136. A Groaning in the Earth

There is a groaning in the Earth. In every corner of the globe, we hear the daily rumble of seven billion footsteps, raising dust in the desert, and pounding the concrete of city streets back into the rubble from which they came.

Earth Day is Saturday. It’s a beautiful idea, and ecological consciousness is long overdue, but all our good deeds matter little in the face of seven billion hungry souls. The band plays, but the Titanic still sinks.

Still, it is not in our nature to lose hope. We do what we can here at home, and dream of new frontiers. Like Cyan, where a minor character is about to bring a small dream to fulfillment.

***

As he walked down toward the fence that kept predators out of the settlement, Mitchell was torn between feeling excited and feeling foolish. He had been raised in a midwestern town on the Kansas-Nebraska border. It should have been an outdoor life, but every field was owned, and every farmer was ready to shoot on sight anyone entering his land. The crops of wheat that grew around the little town gave broad vistas, but there was nowhere to walk.

The town had been Mitchell’s prison and the wheat fields his prison walls.  Within the town were only a few tired locust trees, and across one corner an ancient creek bed cut a path. It had never held much water, and now it had only a sluggish flow of muddy outwash from field irrigation. When he was very young, Mitchell had tried to fish there, but the water was empty.

Mitchell’s body had lived in the town, but his imagination lived in the fishing books he checked out from the local library. Funds were low, so there were few modern books, but that suited Mitchell. His interest was in books from the last century; books about fishing in clear mountain streams for trout, grayling, or small mouth bass. 

Eventually, Mitchell grew up, moved away, went to college, got a job, and had as good a life as anyone could hope to find on overcrowded Earth. When Cyan opened up for colonization, his childhood dreams led him to apply. Now he worked as a chemist, stared through the fence that protected this new town from the wilderness beyond, and still dreamed. Until today.

Mitchell passed through the fence and closed the gate behind him. He walked down to the bridge over the Crowley and paused to admire the glint of globewombs far overhead. Then he crossed over and moved downstream. He had picked his place already, a sand bar just within sight of the bridge. Delacroix had told him that the pharagals could leap upward and shoreward, but that if he stayed at least three meters back from the water, he should be safe. But no guarantees; about Cyan, Delacroix never gave guarantees.

Now Mitchell opened a plastic jar and took out a fly. The hook had come from Earth as part of the precious ten kilograms of personal equipment each colonist had been allotted. He had tied it using cloth frayed from his jeans. He attached it to a Cyan-spun kevlar leader and tied that to his precious only fly line, just removed from its original package last night. The reel was also from Earth. It was an antique he had bought before he ever heard of Cyan because it was from a twentieth century company called Mitchell. Like him.

Carefully but unskillfully, he began to cast. He had never used a fly rod before, but he had read and re-read every book on technique. Eventually, he was able to get the fly out over the water and let it drop. It floated in the sluggish current, a wad of cloth trailing a snarl of frayed cloth legs. Probably no more pitiful excuse for a fly had been tied in a hundred years.

But on Cyan, no fly had ever been used. A dimple appeared in the water and the fly was gone. Mitchell pulled back on the rod, and something exploded into motion.

Five minutes later, Mitchell dragged his catch across the sand bar to a point where he could safely examine it. It was slim and bright blue, with a blunt head and twin tails that reminded him of pictures he had seen of seals. Down each side of the Pseudopisces was a row of interlocking cream and maroon triangles. It was gaudy and ungainly, but to Mitchell, it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

He unhooked the fly and put it away carefully, reverently rewound the line onto his reel, and picked up the . . .

Trout! The Cyanian blue trout. It didn’t matter what this species had been called by the scientists. To Mitchell it was a trout, and to the tens of thousands who would read his fishing books over the next four generations, a trout it would remain.

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