyone. Not yet anyway. It was going to happen on her 18th birthday. She was supposed to be excited, but instead, she felt like she was being sent to her death. She wanted to know more about the people in Earth’s history, why people did the things they did, and why she was being compelled to do something she didn’t want to do.

Amy’s parents had one of the few extensive libraries in their family pod and she had read everything at least once. Books on religion, politics, farming, science, and psychology. Those were interesting and useful, Amy knew, but she preferred the excitement of historical fiction and wonderance of philosophy. She read voraciously and some books were worn from her constant fascination with the struggle of humanity against the world in which it lived.

She relished the stories about true love. Characters sneaking off to meet a forbidden love and the stirring in their loins as they gazed upon the eyes of their lover after many days apart. The romance only to be squashed by an arranged marriage for social status. The young women wrought with anguish as they generally felt some sort of hatred for the man they were forced to marry. They had to have sex, often against their will, and bear children who would become heirs to the throne. The woman wouldn’t be allowed to do anything fun without a chaperone watching her for fear of her being raped or killed by enemies of her husband.

Of course, her situation wasn’t quite the same. They didn’t live in the Middle Ages and she wasn’t in danger. But the thought of her being married to someone she barely knew made her shudder. She knew she didn’t want to be married, but she didn’t know how to get out of it either.

20 years ago, Amy’s parents were participants in a planetary colonization experiment which sent groups of people into space with limited equipment and supplies to various unknown planets. Earth was in severe danger of being depleted of its natural resources and the group needed to find suitable alternative planets to live on. Her parents were chosen because of their background in agriculture and health sciences, their young age, and good health. There were about 50 people in the original group, which sounded like a lot, thought Amy, but not really when she considered what they had been expected to accomplish.

The planet was similar to Earth, which is why it had been chosen for the colony; but different, in that it surface appeared more desolate and had two moons instead of one. The two moons traveled around the planet on opposite axis which caused them to come dangerously close to each other in passing revolutions. This resulted in showers of debris every six months or so which made the surface appear desolate.

The group worked tirelessly upon arrival setting up pods for living quarters, labs for experiments, and additional buildings for future use. They measured and staked out land and built greenhouses for each type of crop they planned to grow. The ground had been covered in moonstone where they first landed, most of which was ground into dust while cultivating the land for the greenhouses. They found if they dug deep enough, the soil was quite fertile for what they needed to grow.

Within the first six months of living on the new planet, 14 people died from exposure, malnutrition, and mental fatigue, and one from suicide. It was harder than they expected. With all their degrees in science and philosophy, the group failed to acknowledge the mental toll living hundreds of thousands of miles away, from everything and everyone they knew, and in total isolation. Or maybe they knew but felt their optimism and skills would overcome any unforeseen hardship. They were beginning to worry when no one answered their signals. They pressed on.

By the end of the first year, they realized the colony had been cut off from Earth and no one was coming to join them. Their population had dwindled to 35 participants and those left were becoming concerned about the future. They came together for a colony meeting and decided if they were going to survive, they needed for those capable of conceiving children to begin trying. A few women became pregnant but miscarried early on. Two other women gave birth but their children were still born. No one could figure out why. Until Amy came along.

Amy was the first healthy child born on the planet. Amy’s mother did everything the other mothers had done during pregnancy. She ate well, rested, and stayed active with her colony duties. She was a calm, level headed woman who also wore a homemade necklace of moonstone and hemp rope. Amy’s father had made it and gave it to her on the first anniversary of being on the planet. He said he found it on one of his agricultural expeditions, thought the stone had a calming effect, but had no idea the significance it would later play within the population of the colony.

The others felt differently. They thought it was the reason for Amy being born healthy and they wanted a moonstone for themselves. The colony needed children. Amy’s parents felt sorry for the desperation heard in their friend’s pleas but didn’t believe the moonstone held that much power. A couple of men left the colony in search of moonstone for themselves but came back near death with nothing. They were not prepared for the harsh elements and had no idea where to look because it had been months since the last moon shower.

Amy’s father was the only one who knew where to find the moonstone, so he agreed to venture out with a partner to bring back moonstone for the colony. The men returned successful and within a couple of years, there were babies laughing or crying in every pod. Living on the planet was easier now once they figured out how to grow more food to accommodate the growing population. Pods were built to educate the kids about growing food, staying healthy, and basic business. Even though the year was 2075, boys and girls were taught separately with subjects determined by gender. It’s funny, Amy often wondered, how we can be so evolved and yet fall so far behind just by starting over.

There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the young man she was betrothed to. She just didn’t feel anything romantic toward Jason. He was the oldest boy of the new generation, did well in class, and learned everything he knew about business from his father who was a fair man. Jason wasn’t terrible looking either. He had thick wavy hair and big brown eyes. As a matter of fact, many of the younger girls in the colony had grown quite fond of Jason and flirted with him on a regular basis.

The elders knew Jason would grow tired of the flirting soon and want something more. If they didn’t put some sort of cultural structure in place and Jason was left to his own devices until he turned the legal age to marry, who knows how many willing young women might become impregnated? The gene pool would become unstable and the consequences of that was unbearable for the colony. The elders made a decision, which they thought would safeguard the future of the colony, and resurrected an old tradition of arranged marriages. It was archaic, but until the population grew enough for it not to matter if anyone was directly or indirectly related by blood, it was final.  

Amy had pleaded with her parents for almost a week but to avail. They agreed with the elders, thought Jason would be a good match, and assured her she would grow to love him in time. Grow to love him? Amy felt like she was in a time warp. She couldn’t believe her parents had come from an advanced civilization on Earth but were now walking, talking, and acting like none of that evolution had happened. Of course, they had to resort to the old ways of cooking, building, and healing once the initial supplies ran out but she didn’t realize they had also resorted to ancient status ideologies! Then, one night last week, her parents came home from one of their meetings and told her about the elders decision and her impending marriage. They didn’t even seem upset by it.

Amy, on the other hand, was rocked by the news causing her to lock herself away in her room for two days. Her mother and father took turns knocking on her door but she always sent them away with harsh words calling them barbarians and threatening to become a nun, even though nuns were non-existent on this planet. All she knew from her reading was that nuns take a vow of celibacy which meant no marriage and no sex with anyone. If she fell in love later, well, she would have to figure out what to do. Until then, she would stay locked in her room.

The next day she could hear her mother leave food by her door. She wanted her parents to feel bad for what they were doing to her so she refused to eat. She thought dying of starvation would make Amy’s parents feel sorry for putting her through this. A shrine would be built in Amy’s name as a reminder of the dangers of forcing a teenager to marry against their will. She could see it now, her parents crying and leaving flowers and little gifts at the base of her picture… She was lost in the fantasy when her stomach growled. It had been growling all day. She was angry at herself. Why did she have to be so good at following the rule about not keeping food in her room?  

Eventually, caving under the pangs of hunger, Amy left her room for the kitchen in search of food. She was still angry at her parents so she made it known by slamming her bedroom door as well as any cupboard she opened while preparing her food. When she realized no one was actually home to hear her slamming things, she stopped to eat her food, and planned the next step.

She would run away. No one was here to stop her. Her parents would be gone for hours and they thought she was still locked in her room anyway. As long as she kept her door locked, they would think she was still sulking in there. That would buy her a few days until her birthday. She would go to her secret place for a while and hide out until she figured out the next step in her plan. That was it. That was the plan. Now, what should she take?

Amy knew for sure she needed to bring food. She didn’t know how long she would be gone, so she threw a whole loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and some jelly into a sack. She added a couple pieces of fruit and a couple of cookies. Thought twice and added the whole container of cookies. She grabbed a jug and filled it with water. That ought to last a while, she thought. She went to her room and threw together a backpack with some clothes, a toothbrush, a couple of books, a notebook and a few pencils. Amy was nervous about staying out after dark but her fear of getting married was stronger so she slipped out the back door of the pod in case someone was out front and saw her leaving.

Amy made it to her secret place without anyone seeing her as far she knew. It had large smooth boulders with small trees and bushes nearby for shade. The ground was light brown and grainy like dirty sand but still comfortable to sit on. She set her stuff down next to a giant boulder and sat with her back against it. The sun was warm on her face and it felt good to be outside. She saw the moondust at her feet glimmer from the sun, felt angry for a second, and kicked the dust with her boot. She tilted her face toward the sun and closed her eyes. Amy loved it here. It was quiet and far enough away from the colony that she wasn’t worried about being found. She felt herself relax under the warmth of the sun and pressed her body against the boulder. She must have dozed off, after a while, because the next thing she knew, she heard a voice speaking to her.

“I thought I was the only one who knew this place.”  

Amy kept her eyes closed and felt them sit down next to her. She was found. She might as well open her eyes and see who followed her. She tilted her head down and opened her eyes. She couldn’t focus at first because it was so bright out after having her eyes closed. She blinked a bunch of times til the spots went away and turned her head toward the person sitting next to her. It was Jason. He had a worried look on his face.

“I’m running away.” Amy told him without emotion.

“I’m running away, too.” Jason replied.

“What do you mean, you’re running away too?” Amy was puzzled.

“I don’t want to be married.” He began. “I’m only 16. What do I know about that stuff?”

“Me either! I don’t want to be married either!” Amy was excited and relieved.

“Your parents made it sound like you were all for it. Made me kinda nervous to think about… your… expectations.”

“Expectations?” It took a minute for Amy to figure out he meant sexual expectations. She started laughing.

Jason joined in and they laughed for a minute until Jason said, “Wait. What’s so funny?”

Amy stopped laughing and said, “I was afraid of your expectations of me. Neither one of us is ready for this, I guess.”

“I mean, I like girls, don’t get me wrong…” he said and flashed a big smile. “But marriage and sex are a whole other thing.”

Jason was cute. Amy had never noticed his smile before. He had nice teeth and she could tell he took dental hygiene more seriously than other teenage boys she knew. She liked that. She wondered if his breath was --- Oh no. She felt something. Was it a stirring? She saw him looking at her with those eyes and that frozen toothy grin. She broke his gaze and saw the pack sitting as his feet.

“What’s in your pack?” she asked, hoping to change the subject.

“The usual PB & J, toothbrush, clothes, and a book. What’s in yours?”

Amy’s mouth dropped. He was running away just like her. He didn’t want to be married just like her. He packed the same things she did. That feeling came back only it started lower in her body. Was this the feeling she read about?

“Uh, same as you. And cookies. I brought cookies. And water.” She was rambling and she knew it but she couldn’t stop herself.

“Sweet! I love cookies. I’ll share with you if you share with me? What are you reading? I’m reading about these knights in the Middle Ages…” Jason continued but Amy wasn’t listening anymore.

He suddenly looked older to Amy then he had before. More mature somehow. He was good-looking, smart, funny, hygienic, liked the same foods and books. She was doomed and she knew it. This was her future husband. She smiled to herself, opened her pack, and handed him a cookie.

February 22, 2022 01:29

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21:11 Feb 27, 2022

I know I loved moonstones for a reason. I enjoyed the story, one I am sure dreams in many peoples minds


05:01 Mar 04, 2022

Thank you for reading it! :)


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