Kindred by Rani Jayakumar

We call ourselves the Kindred, because, after all, we are all related to one another. Legend holds that once, long ago, we emerged from a single family that traveled here across the galaxies, put down roots, and made a world.

So when we achieved faster-than-light speed, one of the first things our leaders instituted was the Interstellar Travel Ministry, the ITM, which sent out small groups of persons across space in all directions, in search of our past. Every year, five families are chosen to explore, while the others reproduce to fill the gap, and hope they will be chosen in the future.

Traveling in space is not luxurious, but it is certainly comfortable. We have perfected our food systems, able to grow entire meals on our ships, including our favorite delicacy, eelos, thick-shelled water-breathers, whose simple, carefree thoughts meld with ours when we eat their soft flesh. Our bodies float in suspended beds of fibers, as they do at home, though in the zero gravity of space, we might be found sleeping upside down, or even surprisingly on our backs instead of our fronts. We have created entertainment on our ships as well, including the music of our ancestors, which rings out from our noses and eyelids. Some of us are more talented at this than others, so a few have learned to play instruments instead, the most popular being the nose-harp and lash guitar.

As Kindred, we can of course always know what any other of our species is feeling, excep tfor the very young, who have not yet perfected this ability. It is because families can share this ability more strongly that we are sent together, and because we might be more likely to get along on this possibly never ending voyage. For years, we must live together, grow together, age together, and even procreate together, to keep the family going until it reaches some unknown destination.

When my family was chosen, I was not even born. It had just been determined that the very young could survive the jolt of leaving our homeworld, Land, and move past the Sun into the vastness of space. So my grandfather carried my father and boarded along with my grandmother and four of their young children. Their oldest children would have children of their own, raising a new family for a trip, maybe someday.

So far as I know, only one family has returned to Land. They traveled in the time before time, and returned when my father was a baby. They claimed that they visited a world where giant beings crush and eat creatures like us as if we were eelos. Terrified, they made the hundred-year journey back home, never realizing the danger they have put our planet in, leading our enemies to where even more food awaits them.

Since then, the ITM have doubled their efforts. That is how we were chosen to go - though my great-great-grandparents had already left Land, my grandparents were given the honor. Like every other Kindred, we were packed and ready to go, having known this moment could come any day. We finally pressed the red button (locked away so my baby hands could not touch them) that turned our home to soil while we watched, and took only a handful of sentimental items, along with everything the ITM had already stowed on the ship.

My mother tells me her own mother once worked on this ship, our own. Every day, she left their home, gave her father a kiss, and helped in the production of ship engines. She shows me the engine parts that were connected when she was a baby. She tells me how this ship can go nearly one entire light-year in a single day. At this speed, we would reach the nearest galaxy within my lifetime.

Now we have traveled 191 years. When I look out the sky window of the ship, I can see the stars around us, galaxies like blurry clusters, and other strange beings like pulsars, which kindred believe are where the souls of the dead go, to continue pulsing with life.

And today is a special day. Today, my mother has determined that we are now on the edge of a new galaxy. I can see it swirling outside my window. It is a spiral, like the eddies that my father says form on Land when eelos dive under the water. But it is bright, a million million stars swirling together, as on a night where the lightning-birds are said to fly across our summer sky. It makes me miss a home I have never known.

There, on the edge of this galaxy, is a star, with a planet that will suit us. My mother calls the star M4G1C, which I secretly refer to as MAGIC. The planet has no name, yet, so I am making a list of ideas. Perhaps I will call it New Land, or Soil, or maybe Earth.

One brother says he has found that there is evidence that aliens once lived on this planet. There are pieces of space garbage floating around the planet, and he has even pulled up a photo of them.

Like us, they have two legs, and two arms, and one head. Like us, they stand on the ground. Their noses and eyes are in different, strange places, and he seems to think they could not even communicate without making sounds. I find this funny, and unlikely. He likes to tease.

Soon, we will set down on this planet, and make a home of it. We will study its history, and see if the strange beings who lived here were once our ancestors. If they are not, we will still live here, taking back this world and making it a beautiful Kindred one.

But if, by chance, they are the ones we came from, we can make the journey back home to tell everyone. We can tell them we have found, on Earth, our Kindred.

Published in Issue #16

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