Nim slouched on the
armchair in the corner of the room and started rolling a joint.
She pulled her dark hair back with one hand, and, needing a wash,
it stuck in awkward position, as though it should fall back. She
pinched the end of the joint and twisted, then drew a lighter
from her pocket and flicked the flame on all in one expert
motion. The look of both relief and mischievousness painted her
face as she sucked in the first breath, letting it fill her
lungs. Pad rolled her eyes and shook the pillow on the bed before
jumping up and shifting herself into a comfortable position. She
picked up her book from the bedside table and sighed, "That smoke
really is dreadful, Nim, you know we're not allowed
Nim smiled. "They
won't find out. Besides, I bought it from a Martian authority, it
Pad debated the
point with a long, disapproving silence, a technique which she
had learnt was the best way to deal with her delinquent
"I don't think I'll
ever go back," Nim said.
"We have to,
Pad was used to
Nim's premature nostalgia of Earth.
"It's so much more…
dangerous, wild. I really feel like I'm getting to my roots
Pad knew that their
family wouldn't allow them to stay on Earth, for precisely the
reasons Nim had fallen in love with it. It was a lower
demographic here, a primitive way of life.
"Do you want to go
out tonight? These old Earthen cities won't be here much longer.
I want to experience nightlife like our grandparents did, as much
as I can. Smoke and alcohol and street food… music that shakes
your whole body in obligatory rhythmic pulses and you don't even
care, you just go with it, and your clothes are damp with sweat
that isn't yours… and everywhere is just stumbling, dizzy, happy
people. Free people."
Pad looked over at
Nim who seemed completely swept up in a mixture of her own wonder
and love of Earth, and the wistful, evocative tales their
grandmother had told them of what she called her second life. A
life determined by the moon, a body as important to the Earth as
the sun, only it governed a more electric time of day, a dark
time. A life where the fatigue of day was forgotten by the young
and clubs and bars consumed them as they, in turn, consumed their
imagination had run wild at the stories Nana had told. She
secretly loved it all as much as Nim, but was afraid to immerse
herself completely as she felt that the experience required the
ingestion of substances that were forbidden even to Earthets, let
alone them. It seemed unfair. They were supposed to be superior
beings, so why could they not enjoy the same rights as Earthets?
Pad questioned the Martian laws, not to mention ethics, but
despite this did not dare overstep her line.
Nim, on the other
hand, had no qualms in travelling the closed-off road. She
slipped deeper into her illegal euphoria and every now and then
sat up, alert with epiphany, to inform Pad of some other radical
theory or idea.
It was, as much as
she willed against it, rubbing off on Pad. She put her weathered
paperback aside (which she was reading more for novelty than for
literary stimulation anyway) and asked Nim if she wanted any
particular music on.
"Let's listen to
some of Nana's favourite bands from when she was young. That was
the Golden Age. 2013. Take me back to 2013, Pad. Let's just
pretend we are teenagers in Nana's time, we have no idea that the
Plan is to be announced and enacted only a decade from now. Nana
does not know that she will marry one of the world's richest men
- a man she has already met. We are Nana, a young and free Nana
that takes the world as it is and as though it will always just…
"Okay, Nim, well if
we're Nana, I'm the guilty conscience."
Nim didn't even pick
up on Pad's self-mocking sarcasm.
"I'm going to do
everything bad tonight, Pad. If you won't come, I'll go by
Pad, who had already
made up her mind, pretended to think about it.
"Well if I won't do
that smoky thing, how will I have fun?"
"I picked something
else up. It was for me, actually, but you can have
"Go and look in the
Pad gave Nim a
sideways look, and went to the kitchen. Quivering with fearful
anticipation, she opened the fridge door. There was a brown
biodegradable bag around something which seemed suspiciously
bottle-shaped. She peeled it down to reveal the neck of, indeed,
a green glass bottle. She tore the bag completely away. A bottle
of wine. Not like the expensive, highly-taxed,
elaborately-packaged bottles of red wine imported from Earth that
sat in a secured cellar at home, but a clear liquid with a
cheap-looking label that simply read, "White Wine".
Nim judged Pad's
silence and called out, "It's the seriously cheap stuff, they
said from the bottom of the tanks or something. You never know
what it will taste like, but it does what any other wine does. I
figured we don't even know what the good stuff tastes like, so it
Pad took it from the
fridge and held opened the lid, not knowing quite what to do with
it. She sniffed it.
"Eugh, it smells
Pad got a mug from
the cupboard and poured some into it.
"What's a normal
dose of this stuff?"
"What, to get
"Umm, you'll be
pretty good off the whole bottle."
Pad looked at it,
"Really? All of
"Actually, it's your
first time. See how you go with half."
better at not having to drink an entire bottle of the
foul-smelling liquid, Pad took the bottle and half-filled mug
back into the bedroom.
Nim was checking the
sound system for music.
"What did they
listen to in 2013?"
"I don't really
know. Put on some Grimes." It was the only name Pad could
remember from Nana's 'when I was your age' stories.
The sound that came
from the speakers was the strangest experience for both of them.
The music, teamed with their 'time-travelling' intention, took
them to a new level. It felt real. The music seemed to have its
own disposition, an old originality that spurred in both of them
a realisation, not for the first time, of their love for music.
This music was from a time when Martian music didn't exist. It
was from a time only years before distinct planetary races
emerged and global unification, which was only just beginning to
manifest itself, was destroyed and reemerged in a different, more
dangerous form. It evolved into unification by mutual hatred.
Hatred for the wealthy, who had gone so far as to claim that
their wealth made them eligible not only to advance into a
promised future but to prevent the less privileged from advancing
into that future - or, as Pad and Nim both suspected, any future
The music had
plainly evoked a similar train of thought in both of them,
perhaps more so in Pad, who was not in the same state of
nearly-unshakable elation and quasi-sincerity as Nim
Nim took a long,
final drag of her joint before arranging the assembly of the next
Pad drank her wine
to the bottom of the mug, pushed it aside, and picked up the
bottle, drinking straight from it. It was time. It was time to go
against everything they had been taught at home. It was time to
turn against the law. It was time to indulge in the bitter, cold
fun of the urban Earthen nightlife with all the Martian guilt and
self-spite they could muster.
"What do we wear? In